“Two seconds from glory.”
“Brilliance in defeat”
Two headlines attributed to the absolute epic fight that took place thirty long years ago today: March 17, 1990 – Julio Cesar Chavez Vs. Meldrick Taylor.
The scintillating battle between Chavez and Taylor, held on Saint Patrick’s day, was simply astonishing. For many reasons, but for two reasons in particular. On one hand, the bout was unforgettable simply because of the intensely high quality of the blistering action we were privileged to have witnessed in the ring. And on the other hand the fight stands supreme as THE fight of the ’90’s due to the shocking and massively controversial ending it had. As we all know, Referee Richard Steele called a halt to the action, after the knockdown Chavez scored over Taylor – with only two seconds left on the clock! Many people went crazy, while a few did support Steele’s decision.
The incredibly brave and gutsy Taylor had certainly suffered a lot of punishment at the hands of Chavez, even before the twelfth round knockdown. He had a bad cut inside his mouth that led to his swallowing a significant amount of blood, while he was also badly swollen around the face and eyes ( the result of a broken eye socket ) and was suffering from badly bruised kidneys and dehydration. All this despite the fact that he was winning the fight – on points. He was way ahead going into the final round yet, incredibly, both of Taylor’s chief corner men – Lou Duva and George Benton – gave him instructions to fight hard and make sure he won the last session of the fight.
Had Taylor danced and stayed away, victory would surely have been his. But he did as he was told and this gave “J.C Superstar” a chance. A chance the Mexican legend took by scoring the dramatic knockdown in the bout’s final remaining seconds.Taylor, as we all saw, bravely beat the count at about five but then insufficiently convinced Steele of his capability of continuing. Taylor seemed to look away to his right (it was later revealed how he had been distracted by his trainer Lou Duva who had ascended the ring apron at this time) and Steele waved the fight off.
Chavez had won with a mere two seconds remaining. Should the fight have been permitted to go on? This is a question fight fans are still asking themselves all these years later? In a word, no. Steele did the right thing. Taylor is in pretty bad shape today, slurring his words terribly and seldom appearing in public. It was likely the punishment Taylor took in the war with Chavez that contributed mightily to his current condition.
Steele, in giving Chavez no chance to roar in and maybe land one more potentially lethal blow, might have prevented a tragedy. Yes, Steele did the right thing.