Last Friday the people who monitor the suffocating smog in Mexico City issued a Phase 1 alert, which pulled the plug on 30% of the city's industry and half of the government's vehicles. The following night, in massive Azteca Stadium, an angry Julio C�sar Ch�vez of Culiac�n, Mexico, enforced some pollution controls of his own. Ch�vez, the undefeated WBC super lightweight champion, unmercifully hammered Greg Haugen of Henderson, Nev., and closed down Haugen's bile-spewing mouth at 2:02 of the fifth round.
Like the poisoned air that usually paints Mexico's capital the grubbiest of grays and browns, the brief fight was not pretty. Except, of course, to the 130,000 fans—the largest crowd in boxing history—who packed the arena where Pel� and Maradona made soccer history in the 1970 and 1986 World Cups, respectively. For those in attendance, it was not enough to witness Ch�vez's 85th victory without a defeat; they wanted to see their national idol punish the ugly American with the arrogant words.
Haugen had ridiculed Ch�vez's countrymen—the stadium could not be filled, he had reportedly said, because there were not enough Mexicans with the money to buy tickets—and he had scoffed at Ch�vez's record. "Look at the first 40 or 50 guys he fought," Haugen had said with a sneer. "Nothing but stiffs. Every one of them was a cab driver from Tijuana."
"He said my family was worthless; he said Mexicans were not worth anything," the 30-year-old Ch�vez said with uncharacteristic anger a few days before the fight. "I really hate him bad. When he looks at me, I want to vomit. I am going to give him the worst beating of his life. I am going to make him swallow the words that come out of his dirty mouth."
Haugen took it all in stride. Not even his status as a 26-to-1 underdog penetrated his prefight calm. "I'm where I want to be, under his skin," said Haugen, who last held the IBF lightweight title from February 1988 to February 1989. "I want to be there like a vein. If he's ticked off, he'll make mistakes, and in boxing you only have to make one mistake."
As the star of a pay-per-view show that featured four title fights, Ch�vez earned $2.5 million and traveled to the stadium by helicopter. Haugen, who made $1 million, was still mired in one of Mexico City's epic traffic jams at 8:30, two hours before his fight was to start. By then Michael Nunn, the WBA super middleweight champion, had disposed of "Irish" Danny Morgan, an unknown challenger from Minneapolis. "I had never heard of the guy," Nunn said before he stopped Morgan with one second to go in the first round. "Wish I had had more time to train," mused Morgan.
Azumah Nelson, the 34-year-old WBC super featherweight champion from Ghana, found the going more difficult against young Gabriel Ruelas, who gave away nine years in experience. After 12 uneventful rounds Nelson was awarded a majority decision over Ruelas, a 22-year-old Mexican now fighting out of Los Angeles. Judge Jos� Medina of Mexico, no fool he in front of 130,000 of his countrymen, called it a draw.
The crowd, rising 14 stories from the grass field to the $1.65 concrete seats at the top of the stadium, then began warming up its derisive whistles on the evening's second-biggest attraction, WBC super welterweight champion Terry Norris, who has seriously challenged Ch�vez for the title of best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Two days earlier Dan Goossen, Norris's promoter, had offered Ch�vez $10 million to fight his man at 147 pounds. On Saturday, Norris, weighing 151, dressed up his credentials by stopping IBF welterweight champion Maurice Blocker 49 seconds into the second round. "I'm the best," Norris said after raising his record to 34-3. "If Ch�vez still thinks he is, he knows where to find me. I'll drop down in weight. All he has to do is get into a ring."
At that moment Ch�vez had other things on his mind. After being escorted into the ring by two of his sons and what appeared to be half of his neighbors from Culiac�n, Ch�vez was ready to apply hurt to his tormentor. Ch�vez is usually a slow starter, but his anger brought him quickly from the blocks. A hard right dropped Haugen 25 seconds into Round 1. After getting up at the count of two, Haugen fell back under a murderous assault.
With a half-minute to go in the round, the crowd began to chant, "�Duro! �Duro! �Duro!"—meaning "hit him hard." The spectators wanted a first-round knockout; Haugen's heart and chin denied them their wish, though Ch�vez continued to punish him, digging hooks to his ribs, driving both hands to his head.