View Full Version : Mythical Head2Head: Jeff Chandler vs. Lupe Pintor

02-15-2006, 01:31 PM
Mythical Head2Head: Jeff Chandler vs. Lupe Pintor
By Martin Mulcahey & Lee Groves from Max Boxing

In the past month, Mr. Groves and I have concentrated our mental sparring on fantasy bouts involving legends of the sport such as Roberto Duran, Pernell Whitaker, Bob Foster, and Michael Spinks. This week, we delve a bit deeper into the boxing pool, pitting two undeniably great fighters against one another whose careers were a couple of victories away from achieving mythical status. Often, such pairings are much better than bouts involving legends, simply because they are a bit more flawed and thus have more holes in their arsenal to investigate. However, considering the offensive prowess that Jeff Chandler and Lupe Pintor displayed in their prime, even if the duo were nearly perfect defensive specimens, they would have to endure a good deal to emerge victorious.

Jeff Chandler was the epitome of a Philly fighter, having turned pro after only engaging in two amateur fights to earn his bones on the pro circuit. While Chandler is considered by historians as a fantastic counterpuncher, his aptly given nickname of "Joltin Jeff" foretells the misery opponents felt who tested the power of Chandler's right hand. Chandler won his first two titles before his 20th bout, capturing the USBA and NABF belts back when they still meant something. The kayo wins were a launching pad to the world championship, which he ripped from undefeated Puerto Rican speedster Juan Solis by 14th round KO. What followed was a stylish four-year reign against opponents from around the world that included nine title defenses with more than half his challengers unable to last until the final bell. English boxing historian Gilbert Odd crystallized many observersí thoughts on Chandler when he deemed him "a complete boxer with a sizable punch."

As polished and dashing as Chandler was is how doggedly Pintor tore into opponents. While he did not totally lack ring refinement, Pintor did employ the traditional Mexican brawling style that is based upon a "throw a left hook on any occasion" philosophy. Lupe was particularly adept at working his way inside, where he concentrated his focus on the liver and rib cage of opponents. Pintor worked his way out of Tijuana gyms overflowing with talent and desire, and was fighting 10-round bouts by his second fight in the pros. His fan-friendly style got him noticed on both sides of the border, where his ability to sell tickets landed him a title shot. Pintor's heart shone through when he came back from a fourth round knockdown to earn a disputed decision over legendary Carlos Zarate for the WBC bantamweight title. Pintor went on an eight-fight title defense run, where he gained a reputation for late-round rallies which opponents knew were coming but could never discourage. Simply put, he was an unflinchingly valiant warrior.

Martin: This is a fight which could have, and should have, happened around 1982, when boxing was riding a wave of popularity on free television. Both men held versions of the bantamweight title and were in the midst of impressive title reigns. My argument for Pintor, like the man's fighting style, is straightforward and to the point. Pintor was a large bantamweight who wore on opponents with his work rate, and when push came to shove, Pintor wanted it more. Remember that Chandler came to boxing relatively late with no real amateur background at the age of 19, and often times itís the fundamentals ingrained in youngsters from an early age that set them apart as the championship rounds roll over them.

Chandler was a long and lean bantam, tailor made for the body shots which Pintor dished out with the length and fluidly of a Don King speech. The most compelling factor in this bout is Pintor's ability to absorb punishment and rally late, which was the opposite of Chandler who, when pressed by the likes of Richard Sandoval and Oscar Muniz, faded. Don't misjudge that statement, Chandler did have a good chin and could take a punch. However, as the rounds wore on, his work rate and resistance suffered. Whereas Pintor got into his groove after about six rounds, just as his opponentsí legs began to weaken from the body shots Lupe landed with precision. It is this convergence of the strong and weak points of the fighters that leads me to the conclusion that Pintor wins the bout by a late-round stoppage.

Lee: I agree with you, Marty Ė this was a fight that needed to have been made. In general, a matchup between a boxer-puncher and a slugger often makes for fantastic fights, and Chandler vs. Pintor in particular would have blended the best elements such a fight could offer. Hall of Fame promoter Russell Peltz worked hard to put this fight together, but Pintorís camp first cited money as a stumbling block, then the Mexican was badly injured in a motorcycle accident that sidelined him for six months. By the time Pintor was ready to fight again, he could no longer make bantamweight. When Pintor vacated the WBC title to pursue a superfight with WBC junior featherweight champion Wilfredo Gomez, all hopes of this fantasy matchup becoming reality were snuffed out.

Where I disagree with Marty is the result of Chandler-Pintor, and I base my opinion on several factors. First, Chandler has far more versatility as a fighter than Pintor. Chandler knew how to use his long arms and angular body to pile up points on the outside while possessing the power to end matters when he found the openings he sought. After all, his nickname was "Joltiní Jeff." A pure boxer early in his career, Chandler added power as time went along and evolved into a complete fighter.

Also, Chandler performed better against sluggers than boxers. The evidence: Oscar "The Boxer" Muniz hung the first defeat on Chandler and Richie Sandoval battered the Philadelphian before ending his career via 15th round stoppage. Pintor, as great as he was, was no ballerina in the ring. Marty says that Chandlerís lean body was made for Pintorís withering body attack. I say that Pintorís come-forward style was made for Chandlerís counterpunching skills. Albert Davila, as classy a boxer as there was in the 1970s and 1980s, won a 10-round decision in their first fight in 1976 and lost a controversial 15-rounder for Pintorís WBC title four years later. Sharp boxer Leo Cruz, who held the WBA junior featherweight title in the early 1980s, also outboxed Pintor over 10 rounds. Chandler, smart cookie that he was, would take note of this trend and adjust his game accordingly.

Another factor that bodes well for Chandler is the resiliency of his skin Ė and Pintorís lack of it. Three fights after Pintor lifted the WBC bantamweight title from Carlos Zarate (some call it a horrible decision, but when I re-watched the fight years later, I scored it a draw), Pintor lost a non-title fight to 17-13-1 Manuel Vazquez on cuts after six rounds. In his sixth defense against Jovito Rengifo, Pintor suffered dangerous cuts over his eyes and had to rally from behind to score an eighth-round KO. Pintor won because he remained composed in the face of danger, but that doesnít change the fact that his scar tissue would have presented significant problems against the sharp-punching Chandler.

A third attribute benefiting Chandler is that he is a quick starter while Pintor needs several rounds to rev up his engine. Granted, when Pintor gets going he is quite a handful, but by that time Chandler would have built a significant lead on the scorecards. Pintor would be under pressure to produce a late-round knockout over a man who suffered only one knockdown in his entire pro career Ė in the 11th round against Sandoval in what would be his final fight.

The fourth and final factor that tilts the scale toward the Philadelphian is weight-making ability. During the early part of his reign, Chandler was so comfortable at the 118-pound limit that he snacked on the way to weigh-ins. Conversely, Pintor would torture himself to wring out every precious ounce. The only time Pintor was a true bantamweight was the 30 seconds or so he would stand on the scale, which is all that matters. By fight time, Pintor was a full-fledged featherweight but the weeks of sacrifice needed to make the weight couldnít have helped his performance. The truth is Pintor won despite it.

Martin: If you look at our last two fantasy matches, I argued on both occasions that I had the better fighter (Duran and Foster over Whitaker and Spinks). I cannot, and will not, argue that here. However, I do believe that, stylewise, Pintor is a horrible match for Chandler, in the same way Norton was for Ali, Tunney for Dempsey, or even Junior Jones was for Barrera.

I admit that I had a feeling the cut argument was going to be made by Lee, and I have no comeback for that. Other than that, Pintor always fought through them when allowed to do so, and given the fight would be for a world title, Pintor would get more of a benefit of the doubt than usual. Mr. Groves is right again that Pintor never had an easy time making the weight, but the strain did not affect Pintor in terms of stamina, or the ability to put punches together in the championship rounds Ė both of which would be key against Chandler. As an aside, when pitted against the likes of Chandler, the extra bulk certainly would come in handy in the early portion of the bout when pushing Chandler off, or wrestling with Chandler on the inside.

Lee cites Pintor's losses to boxers, but does not mention just how cocky of a fighter Chandler was when he had his way. Heís a bit of a bully in that sense. Chandler could be drawn out of his comfort zone and into the other man's ground, as he did against Eijiro Murata and Oscar Muniz in those respective first bouts. In his losses to Muniz and Sandoval, Chandler was beaten in his own mind before the final bell sounded. He resorted to clowning in the Muniz fight, and complained to referee Arthur Mercante incessantly against Sandoval as his frustration built. While Pintor was a slow starter, Chandler could be gotten to early as well. If Chandler had not held on for dear life against Murata (in the first round of the first fight) and avoided a knockdown, the one-point swing would have cost him the title.

Here is the real key: In Chandler's losses to Muniz and Sandoval, he was not as much outhustled as he was outmaneuvered. Yes, it takes a combination puncher to beat Chandler (which Pintor was in the late stages of fights), but in order to unload with more than one punch, you have to make Chandler stationary. Jeff did have good legs, but he did not move with any cleverness on the defensive side. When pressured by these boxer types, Chandler could not avoid their cutting off the ring. It wasn't the straight punches that got to him, it was the looping right (which Murata almost did him in with) which he often turned into. Forget engaging with Pintor, when opponents felt his upper body strength they inevitably went to Plan B. It would be the same with Chandler. We saw Pintor seek out wars of attrition while Chandler wanted distance to deliver his payload. No, Chandler would need to move to win.

So, did Chandler have the discipline to move for a minimum of 10 or 12 rounds against Pintor? More to the point, would Chandler fold mentally as he did against Muniz and Sandoval? Neither of those two were speed burners with their fists; they won by checkmating Chandler with their feet. Pintor forced opponents to face him by stepping to the side and attacking the body. Once his head was squared with the body of his opponent, the attack commenced. When Pintor sensed his opponents had slowed, he moved the attack to the head with hooks of every variety. He would include looping shots that Chandler was certainly susceptible to, and not just in the final rounds of a bout.

When all is said and done, I want the stronger man who unerringly stages late-round power plays over an excellent fighter whose psychological makeup can be called into question when push came to shove. That man was Pintor.

Lee: Marty makes some good and interesting points about Chandlerís state of mind during several of his title defenses, and being the charitable guy I am I can add one more example to bolster Martyís argument. Against Miguel Iriarte, an opponent widely regarded as undeserving of his mandatory contender status, Chandler spent most of the early rounds taunting and teasing while the aggressive Panamanian built a lead on the scorecards. Chandler did so because he wanted to embarrass the WBA over its choice of top contender, but all he did was embarrass himself. Once he felt the urgency of his situation, Chandler picked up the pace and polished off Iriarte in the ninth. After clowning away the first fight with Muniz, Chandler subsequently adopted a healthier mental approach in his third fight against Murata, a bout he felt was forced upon him by the WBA. He knocked the Japanese down in the second and third rounds and scored three more knockdowns in the 10th to force a stoppage.

Chandler may have taken some opponents lightly, but Pintor certainly wouldnít have been one of them. "Joltiní Jeff" was keenly aware Ė almost obsessively so Ė about his place in boxing history. He could quote the number of title defenses past bantamweight champions had and he used that knowledge to motivate himself. When Chandler was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2000, he reveled in the attention and recognition like few others before or since. He was so overcome with joy at the induction ceremony that his celebration extended several seconds into Ken Buchananís acceptance speech. I relate this story not to embarrass Chandler, but to illustrate how strongly he felt about his legacy.

A unification fight with Pintor would have been the ultimate statement fight because it likely would have determined the best bantamweight of the era. For Chandler, it wasnít about titles or big purses, as great at they are. What he wanted most was respect, both from his peers and from the media. A fight with Pintor would have provided more than enough impetus to not only get his body in great condition but to also put his mental house in order. There would have been no histrionics from Chandler against Pintor for two reasons: First, he knew Pintor was a great champion that required 100 percent of his attention and second, he realized a victory would cement his legacy for all time. With stakes that high, Chandler would drop the silly schoolyard stuff and enter the ring with appropriately intense focus.

Marty is right when he says Chandler needs to move in order to win. Few bantamweights this side of Ruben Olivares possessed the strength to go toe-to-toe with Pintor, and physical strength was not Chandlerís game anyway. What Chandler did best was move from side to side to set up punching angles and strike hard when he found the openings he sought. Despite his plethora of boxing skills, Chandler was an offensive-minded predator and against the hard-charging Pintor he would find plenty of openings to exploit.

Last time, when we were discussing Duran vs. Whitaker, Marty said Duran would prevail because he could win in more ways. Itís a good point worthy of stealing here. Chandler would beat Pintor because he had more than one road to follow if he wanted that legendary "W." The most likely way for Chandler to win would have been to employ his diversity of skills en route to a 15-round decision but Chandler could also score a stoppage due to cuts or swelling. While unlikely due to Pintorís sheer toughness, Chandler had enough pop in his punches that a TKO win wouldnít have been out of the question. As for Pintor, itís hard to imagine him outboxing Chandler or opening a fight-ending gash. His road to victory would be to force long chest-to-chest exchanges where strength would outstrip skill. For Pintor, it would be either KO or no-go.

Given "Joltiní Jeffís" proven resiliency, superior technical skill and thirst to establish a lasting greatness, my vote goes to "no-go."

02-15-2006, 05:21 PM
I'm going with Jeff on an hard fought close unanimous or split decision over Lupe. I think Chandler's skills will win the day out over the harder punching aggressiveness of Pintor.