No matter what the critics say, no matter what some fans may think, Julio Cesar Chavez is one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport. His record speaks for itself. Chavez ended his career with a record of 107-6-2 with 86 knockouts. Needless to say it is not likely that we will see a boxer amass such a record in any future eras. Looking deeper into Chavez’s record you’ll find that he holds the record for title defense’s at 27. He was also in the most title fights in boxing history at 37 and the holds the most title fight victories. It wasn’t until he was 89-0 with 1 draw that he was handed his first official defeat at the hands of Frankie Randall. Chavez was known for his conditioning, all-time great chin and ability to break down his opponents to the body. Looking back, Chavez is vastly underrated regarding his technical skill as most fighters are who constantly put pressure on their opponents. Chavez may have been coming forward, but he knew both sides of the sport and was always defensively responsible. Chavez is usually regarded as the greatest Mexican fighter of all time and in most pundit’s top ten fighters of the last 30 years.
Before he was JC Superstar or officially the Lion of Culiacan, Chavez was making his way through the ranks at 130 pounds. Chavez had faced the likes of Roger Mayweather, Rocky Lockridge and Juan Laporte at super featherweight. However it wasn’t until he met his rite of passage against a Puerto Rican did his legend truly begin. This is when Chavez met El Chapo.
Edwin “El Chapo” Rosario is one of Puerto Rico’s greatest “what if” stories. Rosario was the quintessential puncher who experienced great success early in his professional career. Rosario was running through the ranks at lightweight and finally fought for the WBC lightweight title against long time Mexican veteran Jose Luis Ramirez. At the time Rosario faced Ramirez he had gone undefeated in 21 bouts while Ramirez had 86 fights under his belt. Needless to say the experience gap was huge in this match up. They met in May of 1983 in Puerto Rico at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum. In one of the more controversial bouts in the Mexico – Puerto Rico rivalry, Rosario escaped with a unanimous hometown decision to win the WBC title. Rosario was a front-runner and started off with success in the first half of the bout, but most observers felt that Ramirez with his push in the second half of the bout had done more than enough to clearly earn the decision. This set the stage for a legendary rematch.
The rematch took place November of 1984 once again in Puerto Rico.. In one of the best four round fights in the history of the sport, Rosario would suffer his first defeat via fourth round stoppage after he looked like he was going to blow out Ramirez within the first two rounds. Ramirez surged back in the third and fourth rounds to force the referee to stop the bout after a barrage so devastating that Rosario was turned around in the corner with his back to Ramirez. This victory was one of the biggest for Mexico in the rivalry as it once again took place in Puerto Rico and Rosario was undefeated coming off of a career best victory against former Olympian Howard Davis, Jr.. In an era that has so many big fights, this may be the most underrated and lost in the sea of great fights in the 1980’s.
Rosario would now have to rebuild and work his way back up to a title shot. He finally got one against a fellow Puerto Rican in Hector Camacho. At the time Camacho was a brash loud mouth champion who had some of the fastest hands in the sport. Up until he faced Rosario, Camacho had steam rolled over most of his competition. When they met in Madison Square Garden in 1986 Rosario forever changed Camacho. Rosario hurt him in the fifth round and forced Camacho to stay on the back foot all night. Camacho escaped with the victory and his title, but Rosario had now gained back his confidence.
Rosario would get another title shot in his very next fight against Livingston Bramble for the WBA version of the lightweight title. Rosario made quick work of Bramble and stopped him in the second round. Rosario was now ready to get back in the ring with another Mexican rival in Julio Cesar Chavez.
The fight between Chavez and Rosario took place on November 21, 1987 at the Las Vegas Hilton in Las Vegas, Nevada. Rosario was seen as the bigger puncher heading into the bout due to his record and recent form, however this night would belong firmly to Chavez. From round one until the fight was stopped after round eleven, Chavez brought the fight to Rosario and beat the body all night while Rosario was on the ropes. Rosario would attempt to mount comebacks, but Chavez’s defense was impenetrable on this night. Chavez put in arguably the best performance of his storied career. This bout is what people will reference when speaking of the greatness of Chavez.
When it comes to the Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry, Chavez put Mexico on his back. So much so that when he faced off with Hector Camacho in 1992, many Puerto Ricans ended up cheering for Chavez. The bout may have taken place a couple of years after it should have, but Chavez dominated Camacho in each round. Camacho showed his toughness in the bout and was given a 12 round beating for doing so. Chavez in two of his biggest bouts had career best performances against two champions from Puerto Rico. While Rosario will forever be known as one of the more exciting fighters in Puerto Rican history, Chavez in relation to the rivalry is one of the kings. There will always be critics to break down and shred a record to it’s smallest part, but there will only be one Julio Cesar Chavez.