Monday, December 23, 2019

The Jacobs-Chavez Controversy

The fight between former Middleweight world champions Daniel Jacobs and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr was surrounded by “Controversy.” “Controversy” or “Controversial” are two words that are all too often used when it comes to the sport of Boxing and by extension all combat sports, but in regard to this fight the use of said words are appropriate. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is a fighter who has had a respectable career in following in the footsteps of his legendary father Hall of Famer Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. It has been a career however, that has seen plenty of “Controversy.”

Chavez Jr.’s career has been chronicled by many, including this observer in both online and print publications since he began his career in 2003, so there is no need to revisit his entire career in long-form. Chavez' accomplishments however, have been overshadowed by inconsistency, lack of commitment to the sport of Boxing, and controversies both in and out of the ring.

At times, Chavez, while not a comparison to his father, who will forever be one of the all-time greats the sport has ever seen, had looked as though he could have approached a status as being regarded as one of the best fighters in the world. For those flashes of potential greatness Chavez Jr. had however, there were more setbacks and questions about his commitment to Boxing. As many Boxing fans know, Chavez has had issues making weight for fights as well as has dealt with drug test violations throughout his career.

Perhaps not so ironically, these issues that have surrounded his career along with the questions of his dedication followed him into this fight with Daniel Jacobs. In the weeks leading up to the fight Chavez was suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) for failing to comply with a randomized drug test conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA), which created concern over if the bout would take place. 

There were also suggestions made by the NSAC that if the fight were to take place as scheduled that promoter Eddie Hearn may have faced legal problems as a result as was reported by several media outlets including Yahoo, with the suggestion that Hearn may have been banned from promoting bouts in Nevada due to the issue of Chavez declining to submit to testing. For his part, Chavez claimed that the reason he declined testing was because he had not formally signed to fight Jacobs at the time and was not enrolled in VADA’s program at the time.

All of this resulted in the bout being moved to Phoenix, AZ as well as a legal proceeding the week of the fight as reported by ESPN’s Dan Rafael, where a Nevada judge granted Chavez a temporary restraining order  clearing the way for the fight to take place. Unfortunately, this would not be the only issue for Chavez prior to the fight as he failed to make the 168lb. Super-Middleweight limit and weighed in at 172 3/4lbs. As a result, Chavez forfeited a million dollars of his purse to Jacobs so the fight could go on.

On December 20th, the Boxing world focused on the Talking Stick Resort Arena where a crowd of 10,000 were in attendance to see the fight. As the reader can probably tell by the writing of yours truly, much of the story of this fight centered around Chavez and whether the bout would even happen. The other story that surrounded this encounter was it was the first fight for Jacobs as a Super-Middleweight. Due to Chavez not making the weight limit however, Jacobs was now tasked with fighting an opponent that technically weighed in as a Light-Heavyweight and by fight time looked like a man that had rehydrated to potentially being classified as a 190lb. Cruiserweight.

Although this would give the impression that Chavez was not in fighting condition, he did look like a fighter who had trained well and it may be a case where he simply could not get down to the 168lb. Super-Middleweight limit. It was nevertheless immediately apparent the significant size difference between the two fighters and it did make this observer wonder how effective Jacobs’ punches would be under those circumstances.

What did appear to be in Jacobs’ favor was a hand speed advantage over Chavez. This fight was simple to describe. The bigger man Chavez stalking and attempting to walk and break down the man who was moving up in weight. Despite having the quicker hands of the two, Jacobs’ offense did not appear to have the same type of effectiveness as it did when he was competing as a 160lb. Middleweight. In fairness, he weighed in under the Super-Middleweight limit, but was tasked with facing an opponent who was likely two weight classes above him when they entered the ring, so it is difficult under the circumstances to say that he isn’t as effective now at a weight that is one weight class above where he has spent the bulk of his career. 

What was clear however, was Chavez landed the heavier punches of the two and had particular success in landing left hooks to Jacobs’ body and landing right hands to the head. It was also clear, despite the competitive fight that appeared to be shaping up, that the crowd support was in favor of Chavez. Through four rounds, I felt the fight was even. After five rounds however,  Chavez, claiming he couldn’t breathe in his corner called for the fight to be stopped. Following the stoppage a  frankly an ugly scene emerged where the crowd in attendance chose to voice their dissatisfaction over the fight being stopped by throwing drinks and other debris at the ring and at Chavez.

First, my thoughts on the stoppage was I wondered what the injury or injuries were to Chavez that led to him not continuing. It was later confirmed by Julio Cesar Chavez a statement released on social media that his son had suffered a broken nose that would require surgery. Although I did not initially notice evidence of a fracture when I saw the fight, such as significant blood coming from Chavez’ nose or a break that was clearly visible to the eye of an observer like yours truly, Chavez Jr. claimed in an interview shortly after the fight on digital sports streaming network DAZN’s official YouTube channel that he had been swallowing blood and indicated that the injury occurred as a result of elbows and head butts from Jacobs.

It is important to note that there were at least three times by this observer’s count between rounds four and five where Chavez did complain to Referee Wes Melton that he had been elbowed. While I did not see anything that would indicate a deliberate head butt, there were two or three instances when the fighters were in close where Jacobs appeared to push off Chavez, perhaps in an attempt to make room to punch and there was one warning by Melton that appeared to be to both fighters in round five to watch their elbows.

As far as the injury to Chavez, while I did not see evidence of a broken nose, it did bring back memories of a fight I covered years ago that ended under similar circumstances. I am referring to the 2013 bout between Mikey Garcia and Orlando Salido. A fight where Garcia suffered a broken nose in the eighth round that in some ways is similar to the apparent fracture that Chavez suffered in this fight. While Garcia’s injury came as a result of an accidental clash of heads and he would win the WBO Featherweight world championship via technical decision after he could not continue, Chavez would not see a similar outcome as Jacobs was declared the winner via technical knockout.

 What are this observer’s feelings on the aftermath of this fight?  Over the years, I have earned a reputation in the view of some for being hard on Boxing fans. While it is true that there are times where for lack of a better term I have agreed to disagree with the viewpoints of some fans either for what appears to be blatant biases and/or suggesting to me that I publicly call out fights that were “Fixed “ in their opinions, I do have respect for the Boxing fan. After all, I was one myself before I began covering the sport and other combat sports in the mid-1990’s.

Although I have pointed out the flaws in the arguments of some fans when appropriate to do so based on facts as any journalist/writer/commentator/columnist would do and love discussing and exchanging opinions on Boxing and combat sports as a whole with anyone I have the pleasure to correspond with, I have refused to partake in those suggestions of calling a fight “Fixed” because such accusations do not have any evidence that could be viewed as legitimate in a journalistic sense or legally and based on that, I, as a journalist/writer and historian will not risk my reputation either with my readers and/or as a member of the Boxing media by giving into such suggestions, especially when one considers that in the times we live in such accusations from fans are all too frequent. 

Now that I have made my position clear, I hope no one will misunderstand my thoughts on the ugly scene that occurred after this fight was stopped. Unfortunately, it was not the first time that I have seen something like this happen and not the first fight of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s that I have covered where a scene like this occurred.

Some may recall Chavez’ first fight with Matt Vanda in July 2008 in Hermosillo, Mexico. A fight that many, including this observer felt Vanda had won convincingly, was awarded to Chavez via split decision. Despite Chavez being the fan favorite, the crowd in attendance responded in a manner similar to how those in attendance at the Jacobs-Chavez bout responded by throwing drinks and other debris at the ring and anyone else unlucky enough to be in their path.

Although there have been other similar instances over the years, I always find myself thinking back to an encounter that took place in October 1989 when yours truly as a youngster watched as many other fans did at the events that took place. I am referring to the second of three encounters between Tony Lopez and John John Molina. An event that longtime readers have seen me mention whenever circumstances like this have emerged in my work covering the sport.

The short version of the event was before a enthusiastic hometown crowd in his native Sacramento, CA, Lopez was dominated over ten rounds. After sustaining a beating at the hands of Molina and being badly cut, the fight was stopped by Referee James Jen-Kin to prevent Lopez from further punishment. If losing his IBF Jr. Lightweight world championship and suffering significant punishment weren’t bad enough, Lopez, as everyone in and around the ring including the referee had to run for cover as the crowd seemingly threw anything they could get their hands on. 

The incident, which remains one of the most ugly things I have ever seen as I have often said when discussing it was summed up by the late great Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, who was commenting on the broadcast of the fight for NBC Sports when he said that what had taken place was a disgusting commentary on on how far misplaced enthusiasm can go in sports.

It would be hard not to envision Pacheco, who passed away in November 2017 being disgusted by what occurred after Jacobs-Chavez. This observer certainly was. Although it is true in a free society that fans are free to express themselves, my question is where is the line?

The line between free expression where those who spend money to attend events whether they be sporting events, concerts, or another public gathering can express their opinions, displeasure and/or outright anger in a non-violent way, and going overboard where said fans take their passion, anger, or as Dr. Pacheco so eloquently called it thirty years ago, “Misplaced Enthusiasm” too far?

What are the repercussions when things go too far? Unfortunately, this observer cannot answer these questions because I frankly wonder what can be done when that line is crossed. In this instance, what is sad is that while the sport of Boxing has made significant progress in embracing new technology mediums that should open the sport to new eyes, it remains a challenge for promoters and networks to attempt to grow the sport further by choosing to expand its reach by staging cards in locations that are not traditional destinations for Boxing like Jacobs-Chavez did for the city of Phoenix, AZ. 

The sad reality is as long as incidents like this are allowed to take place, it will likely cause hesitation and/or reluctance by cities and regulators worldwide that would otherwise be open to staging Boxing and other sporting events in their regions for the economic growth opportunities that it could bring to their area. While yours truly hopes it won’t be years before another major Boxing event takes place in Phoenix, because the actions of a segment of ticket buyers, what is more sad is someone who may have been in attendance in the arena or may have been watching the Jacobs-Chavez card on DAZN somewhere around the world may have been watching Boxing for the first time. It would truly be unfortunate if the visual of the actions of some who did not appear to know where the line was crossed were to cause new would be fans to be turned off and unwilling to support the sport. Unfortunately, that is probably where “Misplaced Enthusiasm” will have it’s ultimate consequences. 

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.” 

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1 comment:

  1. It’s Mexicans. Every fight you listed involved Mexicans. I’m Mexican myself born and raised in Oc,Ca

    But I’m not liar and will not ignore the fact that Mexicans don’t know how to fucking act at sporting events. Fucking Animals.