THE MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas has hosted more big boxing shows than any other venue over the last two decades, yet 26 years ago it was a brand-new arena.
It’s first show, set for January 29, 1994, saw Mexican superstar Julio Cesar Chavez defend his WBC super-lightweight title against American Frankie Randall, and Claude Abrams previewed the bill.
Claude wrote that Chavez was continuing his quest “to retire undefeated in 100 fights”, having conceded just one draw in 91 outings by that stage. Randall represented the Mexican’s 24th world title fight across three weight divisions (130lbs, 135lbs, 140lbs) and his sixth WBC super-light defence.
Randall, while 32, was having his first world title fight, although we noted that the Tennessee puncher “has been largely avoided with noteworthy victories over world champions in Freddie Pendleton and Edwin Rosario.”
In picking Chavez to win, we said that although Frankie was on a winning run, “he does have vulnerabilities and has fallen apart before.”
Yet Randall would pull off a shock split decision victory, flooring Chavez on the way.
“We all knew it had to come to an end some time, but nobody thought it would be on this night and against this opponent” mused Daniel Herbert at ringside for us.
Randall, nicknamed ‘The Surgeon’, relieved Chavez of the WBC light-welterweight title, ending his undefeated streak at 90 (one draw), by taking a split, contested, but ultimately fair 12-round decision at the Grand Garden indoor arena of the newest glamorous hotel on the Strip.
It all hinged on an extraordinary 11th round. Chavez, who had a point deducted by referee Richard Steele for a low blow in the seventh, had another taken away for the same offence before being dropped flat on his back by a flush right hand on the point of the chin.
Chavez showed the heart of the champion he has been for a decade by getting back up and taking the fight to Randall, but then the damage had been done. Two judges scored the round 10-8 for the challenger and the third 10-7 – those extra points ulitmately cost the ‘Lion of Culiacán’ his precious crown.
“Richard Steele did me a lot of damage tonight” moaned the former champion through an interpreter. “I feel I won almost all the rounds. I respect Frankie Randall tremendously.”
“Chavez deserves a rematch” said the new champ. “He’s a great fighter. I was proud to be able to withstand what he dished out.”
Chavez would win a fortunate rematch just four months later when an accidental head butt, and the gash over his eye it caused, left the Mexican a split eighth round technical points winner over Randall at the same venue.
Chavez had looked the shadow of the once-magnificent fighter who terrorised opponents.
The pair would meet again some 10 years later, with Chavez winning their three-fight series when he outpointed Randall over 10 rounds in Mexico City.