On the 17th March 1990, Julio Caser Chavez and Meldrick Taylor fought in a unification bout for the WBC and IBF light welterweight titles at the Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas.
The fight, which was billed as “Thunder meets Lightning” due to Chavez’s power and Taylor’s lightning quick hand speed, would go down in history as one of the greatest ever.
The 12 round classic was given both the “Fight of The Year” and “Fight of The Decade” accolades by The Ring magazine.
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Coming into the bout, the highly rated Taylor, 23, was undefeated in 25 professional fights (24 wins, one draw, 14 KOs), but the general view was that he wouldn’t be able to cope with Chavez’s power for 12 rounds. Chavez, 27, was bringing to the ring a 66 fight winning streak (with 56 KOs) which included 16 successful world title fights.
Chavez lived up to his reputation as a notoriously slow starter in the first couple of rounds. Taylor, on the other hand, was throwing fast combinations on the inside and then retreating quickly, whilst consistently throwing his jab.
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In the first round alone, Taylor threw 92 punches (36 landed) compared to just 27 from Chavez (nine landed).
It was expected that Chavez would look to outwork his younger opponent on the inside and target Taylor’s body in order to counter his speed. It was Taylor, however, who was landing more body shots and, surprisingly, outworking Chavez on the inside.
Records prior to the fight:
Chavez (Age 27): 66(56 KOs)-0 WBC Light Welterweight Champion.
Taylor (Age 23): 24(14 KOs)-0-1 IBF Light Welterweight Champion.
Despite being behind, Chavez was still landing the odd notable shot; he connected with a stiff left in the fourth which snapped Taylor’s head back. Taylor, though, was still boxing beautifully and throwing a number of lightning-quick combos; his left hook, in particular, was landing at ease.
After five rounds, Taylor was overwhelmingly ahead in terms of punches thrown and landed. Taylor had landed 168 of the 488 punches he had thrown (34%), compared to Chavez, who had landed just 78 of 208 attempted shots (38%).
The middle rounds of the fight continued in much the same way with Taylor throwing combos, winning the exchanges on the inside and then managing to not get hit by too many blows. Despite all of Taylor’s dominance, though, Chavez never really seemed hurt. In the seventh, Taylor landed a flush left hook to Chavez’s chin which would’ve floored most opponents, Chavez, though, just walked through the shot.
The experienced Mexican managed to land a good right, left hook combo in the eighth, but it was Taylor, again, who did the best work of the round. Through eight rounds, Chavez hadn’t done enough to win a single round. He’d surely need a knockout to win the fight.
Round 9 was fought predominantly on the inside where Taylor continued to outwork Chavez. Despite this, Chavez did land a good right hand to Taylor and the 23-year old’s face was swollen; a testament to the power of Chavez’s punches.
In the tenth round, Chavez finally did enough to win a round. Taylor started the round well and landed a fast flurry of shots which Chavez couldn’t answer. Chavez, however, landed a good left hook, left to the body combo which visibly hurt Taylor. The American, though, kept replying to Chavez’s solid work, but his face was severely swollen and there was blood dripping from his mouth.
As the fight went into the 11th round, a position that Taylor had only been in once in his previous 18 professional fights, Chavez was emphatically behind on all three judges score card. Taylor, again, was outworking Chavez on the inside and landing a number of left hooks, even at this late stage. The Mexican, though, was landing some decent right hands which Taylor was just about able to withstand.
The 12th round produced one of the most controversial and unbelievable endings in boxing history. Both men exchanged combos in the early parts of the round and Taylor, who looked exhausted, fell to the canvas after missing Chavez with a huge left hook.
After getting off the canvas, Chavez landed a good right hand, but Taylor was dancing. He felt as though the fight was won. It’s funny how quickly things can change in boxing. In the dying seconds of the fight, Chavez landed a big left hand, right hook combo which hurt Taylor. Chavez followed up with another huge right hand which dropped Taylor.
Taylor got up at the count of five but didn’t respond to the referee’s question when asked if he was okay to continue. As a result of this, the fight was stopped with just two seconds left on the clock. A truly remarkable ending to a legendary fight.