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A billboard on the Atlantic City Expressway spelled out the pecking order of last Saturday night's fight card at the Convention Center. Large white letters proclaimed: MIKE TYSON vs. ALEX STEWART. Below that, in smaller type, was written: PLUS JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ. Ch�vez, the man many boxing experts consider the best boxer in the world, pound for pound, had been relegated to undercard status.
Ch�vez defended his WBC and IBF junior welterweight crowns with a third-round knockout of Ahn Kyung Duk of Korea. Ch�vez's performance was as classic and efficient as Tyson's, an hour later, was reckless and explosive. The victory ran his record to 73-0. It was his 60th knockout and 18th title fight. During his 11-year career, Ch�vez has continued to prosper even while moving up in weight from 130 pounds (he held the WBC super featherweight title) to 135 (the WBC and WBA lightweight crowns) to his present 140.
Last March he came within a few ticks of the ring clock of losing to Meldrick Taylor, then the IBF junior welterweight champ. All Taylor, who led on two of the three scorecards going into the final round, had to do was stay away from Ch�vez during those last three minutes. But Ch�vez drove him to the canvas with several vicious rights. Although Taylor beat the count, the referee stopped the fight with two seconds to go, and Ch�vez had his fifth world title.
Despite his heady credentials the 28-year-old Ch�vez has yet to attain the kind of celebrity in the U.S. that he enjoys in his native Mexico. In the U.S., he is recognized only by boxing fans. One reason is, he speaks little English. Another, Ch�vez maintains, is Don King, who has promoted most of his fights. Ch�vez believes that, in King's eyes, he has become a second banana to Mike Tyson.
"I've had it with Don King," said Ch�vez before stalking out.
Disgruntled or not, Ch�vez was all business once he got in the ring. Ahn, 28, may have been 29-1, but he had never fought outside Korea and didn't figure to threaten Ch�vez's unbeaten streak. The first round was study period for Ch�vez. He seldom looks at tapes of his opponents in action, preferring to size them up in the opening minutes of a bout. He did just that with Ahn, moving him about the ring, picking off his winging combinations with elbows and gloves.
Twenty-six seconds into Round 2, Ch�vez fired a sharp straight right that dropped Ahn for a count of six. Working calmly and unhurriedly, Ch�vez knocked Ahn down again about 30 seconds later. Ahn, game and gritty, caught Ch�vez with a left-right to the face. Ch�vez stopped his pursuit for a moment, then landed a solid hook just before the bell.
At 1:55 of the third round, Ch�vez landed a left hook to the body, followed by a left-right combination that sent Ahn down again. Ahn laboriously picked himself up on the count of four and took a few steps toward his corner. When the ref asked him if he wanted to go on, he shook his head no.
Afterward Ch�vez talked about his future. It had been announced earlier in the day that Taylor had signed to fight WBA welterweight champ Aaron Davis in January, a development that eliminates the possibility of Ch�vez-Taylor II in early 1991. "I don't think Taylor has the right to fight for the welterweight championship," said Ch�vez with clear passion. "He should have to fight and beat me first."