A win-win draw for welterweights Chavez unbeaten; Whitaker keeps title

SAN ANTONIO — SAN ANTONIO -- Pernell Whitaker looked at himself in the mirror yesterday and knew he had won, that he had beat the symbol of perfection, Julio Cesar Chavez and his 87-0 record.

Yet in an Alamodome that grew muted with each Whitaker flurry Friday night, Chavez escaped before the largest indoor crowd in boxing history, a gathering of about 65,000 fans. He escaped through something called a majority draw, an oddity of a decision even for this most confusing of sports. Two of the three judges voted for the draw, with the third judge voting for Whitaker.


"I'm the best fighter in the world, and that's pound for pound," Whitaker said yesterday, basking in the victory that he, and probably a majority of those who viewed the bout, felt he deserved.

An informal poll of a dozen ringside reporters showed Whitaker winning on 10 cards, with two calling the fight a draw. The New York Times score card had Whitaker a comfortable winner, taking nine rounds leading in points, 117-111.


When Whitaker went back to his hotel room early yesterday morning, he stared in the mirror. He told his wife, Rovonda, it was time for him to quit. He was on top of the world, he explained, which is a nice way to go out.

Chavez, though, wants Whitaker to stick around. It was Chavez, exulting in the ring as if he had won, who then asked for a rematch -- as if he had lost. It was Chavez, usually the personification of what passes for class in this crazy game, who complained that Whitaker grabbed his left hand during the fight, that Whitaker hit low.

It was an uncharacteristic postfight performance for Chavez, idol of his native Mexico and a five-time world champion who was attempting to wrest away Whitaker's World Boxing Council welterweight title.

Because the fight was a draw, Whitaker retained the title. But his handlers were upset with the verdict and trashed the WBC, the sanctioning body they contend is controlled by promoter Don King, who also happens to be Chavez's promoter.

King, still hoarse from his prefight promoting -- in the end, 1 million American homes signed up for the $30 pay-per-view -- said he saw the possibility of a rematch in December, "but only if the Duvas did their share of the promotion."

But a rematch is unlikely to happen soon, if ever. Dan Duva, Whitaker's promoter, said: "We don't believe that Julio Cesar Chavez wants a rematch. That macho's all false." And Shelly Finkel, the co-manager, added, "It will have to be on our terms, better than 50-50."

For Friday night's fight, Chavez earned $5 million, about double Whitaker's take. Chavez had threatened earlier in the week to throw away the guarantee and quit the match after he learned that one of the judges would be an American and that none of them would be Mexican.

That American, Jack Woodruff of Dallas, was the judge who voted for Whitaker, 115-113. Mickey Vann of England and Franz Marti of Switzerland each scored it 115-115.


"See, they got their American judge, so what are they complaining about?" King said.

Typically, Lou Duva, Whitaker's other manager, had an opposite reaction from King's. "That's why we wanted an American," he said. "He's a local guy. He was straight."

fact, the judges may have been surprised as anyone by what unfolded. Whitaker's game plan allowed Chavez to move forward, the style that had damaged so many opponents' vital organs.

But as Chavez advanced, the left-handed Whitaker would slide slightly sideways, and Chavez would miss, or hit Whitaker's elbow or shoulder. Or hit low. And in response, Whitaker would toss off a burst of punches.

"My middle knuckle hurts from hitting him in the nose so many times," Whitaker chortled yesterday, pointing to his right hand.

While most observers, and, more importantly, Chavez, thought Whitaker would run when stalked, the opposite often occurred. Lou Duva had told Whitaker the way to get Chavez is on the inside.


"Most people run from him, and they get nailed," Duva said. "We let him come, and then we got in close, and he couldn't figure it out."

As a result, Whitaker still shows a record with only one real blemish, a disputed loss to Jose Luis Ramirez. Overall, he is 32-1-1. And although Chavez still is unbeaten, his 87-0-1 record doesn't have the cachet that it did before Friday.

So as Whitaker continued looking at the mirror yesterday, he thought, no, he would not retire. Perhaps two more fights. First, he will go to Irving today and watch his friend Bruce Smith of the Buffalo Bills play the Dallas Cowboys.