One Hundred and Forty Pounds of Gold

07.06.05 - By Kevin Kincade: The other day I was talking boxing with a friend of mine, and out of the blue he asks me one of those hypotheticals. You know the kind, “if you had the power”, etc, etc. He knows how much I love the heavyweight division and he was also aware that I’d just written an article for ESB concerning the disarray the division is in currently. So, he proposed the following scenario: “Hypothetically, if you had the power to make it happen for the betterment of boxing, would you trade the junior welterweight division in exchange for One, Dominant, Complete, Linear Heavyweight Champion?” You could have knocked me over with a feather.

For some reason, the 140 Lb division is always overloaded with talent and today is no different. It seems no matter what kind of draught other weight classes go through, the Jr. Welters are immune. It’s as if the division has been injected with fistic penicillin. No matter what dark times fall upon the rest of the sport, you can always count on the Jr. Welters to pick up the slack.

Can you imagine the sport without the 140 Lb class? It boggles the mind. Just recently, we witnessed a young man from Manchester, Ricky Hatton, live out his dream amid the roar of his hometown by beating the Great Champion, Kostya Tszyu, into submission after 11 rounds.

The “Thunder from Down Under” has sat atop the Jr. Welterweight Division for the better part of the last ten years beating such men as Jake “The Snake” Rodriguez, Miguel “Angel” Gonzalez, Sharmba Mitchell (twice), and current Welterweight Champion Zab “Super” Judah. Kostya has given us so many thrills over the length of his reign, including the loss to Vince Phillips. Can you imagine the last ten years without him, to say nothing of “The Hitman’s” thrilling TKO upset that won him the belt?

One of the men on Tszyu’s resume had also written his name among the boxing gods long before King Kostya TKO’ed him in the 6th. In truth, the Julio Caesar Chavez that climbed into the ring with the Russian Australian that night in July of 2000, was a shell of the man that had dominated the lower weights ten years before. Between 1984 and 1994, Chavez didn’t know what it was like not to have a belt around his waist and five of those ten years, it was the Jr. Welterweight belt. His title winning bout against Roger Mayweather was a classic until “stomach cramps” got the better of the “Black Mamba”. I can still see that fight in my mind’s eye.

Both men furiously going after the one another, yelling at each other between punches: “Yeah?! Well, Bring it ON!”….”Bien!”, followed by another brutal crunching of leather on skin in staccato bursts. And who can forget 1990’s Fight of the Year when and undefeated, promising young American pugilist, Meldrick Taylor, put his IBF Jr. Welterweight Title and his 24-0-1 record on the line against the vastly more experienced and also undefeated, at 69-0, Julio Caesar Chavez and his WBC 140 Lb title? Somebody’s “O” must Go!

Though the fight started off with the faster and more nimble Taylor flashing combination after combination on the plodding Chavez, by the middle rounds, “The Kid” had slowed down enough for Julio’s harder, more damaging punches to land and the drama picked up. I can still hear the Mexican and Mexican American contingent in the crowd cheer every time Chavez would land a volley. By the time the bell rang for the twelfth round, Taylor’s face was swollen and his eyes were almost closed; but he was ahead on the scorecards. All he had to do was last three more minutes. With the clock ticking down, “The Kid” decided to trade with Julio, who was already desperate to land that one punch that would make things right.

Eighteen seconds before the final bell, Julio connected and Taylor’s legs betrayed him. Showing the heart of a champion, Taylor fought to stay on his feet as he staggered into the nearest corner; but Chavez was having none of it and connected again, sending Meldrick collapsing to the canvas as if he’d been shot. Of course, you know the rest. Taylor got up only to have Richard Steele stop the fight with two seconds to go. Looking at Lou Duva, who had climbed onto the ring apron, Taylor failed to answer the referee’s quandary, a simple question, “Are You Okay?” That fight cemented Chavez’s greatness and Taylor would never be “okay” again.

Needless to say, Julio Caesar Chavez fought many more battles than just the two mentioned above, One Hundred and Fifteen, to be exact, and won all but seven. Names, such as, Edwin Rosario, Ruben Castillo, Angel Hernandez, Hector Camacho, and Greg Haugen jump off his resume; plus too many more to mention. Of all those names, though, few will be remembered as vividly as Meldrick Taylor and the battle those two warriors fought on St. Patrick’s day fifteen years ago. However, for all its excitement and tide changes, in my opinion, it pales in comparison to the display in brutality that took place in the Orange Bowl in Florida eight years previous.

When the Great Alexis Arguello, a three division titlist like Chavez, moved up to challenge Aaron Pryor for his fourth belt, all hell broke loose on earth. Until that fateful night in 1982, only the boxing faithful had ever heard of Aaron Pryor. “The Hawk” just missed being on the fabled 1976 American Olympic team and had been trying, unsuccessfully to convince Sugar Ray Leonard to fight him. “El Flaco Explosivo” had beaten such warriors as Ruben Olivares, “Bazooka” Limon, Bobby Chacon, Rubin Castillo, Cornelius Boza-Edwards, Jose Luis Ramirez, and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, among many others.

At the time of the fight, Arguello was a refugee of his native Nicaragua, thanks to the Sandinista Revolution and the Cubans in Florida could identify with him easily and vocally showed their support when he entered the ring. The undefeated, unheralded “Hawk” took exception and took out his frustration on the “Explosive Thin Man”. What transpired after the preflight introductions can only be described as all out war.

Pryor damned the torpedoes and went right at Arguello. Back and forth the action went with Pryor taking the early rounds with his unbridled assault and Argullo taking the middle rounds with his cool, calculating shots as Aaron went into boxing mode. By the time the 14th rolled around, a split decision was in the making; but the judges would not decide the fate of these men. Pryor came out like a ball of fire and hurt Arguello late in the round with a vicious right. Falling into the ropes, to keep his body erect, Alexis suffered the most vicious end to a fight I’ve personally ever witnessed.

Pryor took every heartache, every disappointment, every slight, every ounce of anger and resentment he had harbored in his soul and took it out on Alexis Arguello. As he rocked back and forth off the ropes into Pryor’s murderous assault, the referee, knowing the man could take no more, mercifully jumped in between the two men, waving it off. Only after the bout was over, did the brave Arguello allow himself to slump to the canvas he stayed on his feet until the very end. Though they fought once more, neither fighter was ever really the same after their initial confrontation. “The Hawk” flew head on into a world of drug addiction and Arguello eventually gave up the ring to retire to his native Nicaragua.

The Junior Welterweight Division has always been chock-full of talent. It’s hosted such legends as Pryor, Chavez, and Tszyu; and has given us battles with Ray Olivera, Zack Padilla, Micky Ward, Carlos Gonzalez, Vince Phillips, Harold Brazier, Buck Smith; the list goes on and on. Currently we’ve got Hatton, Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Kid Dynamite, and possibly Diego Corrales, if he moves up, among others dying for the spotlight. The heavyweight division, on the other hand, seems more prone to talent droughts than most of the other divisions combined.

Would I trade the Junior Welterweight division, in exchange for One Dominant, Complete, Linear Heavyweight Champion? Are you kidding me? I’ll take 140 Lbs of Gold over 230 Lbs of fertilizer any day.

Article posted on 07.06.2005

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