|The Cyber Boxing Zone Newswire|
November 10, 2001|
Mayweather shines in final title defense
By Chris Bushnell
For the first time since Gene Fullmer faced Dick Tiger in 1962, world championship boxing returned to the magnificent city of San Francisco on November 10, 2001. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. made the final defense of his WBC 130 lb. title with a brilliant outclassing of Jesus Chavez, but it was an undercard showdown at 122 lbs. that stole the show. In that bout, Manny Pacquiao and Agapito Sanchez brought the crowd to it's feet with a let-it-all-hang out brawl that was dirty, vicious, and downright exciting.
The day before the fight, HBO's Harold Lederman and Larry Merchant were proclaiming Pacquiao as The Next Big Thing. But rugged journeyman Agapito Sanchez stormed out in the first round and let Pacquiao know that he would not go quietly. As both men feinted and jabbed, it was Sanchez who landed first, driving Pacquiao back into the ropes with a lead right hand. Pacquiao would walk into a few more Sanchez rights before too long, and the action was underway. Pacquiao may be a slick southpaw, but he's mostly known for his concussive knockout power. Pacquiao was looking for that power early, loading up with a succession of killer left hands that missed the 5'3" Sanchez. A few solid lefts found their target before the round was over, but not enough to halt the momentum Sanchez had established so quickly.
The second round was only thirty seconds old before the left-handed Pacquiao and the right-handed Sanchez stepped into each other and clashed heads. Pacquiao grabbed his forehead and gritted his teeth after the clash, and soon it was evident why. A two inch gash that ran under his right eyebrow was literally squirting blood onto the canvas. The ringside physician took a look at the heinous cut and opted to let the bout continue. It's unclear how much worse the cut would have needed to be to stop the bout right there, but perhaps the doctor couldn't get a good look at it, what with all the blood streaking down Pacquiao's face.
The round was allowed to continue, but Pacquiao was understandably distracted. When he wasn't pawing at the blood that flowed over his eye, Sanchez was thrusting his fist into the gash. Sanchez rocked Pacquiao back by stepping into a hard jab that the Filipino champion couldn't see coming. In full desperation mode, Pacquiao began swinging for the fences. He caught Sanchez with some solid straight lefts, but it was too little too late. Two rounds down, and Pacquiao was down two to nothing.
Agapito Sanchez is no stranger to low blows, and after flirting with a straying low in the opening rounds, he nailed Pacquiao square in the cup early in round three. Pacquiao grabbed his groin and used up nearly two minutes of the five provided him under the rules. As the fight resumed, an angry Pacquiao began ripping into Sanchez with a series of heavy one-twos despite the fact that his right eye was again drenched in blood. Sanchez must have sensed the fight shifting to Pacquiao, and so he decided to help it along. With less than a minute to go in the third, the two men locked in a clinch. Referee Marty Denkin called out "Stop. Break," and approached the fighters. A second later, a frustrated Sanchez pushed the palm of his glove into Pacquiao's face and laced him. Denkin immediately called time and deducted a point. Combined with a 10-9 for Pacquiao, the fight was again even.
Sanchez regained control of Pacquiao in the fourth round just as he was in danger of losing control of himself. Twice Sanchez tangled with Pacquiao into a clinch, then refused to release Pacquiao from a headlock when the ref called for a break. Even as Sanchez was beating Pacquiao to the punch and making him pay for loading up with kayo attempts, he continued to stray south of the border. Among the low blows was a shot to the top of Pacquiao's left leg that made him cry out in pain and drag Sanchez down to the canvas with him. Another five minute break was called for, as Denkin deducted a second point from Sanchez' score. Pacquiao regained his composure, but was furious. As he paced the neutral corner, he slammed his fists together and even licked his own blood off of his gloves. We're not sure what was in that blood, but when the round was restarted, Pacquiao was livid.
The final twenty seconds of the round saw both men go toe to toe, much to the appreciation of the crowd. And while Pacquiao landed a heavy hook and two nice uppercuts on Sanchez in this unbridled flurry, he also caught a number of clean punches. The bell finally halted the action as the crowd screamed for more. Boxing Chronicle scored the round for Sanchez, but with the penalty marked the score 9-9.
Sanchez emerged from that final onslaught with a cut of his own, albeit a much less serious one. Both fighters bled freely in the hotly contested fifth round, a round in which Pacquiao showed signs of making adjustments. Over and over in the earlier rounds, Pacquiao had missed his left as the shorter Sanchez easily ducked under the punch. Now he lowered the blow, and repeatedly watched Sanchez duck directly into the line of fire. Sanchez looked to be tiring, but he continued to fight back. Midway through the round, Pacquiao's eye resumed bleeding, and Sanchez used his opponent's partial blindness to land his left hook. Pacquiao eked out the round on our cards, giving him a one-point lead.
The sixth round was only beginning to unfold when the two fighters again clashed heads at center ring. Again, a wincing Pacquiao was sent to the doctor, who now decided that he had seen enough. The fight was halted, and we went to the cards.
Under the rules, partial rounds are scored along with completed rounds in the final tally. With Sanchez winning the first 30 seconds of round six, he had evened the tally on our card. A draw seemed inevitable. Michael Buffer affirmed this when he read scores of 58-54 Pacquiao, 57-55 Sanchez and 56-56 Even. Boxing Chronicle also scored the bout 56-56.
And so Manny Pacquiao's rising star hit a small speed bump on the road to stardom. While the draw certainly won't damage his reputation as a loss would have, there are new questions about the fighter that looked so awesome while destroying Lehlo Ledwaba. Pacquiao was easy to hit, was looking for the knockout even before he was in trouble, and was even beat to the punch by a man with a shorter reach. That said, the cut definitely affected his gameplan after only a round and a half, and before the final butt ended things, he was implementing adjustments that were starting to work. Both Sanchez and Pacquiao will need time for their cuts to heal. But once recovered, there is no reason why these two 122 lb. titlists shouldn't do it all over again. Pacquiao cannot be considered a star unless he can dispose of someone like Sanchez, and Sanchez will have a hard time finding willing opponents given the way that he handled Pacquiao. Bring on the rematch!
Despite a doctor-assisted ending, the undercard bout stole a little thunder from Floyd Mayweather's impressive outing in the main event. Where Pacquiao and Sanchez often stood toe-to-toe, Mayweather used his footwork and defense to stay out of harms way for much of his fight. It took the crowd awhile to adjust, but eventually the crowd that had chanted "Cha-vez" in each of the first five rounds had been won over by Mayweather's blinding handspeed and clean punching.
As promised, Chavez applied constant pressure to Mayweather. In response to the bull-rush, Mayweather had one of three options, and he used them all interchangeably. First option was to move, and Mayweather's footwork was as brilliant as always. First left and then right, the boxing prodigy didn't simply move around the ring, he floated.
His second option was to use the Mayweather defense. For long stretches of time, Mayweather would lean back on the ropes with his right hand raised to his cheek and his left arm covering his midsection. With his chin tucked behind his lead shoulder, and his L-shaped arms catching and blocking punches, Mayweather would let Chavez bury his head in his chest and fire away. In these stretches, Chavez would throw 5, 10, or sometimes even more punches... and few would land. Sure, Chavez riled the crowd by clipping Mayweather with a few good hooks, and occasionally weaving past Mayweather's defense to bury a body shot on the body instead of on the elbow. But for the most part, Mayweather was able to stand flat footed in front of his man and calmly let him tire out.
Mayweather's third and final option was to punch back, and in most every round he did so with stunning speed and uncanny accuracy. Chavez showed off a great chin, taking clean sharp punches over and over again. A particular favorite of Mayweather's was the uppercut. Thrown from the left or right side, the punch usually missed Chavez' chin but landed firmly in the middle of his chest. Still, it was a highly effective weapon, although by no means the only one in Mayweather's arsenal. Whether he was jabbing, throwing bursts of one-twos, hooking off the jab, or countering off the ropes, Mayweather won every round on clean punches. Even in rounds when he coasted a bit, or let Chavez outwork him on the ropes, Mayweather continued to score points by landing crisp punches right on target.
Chavez, the WBC #1 mandatory for the past three years, was a worthy challenger... but at times he looked average compared to Mayweather. And even though Chavez landed some of his best punches in the ninth round, he could not get off his stool for the tenth. On the advice of his trainer, Ronnie Shields, Chavez stayed sitting and handed the win to Mayweather via a TKO 9.
At the post fight press conference, Chavez gave full credit to Mayweather (now 27-0/20), claiming that "from now on, I'm Floyd Mayweather's #1 fan." For his part, Mayweather was equally respectful, calling Chavez one of his toughest opponents to date. Responding to questions about his imminent rise to 135 and beyond, Mayweather revealed that he had not eaten "anything but a small salad and a little fruit, and no liquids at all, for four days" leading up to the fight. Clearly a move to 135, if not 140, is the right move. There, Mayweather will face tougher opposition, including potential fights with Castillo, or even Tszyu. We can hardly wait.
On the undercard, Jorge Kahwagi needed less than a minute to win his pro debut by knockout over Perry Williams. Kahwagi, who is trained by Miguel Diaz, leveled his also-debuting opponent with a right uppercut for the night's only 10-count kayo.
Dmitriy "Star of David" Salita creamed Miguel Mares to improve to 4-0/4. Mares offered up his 0-2-1/0KO record to the Top Rank-backed contender in a bout that was completely one-sided for two and a half brutal rounds.
Arturo Morales, also trained by Miguel Diaz, got a gift decision over the Roger Mayweather-trained Mahan Washington in the final bout before the main events. Washington was 14-14 coming into this bout, but outjabbed the shorter Morales with ease in rounds one and two. Morales adjusted and beat his man down in rounds three and four for a 38-38 draw on our scorecard. But the officials gave it to Morales 39-37 and 40-36 (twice). Morales improved to 6-0/2KO.
And in the walk-out bout, Australian-born and Freddie Roach-trained Paul Briggs beat up on a hapless James Green for three rounds before Green simply turned his back on Briggs and draped himself over the top rope. Briggs improved to 13-1/10KO with relative ease, as Green seemed more interested in clinching than punching.
Despite this lackluster undercard, the featured bouts were entertaining, well received bouts. At the post-fight press conference, Bob Arum promised to bring another championship bout to San Francisco. Let's just hope the city doesn't have to wait another 39 years for that promise to come true.
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