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BOXING / TIM KAWAKAMI

Unlike Chavez, Chiquita Adds Class and Dignity to Legacy

August 24, 1996|Tim Kawakami

Julio Cesar Chavez, who not too long ago was the biggest thing in boxing, is fast falling into sad irrelevance.

Every day, he gets smaller. Can't he realize it by now?

He has skipped news conferences. There are reports of financial disarray, accusations that he struck his wife. He refused to accept his beating at the hands of Oscar De La Hoya last June. All of this is sad enough.

But measured against the recent, dignified retirement of Humberto "Chiquita" Gonzalez, a magnificent light-flyweight always in Chavez's shadow, Chavez's continued myopia threatens to consume his legacy.

"Chiquita did the right thing," said local featherweight prospect Robert Garcia. "It's what Chavez should've done."

Gonzalez walked away with grace, plenty of money and his place in boxing history chiseled in stone. Gonzalez wasn't the greatest champion, but he might have been the best action fighter the lighter weight classes have ever known. He and Michael Carbajal brought the first big-money purses to the 108-pound class.

He told his advisors while training for a fight that would have paid him about $200,000, that he no longer felt the spark. So, he decided to quit, and tend to his booming business interests--among them a popular nightclub--in Mexico.

The little man from Mexico City won many big fights, but two of his losses--to Carbajal in 1993 and, in his last fight, to Saman Sorjaturong in July 1995--will go down as all-time slugfests in the history of the sport, regardless of weight.

"Chiquita has always shown that he has character," said Gonzalez's advisor, Rafael Mendoza. "He came back [from the knockout loss to Carbajal] when he had to. He admitted that he had lost, and he came back and beat Carbajal twice.

"Now, he doesn't need to come back. He is a very simple man. He didn't have a big head. Chavez reached the place where the big heads go. Chiquita never had the big ego. Never. And I know him. I believe that he will never come back.

"I see that my old friend Carlos Palomino is going to make a comeback. And I feel sorry, not for him, but for the boxing world. Because fighters should have the courage to face reality--and that's what Chiquita did."

Whatever it was that pushed Gonzalez forward against Carbajal--and into one of the most savage knockouts anyone has ever seen--in their first meeting, whatever it was that kept him going in the first rematch, despite a huge gash over his left eye, whatever it was that made him keep brawling with the dangerous, wounded Sorjaturong . . . whatever it was, it was gone.

"I think he's been very happy this last year without fighting," Mendoza said. "He's making money, still famous, nobody cares if he's fighting or not. And his mother and his wife very much want him to retire."

Chavez, though, was nudged off course several years ago by Pernell Whitaker, and has come up with a stream of weaker and weaker excuses for each new fizzle.

In direct contrast to Gonzalez, Chavez has twice all but quit after getting cut--once to his benefit, when he got a technical-decision victory over Frankie Randall and once to his own excuse-making benefit against De La Hoya.

Chavez, obviously, still has talent and strength, and should power through Joey Gamache on the De La Hoya-Miguel Angel Gonzalez undercard Oct. 12 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. But does anybody think he has a chance in the world in a potential De La Hoya rematch?

Gonzalez will be honored during a card at the Forum on Sept. 14. How much longer will we have to wait for Chavez to wave goodbye? And will he be worth honoring by then?

*

The California State Athletic Commission finally got what it wanted, a bill signed into law that requires all fighters seeking licenses to provide proof of having passed an AIDS test.

Before the law goes into effect Jan. 1, Richard DeCuir, executive director of the commission, is investigating how quickly the tests can be performed and putting together a list of labs it will recommend to fighters and managers.

DeCuir credits the increased awareness created when Tommy Morrison's HIV-positive status was discovered in a pre-fight test before a scheduled fight in Nevada, which tests fighters for AIDS.

"I think the Tommy Morrison situation was a catalyst to move everybody," DeCuir said. "There had been opposition to this in the past, but I think everybody grudgingly understood that boxing is just a different animal."

*

Carlos is older, skinnier and fights the disciplined way you would expect a three-time former amateur champion would. Nacho is younger and wilder. Together, the Navarro brothers did nothing in their recent joint appearance on a card at the Grand Olympic Auditorium to disappoint observers who consider them both potential major factors in the professional ranks.

The left-handed, 19-year-old Carlos, fighting at 124 pounds in his second pro bout, scored a second-round knockout. Nacho, 18, made his debut at 137 pounds--he plans to fight at lighter weights down the line--with a fourth-round, one-punch knockout of his own.

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