Oscar De La Hoya took unseemly joy in humiliating Julio Cesar
If Oscar De La Hoya fights too long, as nearly every boxer does,
he may regret his celebration over last Friday night's WBC
welterweight title bout. Perhaps then, when the blood is pouring
from his mouth and some kid is jumping up and down in another
corner, he'll understand just how closely he's been partnered
with humiliation all these years, protected from disgrace by
little more than his youth.
But, being just 25 and the undefeated 147-pound champion, De La
Hoya cannot imagine what it's like to quit--or to have to
quit--in your old age. He can't imagine when such shame might
become acceptable, as it surely did for Julio Cesar Chavez
during their rematch last week. De La Hoya is, at the moment,
too young and too gifted to entertain the image of a final
indignity, even as he routinely forces it upon people who were
once, like him, young and gifted.
It was not a pretty picture, seeing a six-time champion quit on
his stool, though who could really blame him? Chavez, whose
rugged career inspired an entire nation of Mexican loyalists,
fought a hard and surprisingly competitive fight, but he could
not fend off De La Hoya's growing greatness. It was more of a
battle than their first meeting two years ago in which De La
Hoya sliced him to bits, and the action was unforgettable at
times, especially in the eighth round, when the two men swung
until they could no longer support their arms. But it was still
a battle the 36-year-old Chavez could not possibly win.
So who could blame him after the eighth round, inside a sold-out
Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV, for shaking his head no. The
blood, from a ghastly cut lip, poured out as he sat on his
stool, and the idea of swallowing any more of it for even
another round could not have appealed to Chavez. So, after 106
fights in arenas and bullrings and casinos, after 18 years in
the most unforgiving game in sports, Chavez finally quit.
De La Hoya, in the ignorance of his inexperience, chastised him.
"That's a no-no," De La Hoya said afterward. "Quitting. That's
the worst that can happen to any fighter." Yet he exulted in
Chavez's surrender, saying he was "even more satisfied [Chavez]
quit in his corner, believe me," than he would have been in
gaining a knockout.
De La Hoya, who steamed these last two years that Chavez had
sought refuge in excuses for his loss in their first meeting,
vowed to punish him with a KO. Perhaps it would have come in a
subsequent round, as De La Hoya's uppercuts chipped away at his
opponent, but Chavez didn't look to be going down soon.
So to have Chavez meet him in the middle of the ring afterward
and tell him, however pleasantly, that "you beat me, I don't want
no more," was not just the next best thing, it was the best. De
La Hoya had not only demolished a legend, he had tarnished his
legacy as well.
Chavez had a different characterization for the night's events,
saying that his corner had quit, not him, and that he had proved
to his doubters that there was still life left for a rough rogue
such as himself. He even announced plans to drop back to the
140-pound class and fight a farewell fight.
But no amount of spin can erase the sight of him in his corner,
shaking his head, and De La Hoya jumping up and down at the
man's failure to rejoin the battle. Maybe De La Hoya, who moves
on with his career on Nov. 21 in a much anticipated fight with
Ike Quartey (a peer, for once), will be different and leave
boxing at the height of his powers. He would be lucky to do so
if he's this oblivious to the lesson he unwittingly teaches
others--that it always ends badly.
RAGGED NIGHT IN GEORGIA
About an hour after his latest victory over an uninspiring
opponent, Evander Holyfield, Atlanta's favorite son, sat on a
stage inside the Georgia Dome and heard Don King utter these
four words: "I love Evander Holyfield." They sounded sincere,
heartfelt; just as King's professions of affection for Muhammad
Ali and Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson once had.
Even though Holyfield had looked flat, bored and beatable in
last Saturday night's 12-round unanimous decision over Vaughn
Bean, King--as always--ignored the negative. When someone had
the gall to ask if Holyfield, 35, had ever considered retiring,
King laughed the same laugh he laughed 18 years ago before an
aging Ali was pummeled by Larry Holmes. When Holyfield suggested
to reporters that he would like to fight Lennox Lewis to unify
the heavyweight crown, then hang up his gloves, King stopped him
in mid-sentence. "Now hold on," King yelled. "Don't tell them
that. When you ask Rockefeller when he's gonna quit pumping oil,
then you can ask us when we're gonna quit getting more money."
This was a sad moment because as much as Holyfield has come to
represent what's good in boxing, his mediocre performance
against Bean, a slow, overweight sandbag with lots of grit but
only one effective punch--an overhand right--suggests that
Holyfield should consider calling it quits. The challenger's
strategy from the opening bell was to grab Holyfield with his
left arm, pin the champion against his large stomach and fire
down upon Holyfield's head with sharp right after sharp right.
While Bean, a 25-year-old Chicago resident whose favorite food
is Fruity Pebbles, did not possess the skills to pull the plan
off with enough gusto to win, he frustrated Holyfield. "Vaughn
Bean really doesn't have a style you can study," said Holyfield
afterward, "because Vaughn Bean doesn't really have a style. He
just goes in and fights, and you take what he gives."
Holyfield (36-3) did most of his giving in the 10th, when he
decked Bean (31-2) for the only time in the fight. The
knockdown, though, was not 100% kosher. With 54 seconds
remaining, Holyfield nailed Bean with a firm right to the chin,
then threw him into the ropes. As Bean struggled to regain his
footing, Holyfield's right hammer caught him straight on the
cheek. Bean, nicknamed Shake 'n' Bake, shook all the way to the
canvas. The 41,357 in attendance let out a roar, until Bean got
up and finished the round. While his fighter was down, promoter
Butch Lewis leaped onto the apron and screamed, "That was
bulls---!" He was correct.
King says Holyfield will next fulfill a commitment to fight
Henry Akinwande, who was scratched from a scheduled June fight
because of hepatitis. That bout might take place by year's end.
Then it will be England's Lewis, assuming the fighters'
conflicting TV contracts--Lewis has a deal with HBO, Holyfield
with Showtime--don't render matchmaking impossible. After that
Holyfield is leaving open the chance of a third go-around with
Tyson. "We're gonna destroy Lennox Lewis in 1999," said King on
Saturday. "We're gonna do it the same way the 13 colonies beat
King George in 1776. I promise it's gonna happen. We are coming
after the money. Anywhere he wants to fight, Holyfield and I
will be there. He's the most wanted man on the planet, Number 1
on the FBI list. I'm on the trail of Lennox Lewis. I will not
let him out of my sight. We are gonna put him out of the
Holyfield smiled. His eyes were a bit puffy. Behind him were his
wife and four of his eight children. They were happy to be with
Daddy, and Daddy, who'd watched two of his sons play football
earlier in the day, was happy to be with them. In victory
everyone's happy. But no one can fight forever. --Jeff Pearlman
Only in America
FEELING HIS PAIN
Before the Holyfield-Bean fight, Don King--a man who knows what
it feels like to be an embattled public figure fending off
accusations, investigations and constant sniping by the
media--was asked for his thoughts on Bill Clinton's travails.
King, who described his political affiliation as "Republicrat,"
launched into a 20-minute deconstruction of Monicagate. After
observing that "this nation don't need this kind of Sodom and
Gomorrah kind of delay," he offered this reassuring analysis of
the scandal's international ramifications: "Ain't no world
leaders gonna be mad 'cause Bill Clinton got some." --J.P.
COLOR PHOTO: HOLLY STEIN/HBO Cornered After eight brutal rounds and 106 fights, Chavez realized that he'd had enough.[Julio Cesar Chavez being attended to in boxing ring corner]
COLOR PHOTO: KEN REGAN/CAMERA 5 Punched out Holyfield looked flat in failing to flatten his lumbering challenger. [Evander Holyfield landing punch on Vaughn Bean]