Lee Groves

10: Julio Cesar Chavez’s greatest performances

September 13, 1984 — Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles — KO 8 Mario Martinez

Setting the scene: When was the last time a young Chavez was considered an underdog? That’s what he was entering this contest for the WBC super featherweight title vacated by Hector Camacho due to weight-making issues. The 19-year-old Martinez earned his number-one ranking with back-to-back knockouts over Roberto Castanon and ex-champ Rolando Navarette while the second-rated Chavez’s most notable victory to date was a tougher-than-expected 10 round decision over Adrian Arreola in his last Olympic Auditorium appearance. At the onset Martinez was the crowd favorite given his greater name recognition, but Chavez changed that once the action commenced.

What Happened: Following two minutes of feeling-out the expected war broke out with Martinez seizing the early edge by pushing Chavez toward the ropes and landing his fair share of hooks, crosses and body shots. The trench warfare in round two was waged at an almost inhuman pace, sending the Olympic crowd into full-throated rapture. Martinez shifted into boxing mode in rounds three and four, perhaps conceding Chavez’s superior strength, but Chavez’s subtle defense and countering talents soon turned this game of give-and-take into one of pitch-and-catch.

During one exchange late in the seventh a Chavez right caused blood to gush from Martinez’s nose and worsened a right eye cut that had opened in the fourth. Sensing the kill, Chavez escalated his attack in the eighth and the results were gory for the Mexican teenager who now looked a decade older. The moment the round-ending bell sounded referee John Thomas escorted Martinez to the corner and ended the carnage, launching what eventually became the Chavez Era.

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