Julio César Chávez vs. Meldrick Taylor: Looking back at “Fight of the Decade”
By Harry Hogg: On this day 1990, Chávez beats Taylor in the dying seconds via TKO in “Fight of the Decade” to unify Junior Welterweight titles
It was 28-years ago to the day when the legendary Julio César Chávez met Meldrick Taylor at the Hilton hotel on the Las Vegas strip to unify the WBC and IBF junior welterweight belts.
The fight was selected by many as the fight of the year for 1990, even topping the heavyweight showdown between Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas.
Twelve intense rounds of brutal action, particularly after the eighth, coupled with the extremely controversial conclusion, rightly earned the bout the title of ‘Fight of the Decade’.
Chávez was 68-0, the world’s best pound for pound fighter and well on his way to becoming one of the greatest fighters ever lived.
In the other corner was the slick, talented undefeated American, Meldrick Taylor. The 1984 Olympic gold medalist was making the third defence of his IBF crown and was well-known for his sizzling hand speed.
The build-up was intense, and on paper, the two could not have been further apart in terms of both personality and fighting style.
Billed as “Thunder and Lightning” due to the rough and tough aggressive Mexican style of Chávez, and the rapid hand speed and movement of Taylor.
Many expected a fascinating bout, but what was to come was totally unexpected and left boxing fans everywhere debating the conclusion long after the final bell.
The fight started as many expected, the clash in styles creating very much a cat and mouse situation. Chávez walking his man down, trying to impose himself on Taylor, attempting to lure him into a close-up brawl.
However, Taylor managed to nullify the Mexican in the early rounds, his razor-sharp jab and smooth movement allowed him to take control of the fight as he began to build a sizable lead on the cards.
His superior skillset looked to be frustrating Chávez as the then pound for pound king continued to march forward with no concern of what was coming back.
But the relentless pressure was beginning to tell as the bell rang for the ninth time. The cracks began to appear in Taylor’s defence as Chávez kept chipping away with ruthless body shots. The headshots began to land as well, and as the blood started to trickle out of Taylor’s mouth, Chávez sensed the opportunity to take control. The much less experienced Taylor was fading fast, the movement had gone, the combinations had disappeared, he had entered survival mode.
As the American’s face began to swell up considerably, Chávez had now closed the distance and was able land much more frequently.
At the end of the eleventh, Taylor seemed well and truly spent and as the round came to a close he took a left hand that looked to stun him, so much so he barely made it to his corner.
Taylor survived the inevitable onslaught from Chávez for the majority of the twelfth, up until the final few seconds. Then came the moment that would leave boxing fans debating that controversial moment, even up until today.
With just ten seconds left, Chávez threw himself forward with one last desperate attempt to save his unbeaten record. He found the telling blow, a vicious right hand sent Taylor crashing to the canvas.
With the legs well and truly gone, he staggered to his feet, but failed to respond to referee Richard Steele’s call, subsequently Steele deemed Taylor unfit to continue. The fight was stopped with just two seconds left, drawing a gasp from the capacity crowd at the Hilton.
Many believed Steele should have let Taylor see out the final seconds, The American was ahead on Jerry Roth and Dave Moretti’s cards 108-101, 107-102 respectively, While Chuck Giampa had Chávez up by one.
Steele stated in the aftermath that he did not believe Taylor was fit to finish the fight. And maybe understandably so given the damage the American suffered in the later rounds. Taylor was kept in hospital for four days and sustained a facial fracture as well as significant blood loss.
What happened after?
The eventual rematch between the two took place four years later, but the fight failed to produce anything like the first encounter. This was largely down to Taylor looking a shadow of his former self.
Taylor was stopped in the eighth round of a one-sided beatdown in Vegas.
Chávez went on to win another twenty fights as well as one draw to take his record to 89-0-1. His first defeat then came in January 1994, losing via split decision to Frankie Randall at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
A defeat he overturned immediately in the rematch. Like many fighters, Chávez went on to fight way past his peak and as a result, he went on to lose five more bouts before retiring with a record of 107 victories in 115 contests, cementing his status as one of the greatest fighters in the sports history.
For Taylor, sadly his career never recovered from that night in Vegas. Many claimed he was never the same both physically and psychologically. However, he did go on to capture the WBC title up at Welterweight with victory over Aaron Davis.