From 1984 through to 1987, Julio Cesar Chavez made 9 successful defences of his cherished WBC Super-Featherweight title, an achievement of which he was rightly proud. When he stepped up to lightweight to meet the reigning champion in Edwin Rosario, he wore 9 gold stars on his trunks to represent his successful defences, just as a fighter pilot chalks up kills on the fuselage of his plane.
Edwin Rosario was a seriously big hitter. In fact, he has made it to #36 on Ring Magazine’s list of Heaviest Hitters of all time. At the time he met Chavez only 4 of his 31 victims had heard the final bell. In short, this man put people to sleep as effectively as a chloroform soaked handkerchief. So, Julio Cesar had his work cut out to say the least. The pair met in Las Vegas on 21st November 1987. I remember as a young boxer watching the fight the following week and being in absolute awe of what I witnessed. Having never seen Chavez before he was from that day on a fighter that really inspired me to work harder and get better.
I’ve completed a video analysis of the fight but have taken a slightly different approach to others on the site. I usually embed a YouTube video in the article but on this occasion I’ve chosen to use the services of the magnificent SoSoBoxing.com website. I’ve provided a link directly to a great quality video of the fight. You can open the video up in a new browser window and read the analysis alongside. YouTube is great for short clips, for full fights SoSoBoxing is the way to go.
I really hope that you find this useful, there’s so much to learn from this fight and I certainly hope that it’s worth 30 minutes or so of your viewing time. As well as being a great learning experience, it’s an absolute slugfest. Enjoy!
Here’s the link to the fight:
Right from the start, Chavez takes the centre of the ring. Notice that his stance is quite wide, enough distance between front and back foot to provide a solid base to both launch attacks and absorb any incoming assault without backing off. If he does back off he will only take a single backward movement. This man is all about applying pressure, being in the opponent’s face and not giving them a rest.
The Chavez strategy is made absolutely clear from about 2.19. As the fighters meet in the centre, Chavez unleashes a wide long range right hook followed by a thumping left hook to the body. The next 10 seconds or so are a microcosm of the fight. Here’s the key things that I noticed about this particular Chavez attack:
- Julio Cesar backs Rosario to the ropes, but he does so at low level, combining the duck with the move forward. This is a key Chavez tactic, coming in low under the opponent’s jab and using the lift out of the duck to generate additional power in the inevitable left hook.
- Notice the little left forearm actions at around 2.27. A foul, but very useful for keeping Edwin’s head at just the right range for the high power short range shots (the left hook and right hook).
This is a repeating pattern throughout the fight. Julio Cesar has chosen to nullify Edwin’s crushing power by getting right up close and denying the Puerto Rican the leverage he craves to bring his power to bear on the Mexican. This strategy is further intended to drag Rosario into a battle of attrition, a battle that suits Chavez just fine!
You Using that Phone Buddy?
Both fighters show superb class up close. The short range uppercuts and hooks to body and head are an absolute master class. There’s an old saying in boxing, “Those guys could fight in a phone booth”, and this fight fits the bill perfectly. Check out the work on the ropes from around 5.50. Julio Cesar, even in the face of serious incoming bombs from Rosario, keeps firing highly disciplined short range shots whilst still building in his slips to present a difficult target. This is a systematic performance.
In these early rounds, the difference between the two is the upper body movement. Rosario is not as inclined to take his head off the center-line and as a result is taking far too many of the crushing short range uppercuts (both left uppercuts and right uppercuts). Check out the short range right uppercut at 6.51, case in point. Edwin’s only defence against this shot is to land first. Against a fighter with an iron chin this can only be a defence of last resort. In effect, Chavez could land those uppercuts whilst blindfolded; he just knows where Edwin’s head will be.
Julio Cesar on the other hand uses rolls and slips as well as ducking to pretty much constantly keep his head moving across the ‘strike zone’. This makes it very difficult to target him, especially if Edwin wants to use his long range shots. In fact, it’s only into the 3rd round that Edwin actually manages to put Julio Cesar on the back foot (9:25). What does Chavez do? Some neat little ducks, slips and rolls back himself to the ropes (for the first time), and hey presto the fight is at close range again.
Going Against the Grain
Something worth noting, at 10.09 Julio Cesar doubles up his left hook but does so from head to body rather than the more conventional body to head. This is very effective and is used more as the fight progresses. It’s effective because when the head shot lands it causes the opponent to instinctively brings the arms up or forward, thereby leaving openings downstairs. By half way through this round Rosario is already showing some signs and wear and tear around his face, and things only get worse from here on in despite all of his unquestionable bravery, or maybe more accurately because of his unquestionable bravery.
Check out 11.09 up until around 11:20. Ignore the shots that Julio Cesar is throwing and concentrate on his proactive ducking, slipping and rolling. Chavez is making Edwin miss so often that this adds to his overall strategy of wearing Rosario down. Regularly throwing shots and missing really tires you out. Goes to show that even a fighting machine like Julio Cesar Chavez attaches great importance to his defensive skills.
In the 4th round Rosario puts up some fierce resistance to Chavez’s inexorable march forward. We begin to see now another Chavez capability, a jab that looks like it could break a human head in two. When he uses the jab though he likes to change the position of his head as he lands his shot, making him difficult to be countered with any significant success. So, rather than just ‘jab’, it’s ‘jab/slip’ or ‘jab/duck’. Simple but very effective as it makes it more difficult for Rosario to counter the jab with any success. The 5th round is basically a toe-to-toe smash-up. The heads are up close as they have been throughout and both boxers are hammering home some superb shots to both body and head. A real war.
Crank It Up!
Some real points of note in the 6th, not least of which is the explosion in intensity by Chavez that we’ll come onto in a moment. Watch the neat jab-slip out-straight right at 19.00. The jab lands solidly but the right falls just short. Brilliant piece of proactive counter punching though. Then, at 19.28, Julio Cesar really begins to open up on Edwin backing him into a corner and demonstrating a terrifying display of short range punching. Rosario fights back hard but Chavez is really beginning to turn the screw.
Right from the outset of the 7th Julio Cesar simply picks up where he left off. He doesn’t just rush in, he’s using the lay back and the usual single backward movement to out-manoeuvre Rosario. Edwin is pretty much spent, although because of his heart and belief he continues to fight. Just an amazing round after which Chavez jogs back to his corner, pretty demoralizing for Edwin I would imagine.
Not Long Now…
Into the 9th round (around 24.30) and Chavez stalks Edwin behind that jaw-breaking jab. His punching has done so much damage to the brave Puerto Rican, and Chavez wants to land more and more. It really is a masterful display by Chavez, a true lesson in systematic and destructive punching to both head and body. It’s well over as a match now, the only question is how much more of this Rosario can take. From about 29.40 we can begin to see the answer to that question.
For 80 seconds Julio Cesar simply crashes in uppercuts and hooks into Edwin’s head time after time. He is not making a single backward movement now and is combining his punching with upper body movement to massive effect. After throwing what must have been 80 to 90 punches in as many seconds what does he do? He jogs back to his corner. A war of attrition like this is as much about the mind as the punching rate, and Rosario and his corner can’t have felt good about the very obvious display of “I could do this all night long” from Julio Cesar.
I didn’t want Rosario to come out for the 11th. There was quite simply nothing left and as I said his bravery got him into terrible trouble. We have corner men and referees to protect fighters from their own bravery, but that clearly didn’t work this night. Maybe it’s because Edwin continued to fire back, but he was taking 5 big shots for every one he was landing. Those are not good odds. Richard Steele halts the slaughter in this round and Julio Cesar Chavez has secured his position in the mind of the boxing public and more importantly to him his position as a God to the Mexican fight fans.
The Beginning of an Era
There’s so much to learn from Julio Cesar Chavez, especially in a fight like this. We can say what we like about his subsequent career, about controversial fights with Pernell Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor and others, but this fight was a masterclass. For me, Julio Cesar Chavez put in one of the best lightweight championship performances ever in defeating so comprehensively a dangerous champion like Edwin Rosario. I don’t say this lightly, especially with such greats as Alexis Arguello, Roberto Duran and Henry Armstrong occupying the lightweight hall of fame. It was a performance that was as terrifying as it was beautiful.
The time of Chavez had come.