After the 10th round of last Saturday night's 12-round title fight in Las Vegas, someone in Hector Camacho's corner suggested he toss in the towel. 'No m�s—no more," was the dispirited suggestion. Camacho's left eye was closed, and on the other side of his bloody nose there was a bad cut over his right eye. His right side was alive with pain from the hammering of Julio C�sar Ch�vez's savage body attack. The badly beaten but proud fighter angrily refused.
That was what this match had come down to: a study of one fighter's courage. As early as the seventh round, it had become evident that Ch�vez would keep his WBC super lightweight championship and run his magnificent record to 82-0. Camacho did not have the firepower to stop the champion. Worse, he had lost the quickness in his legs that he had counted on to keep him out of harm's way.
The Mexican bull had stopped the Puerto Rican matador. Now the bull wanted the bullfighter's ears. Urged on by his countrymen, who filled the Thomas & Mack Arena, Ch�vez went for the kill in the last six minutes. "My fans do not want me just to beat him," Ch�vez had said last week. "They are begging me to give him a bad beating. They do not like Camacho."
The two fighters, both 30 years old, had first encountered each other in January 1985 when they fought on the same card in Mexico City. That night Ch�vez had stopped Manuel Hernandez in three. Camacho had knocked out Leoncio Ortiz in six. They had become uneasy friends, two gunfighters trading small talk while wondering privately what would happen if they ever were to trade bullets.
As the years passed, the anticipation of a Ch�vez-Camacho fight grew stronger. Ch�vez went on to win the WBC super featherweight, WBA lightweight, WBC super lightweight and IBF junior welterweight championships. Camacho, in winning 40 of 41 fights, claimed the WBC and WBO lightweight titles. It sounded like a classic matchup, but it was not made until June, when promoter Don King offered each fighter $3 million. Then they strapped on their gun belts.
"He's a little crazy, and I think he's kind of effeminate, but I like him," Ch�vez said of his opponent before the fight. "It is only when he runs off at the mouth that I don't like him so much. But we have talked to each other. In the ring he is very quick, very intelligent. He moves a lot, and it is difficult to hit him. But I am up for this fight more than for any I have ever had, except possibly Edwin Rosario and Meldrick Taylor.
" Rosario," Ch�vez said again, spitting out the name. "That was the fight I was the most angry for, because of the things he said he was going to do to me. My opponents are very foolish to make me angry. I think this is why Hector is being so nice." Ch�vez knocked out Rosario in the 11th round in 1987. But first he turned him into a bloody mass.
"Julio is a great human being," said Camacho, laughing. "He is not a hard person to relate to. He is not complicated. Outside of the ring, we get along. But as a fighter, I don't think he is as much as [the media] have painted him. I don't think he can handle my hand and foot speed. It has been a long time since I was properly motivated for a fight. When you train lazy, when you live lazy, you fight lazy. But not for this one. I feel definitely involved. I have everything to beat this guy, and all I have to do is execute."
Execute he did, for one round. Ch�vez is a slow starter. The champion's plan was simple: chase down his quicker opponent and then kill his body. It had always worked for him before. Camacho knew what he faced. "He can't handle speed," said the challenger. "I will give him a lot of lateral movement and a lot of feints. And you have to give Julio something to think about. With me, that will be a power jab. The way I punch I don't think it will go the distance."
For Camacho it was a perfect first round. His movements were brilliant; his jab tore holes in Ch�vez's pressing attack. As it turned out, the cold-eyed champion was only test-firing his heavy weapons, and a different Ch�vez came out for the second round. His attack was quicker. He began to catch the southpaw Camacho with right-hand leads. Quickly, left hooks joined the barrage, digging deep into Camacho's right side, draining speed from the artful legs.