Lee Groves

10: Julio Cesar Chavez’s greatest performances

February 20, 1993 — Estadio Azteca, Mexico City — KO 5 Greg Haugen

Setting the scene: Of all of Chavez’s 115 fights spread over a quarter-century, the Haugen fight may have been the most emotionally charged. First, the bout was held in one of Mexico’s most celebrated soccer shrines. Second, a new record for paid attendance was set when a reported 132,274 jammed into the giant facility. Third, the pugnacious Haugen took trash talking to a new level when he said Chavez built his 84-0 record on the backs of “Tijuana taxi drivers” and, according to Haugen, promoter Don King ascribed racist taunts to him — all the more to stoke the passions and twist the turnstiles.

On fight night the crowd was out for blood and a fired-up Chavez was their avenging angel. As Haugen walked “the longest 100 yards of my life” toward the ring, the fans pulled on the American flag accompanying him, poured beer and urine on him and issued countless threats. Meanwhile, Chavez was showered only with adoration, but the pressure to perform must have been enormous. For Chavez and his fans, the only acceptable result was complete and total butchery.

What Happened: Mission accomplished. A pair of stiletto sharp rights staggered, then dropped Haugen in the first minute and it only got worse for the ex-lightweight king. Chavez held back just enough to keep the fight going as long as it took to exact his pound of flesh — or rather, all 140 pounds of Haugen’s.

Chavez finally brought down the curtain in the fifth. A right hand wobbled the American early in the stanza and a six-punch volley a minute later sent a thoroughly beaten and exhausted Haugen to a knee. Haugen rose, but was met with nearly two dozen unanswered punches that forced Joe Cortez to step in at the 2:02 mark.

Haugen provided the perfect postscript in the interview when he admitted that those taxi drivers Chavez beat must have been the tough ones.

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