30 Years Ago Today: Randall Vs. Chavez – When “The Surgeon” Upset “J.C Superstar”

By James Slater - 01/29/2024 - Comments

Mexican great Julio Cesar Chavez had set himself the mighty task of reaching 100 fights without a single loss. Chavez, who had ruled at 130, 135, and was the current WBC champ at 140 pounds, came pretty close at 89-0-1 – the draw really a loss in the eyes of most, this the controversial fight with Pernell Whitaker up at welterweight.

Against a huge underdog in the form of Frankie Randall, an official loss was handed to the man who, in his prime, looked all but unbeatable.

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It was 30 years ago today, at the first ever boxing card inside the new MGM Grand in Las Vegas, when “The Surgeon” as Randall of Morristown, Tennessee was known, dropped and decisioned the man many historians refer to as the greatest Mexican fighter of them all. And the fight of three decades ago not only gave us a massive upset, the fight was also a great action battle, with tons of fierce exchanges and, in the 11th round, a shocking knockdown.

Chavez, ever so slightly past his best at age 31, was 89-0-1(77) going in. Randall, the older man by a year, was 48-2-1(39) yet he was a relative unknown, this despite the fact that he was the #1 contender for Chavez’s title. Randall, who had come up the hard way, had cut his teeth in fights with the likes of Edwin Rosario and Freddie Pendleton. And Randall was hungry.

The pace was a hot one from the get-go, and it never let up. Randall boxed quite masterfully, his counters working well for him, and his ability at keeping Chavez off-balance serving to frustrate the Mexican hero. Chavez scored to the body as was his way (and practically the way of any and all Mexican fighters) but twice his shots strayed low in the opinion of referee Richard Steele, and Chavez was docked valuable points.

At times in the exciting fight, Chavez seemed to be close to overwhelming Randall, only for the gutsy, determined challenger to roar back. Chavez must have been thinking, ‘where the heck did this guy come from?’

Round eight was furious, with Randall slinging out 13 punches on the bounce, with all of them landing on Chavez, who really did had a great chin. Then, in round 11, Randall did what no other man had ever managed at that time – he put the great Chavez on the canvas. Randall masterfully countered a Chavez jab with a right hand and down went the king.

The crowd on its feet, the battle raged to the final bell. Had Chavez done enough? “Not this time, Julio,” Don King said to the soon to be former champ, who shoved his promoter away. It was split decision – 116-111 and 114-113 for Randall, 114-113 for Chavez.

Randall had skyrocketed to the top of the boxing world. Chavez, who had zero practice when it came to being a good loser, was furious, with him venting his anger at both King and Steele. But the victory was most deserved by Randall and the fans knew it.

A rematch duly came, less than four months later, and this time the controversy was enormous, the fight stopped on what seemed like a pretty innocuous cut suffered by Chavez. The fight went to the cards in round eight and Chavez won via debatable split technical decision. This time it was Randall who was furious, only he had every right to be.

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The two bitter rivals would meet again in 2004, this as “old men,” Chavez winning the non-title affair via unanimous decision.

It is, though, that first fight between Randall and Chavez that fans remember the most. Sadly, Randall passed away at the far too young age of just 59, this in December of 2020. Chavez fought on until 2005, and though he had failed to get to 100-0, “J.C Superstar” retired with a far from shabby 107-6-2(86) record. Randall’s final numbers read 58-18-1(42), with plenty of these losses coming when Randall was way past his best and should not have been fighting.

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