Controversial Nights is a series that looks back at the most controversial decisions in boxing
In 1993, boxing was set to enjoy what was its next super fight. A deal had been struck to have Pernell “Sweat Pea” Whitaker against the undefeated Julio Cesar Chavez. It was set to be fought in the Alamodome.
Whitaker knew the large crowd would be pro-Chavez but that posed little to no threat to the former Olympian. What was a little concerning was Whitaker’s previous fight against Buddy McGirt. His less than impressive win would leave some thinking he was vulnerable.
Chavez had everything going for him. Earlier in the year, he had enjoyed beating Greg Haugen who made the mistake of saying that Chavez had beaten a bunch of “Tijuana cab drivers” en route to his undefeated record. The fifth round TKO was satisfying both professionally and personally.
Many saw Whitaker and Chavez as the top two pound for pound fighters in the world. The fight illustrated the old saying “styles makes fights”. Whitaker was slick and quick, peppering his opponens with jabs and frustrating them with his movement. Chavez was a bull in a China shop. He came forward with devastating left hooks to the body, slowing down even the best fighters, like Hector “Macho” Camacho.
But, as Chavez would find out, Whitaker isn’t Camacho.
The fight started like most thought with Chavez coming straight forward after Whitaker. The pressure had Whitaker moving as he usual does but it wasn’t effective movement. The first two rounds were close as Chavez pressured and Whitaker started to settle behind his jab.
Whitaker dominated the third round and he quickly realized his speed and movement was causing a problem Chavez couldn’t afford. For Chavez to get off his devastating left hook, he would need to be able to cut off the ring. Getting to Whitaker’s body was imperative to Chavez’ fight plan.
The first five rounds were close and one could argue that either fighter was up by a point or two depending on how the first two rounds were scored.
Then the sixth round started and Whitaker took over. His jab found a home and was setting up the uppercut and the hook. Whitaker’s movement was so effective, when Chavez did catch up to him, he looked like he had little to no energy.
Chavez’ greatest strength, fighting inside, had become his greatest weakness. Without being able to land a fight changing punch, it allowed Whitaker to win skirmishes when they were at close quarters. Whitaker’s speed inside enabled him to land combinations and then vacate the area.
A thoroughly frustrated Chavez looked tired and defeated. Whitaker was controlling the distance, controlling the pace and controlling the fight to what was going to be in biggest victory to date.
That’s until the judges got in the way. Despite most at ringside having Whitaker winning in a landslide the official scorecards had it 115-113 Whitaker, 115-115, 115-115, a majority draw. Whitaker would hold on to his title but was robbed of would’ve been a historic victory.
After the fight, Whitaker said “Deep down I know I won it. Deep down you know it. Deep down….”.
We know Sweat Pea…. we know.