Chavez vs Whitaker: Anatomy of a robbery

Lee Cleveland Updated
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Remember Chavez vs Whitaker?

The September 1993 high profile welterweight title bout between Julio Cesar Chavez (87-0) and Pernell Whitaker (32-1) is regarded by many as one of the biggest robberies in boxing.

Heading into the fight, Chavez and Whitaker, along with Terry Norris, were considered the three best fighters in the world, pound for pound.

“This fight is for the title of best pound-for-pound fighter in the world,” Whitaker said in an Associated Press story prior the bout. “That is the title every man dreams of. This fight is the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals. It’s boxing’s two best fighters.”

An epic showdown of mainstream stars and all-time greats, Chavez vs Whitaker took place at the Alamodome in San Antonio in front of 60,000 and was a smash at the box office. And the fight, itself, didn't disappoint but the decision left many scratching their heads.

Slick and flashy, Whitaker appeared to thoroughly outbox the great Chavez from Round 4 onward, even making the legend look amateurish at times.

Using supreme footwork and upper body movement, Whitaker took away most of Chavez's arsenal of punches, sans occasional right-hand leads which were too few and far between. And offensively, Whitaker often connected with stinging right jabs sometimes followed by powerful, eye-catching lefts that landed flush.

It was a masterful - and perhaps near dominant - performance by the man dubbed 'Sweet Pea.'

Chavez would suffer his first loss in 88 bouts.

... Or so it seemed.

In fact, as the scores were being tallied, pro-Chavez Showtime television commentators Steve Albert, Bobby Czyz and Ferdie Pacheco unanimously agreed that Whitaker, the HBO fighter, had decisively won the bout.

Wrong - The verdict was a majority decision draw. One judge scored it 115-113 for Whitaker while the other two had it even, 115-115.

Was the fix in?

Man of Integrity or Shady Character?
At the time, Chavez's promoter, Don King, was under federal indictment for numerous apparent wrongdoings, including match fixing.

King, of course, is arguably the most controversial figure in boxing history and perhaps all of professional sports. His contributions to the sport are undisputedly legendary. However, many have long asserted he's a crooked character who has used his charm, guile and unscrupulous tactics to ride a wave of success off the backs of others.

Did Don King, somehow, influence the judging? After all, he, along with Chavez, had the most to gain by keeping Julio's zero-loss streak alive. 

And what was King's role, whether direct or indirect, in the selection of the judges?

robbedThe WBC's selection of judges had been a quandry to many.

"It was clear to me that the five were not among the best in the world," said Whitaker's promoter, the late Dan Duva. "Early on I had suggested getting Jerry Roth of Nevada, the guy who is recognized as the best."

"But the Chavez camp did not want Roth. My opinion," Duva added.

Of course it was no secret Don King was very cozy with the Mexico-based WBC who also had much to gain by keeping Chavez's streak alive.

Low Blow: And to fuel speculation and conspiracy theories, British judge Mickey Vann admitted to penalizing Whitaker a point for a low blow in the 6th Round even though Referee Joe Cortez had not instructed the judges to do so.

And what happened to the Chavez vs Whitaker scorecards after the fight? They mysteriously disappeared.

Perhaps the individual(s) who tallied the scores, and not the judges, is the real person of interest?

Did Whitaker, on the night of September 12, 1993, have to knockout the steel-chinned Chavez to have any hope of winning?

Was the fix in? Or was Don King successful in over-stacking the odds in his fighter's favor?

Chavez vs Whitaker unofficial scorecards

  • AP: 116-112 Whitaker
  • Newsday: 116-112 Whitaker
  • RING Magazine: 117-111 Whitaker
  • Sports Illustrated: 117-111 Whitaker
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