If the great Julio Cesar Chavez is the finest fighter to have ever come out of the proud country of Mexico then Frankie Randall is the man responsible for pulling off one of the biggest boxing upsets of the 1990s. It was a quarter of a century ago today when “J.C Superstar” officially lost his unbeaten pro record; this after getting on for over 90 winning fights.
Why officially? Because, in the opinion of everyone outside of the Chavez household, a certain Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker and his slick, silky and utterly frustrating skills did the job on Chavez inside the Alamodome just over four months prior to the Randall-Chavez war. To the shock of many, that fight was scored a draw, yet Chavez had, perhaps for the first time, showed some serious vulnerability. Still, the Mexican warrior was still as tough as ever, and the thinking went kind of like this – ‘so what if Whitaker’s hit-and-hop-it approach had troubled him; Chavez is still unbeatable in a real fight.’
But then came the hardened and hungry Randall, 49-2-1 (the two losses coming at the hands of former champ Edwin Rosario, via decision, and Primo Ramas, a shock KO setback two years after the loss to Rosario; the draw coming in one of two fights with the vastly underrated Freddie Pendleton). Randall was only a year younger than Chavez, but he was hungry, as in starving, as in ravenous.
The fight took place at The MGM Grand in Las Vegas and a classic was witnessed on the day of the official opening of the hotel/casino that would play host to so many great, great fights. With a stacked under-card having played out (promoter Don King has his faults, sure, but he did give awesome, unprecedented value for money with his fight cards), Chavez took centre stage in search of his 90th pro win. Randall, an 18-1 dog, had other ideas.
From the early rounds on it was apparent Chavez had a real fight on his hands all right. Randall, fast, rangy and accurate with his shots, was tagging the Mexican icon again and again. Soon the beneficiary of a significant points lead, Randall had silenced the big Mexican contingent. Could Chavez show his greatness and rally?
The battle raged on for all 12 rounds, the action utterly compelling. By the later rounds, the championship rounds, all but the most ardent of Chavez supporters knew the defending WBC 140 pound king of kings was in real danger of losing. Two points deducted from Chavez for low blows (Julio positively fumed at referee Richard Steele) didn’t help the champion’s cause, and then, in the 11th, a Randall right hand knockdown worsened Chavez’ chances of being handed a gift victory.
The sight of the rock-chinned, take-it-all Chavez being bowled over, for even a short period of time (Chavez was up quickly) was genuinely shocking. The fight went to the score-cards. It was close, on two cards at least, but the long-serving Randall got what he deserved, finally. 116-111 and 114-113 for Randall and 114-113 for Chavez.
Chavez displayed anything but sportsmanship after suffering his first loss (hey, when you’re so used to winning, losing is tough), claiming referee Steele, who had, in the opinion of some, done him favours in the past, had treated him unjustly. Randall was calm in his victory.
The two would meet again, and then again, as old men, many years later. But on the night of January 29th, 1994, Randall was the newly anointed king of the light-welterweight division.
Randall retired with a 58-18-1(42) record in 2005. Chavez walked away with an incredible 107-6-2(86) ledger in that same year.