Oscar De La Hoya made the 100th fight of Julio Cesar Chavez's career look like his first.
De La Hoya sliced open a cut over the Chavez's left eye in the first round Friday night, then beat him into a bloody mess in the fourth round before referee Joe Cortez stepped in to stop the fight.It was total domination by De La Hoya, who never let Chavez get into the fight and stopped the great Mexican champion for the first time in his career at 2:37 of the fourth round to win the WBC super lightweight title.
The end came after De La Hoya threw a left hook that caused blood to spurt out of the nose of Chavez, whose face was so covered in bright red blood that it was barely visible.
Chavez offered only a brief protest, as De La Hoya was hoisted onto the shoulders of his cornermen in triumph.
"We were trying to stop Julio Cesar Chavez in his tracks and we did it," De La Hoya said.
Although Chavez's camp officially denied it, a source close to the camp said the champion had sustained a cut over his left eye in training but had not told promoters about it. Chavez had closed his training camp, which is normally open, after arriving in Las Vegas over Memorial Day weekend.
The sellout crowd of 15,283 had barely had a chance to cheer the fighters when a punch by De La Hoya opened a deep cut over the left eye of Chavez midway through the first round.
Almost immediately, blood began flowing down the face of Chavez, and Cortez stopped the action briefly for the ringside doctor to look at his cut.
Chavez, an underdog for the first time in his career at 2-1 odds, fought tentatively from the opening bell, ignoring his usual style in an effort to try and box the taller and stronger challenger.
But, with his cut reopened in the fourth round, Chavez tried to fight back, briefly catching De La Hoya against the ropes in a neutral corner.
It turned out to be a mistake, however, as De La Hoya came out of the corner with a big left hook that sent blood streaming all over the face of Chavez, then began backing him up with big shots to the head and body.
Cortez finally stepped in with Chavez's face a bloody mess and took him over to ringside doctor Flip Homansky, who told the referee to stop the fight.
De La Hoya, who captured the 140-pound title that Chavez had held almost uninterrupted for seven years, said he felt Chavez's nose break when he caught him with a left hook that started blood spurting from the champion in the fourth round.
"When I cut his eye and broke his nose with a left hook, I knew I had him," De La Hoya said.
De La Hoya, who upped his record to 22-0, was the aggressor throughout the fight, boxing from a crouch that seemed to befuddle Chavez.
Chavez, who had won 97 of his 99 previous fights, seemed unwilling to mix it up with De La Hoya, who used his jab effectively through the first few rounds.
"I couldn't see," Chavez said. "I didn't feel Oscar's punch. I had a lot of fight left in me."
Chavez shook his head "no" as the ring doctor ordered the fight stopped, but did not protest further.
"I had a lot of fight left in me," he said.
Fighting outdoors before a highly partisan crowd with a temperature of 100 degrees at the opening bell, both fighters seemed primed for a battle that would live up to the advance billing of an Olympic gold medalist against a legend who was 31-1-1 in previous title fights.
But even before he started bleeding, Chavez did not press the fight as he had in almost every fight of a pro career that began in 1980.
Chavez landed only 35 of 103 punches, while De La Hoya threw 195 punches and landed 94. One of the punches was the one that opened the cut that sealed Chavez's doom.
"It was definitely a punch," said Marc Ratner, director of the Nevada Athletic Commission. "There were no butts."
Both fighters earned some $9 million for the bout, which drew a sellout crowd to Caesars Palace and hundreds of thousands more to closed circuit telecasts at arenas, racetracks and bars around the country.