I recently had the painful privilege to watch the HBO documentary, Legendary Nights: Julio Caesar Chavez vs. Meldrick Taylor.
After watching the special, and recalling the brutality and magnitude of the bout, I concluded that the contest billed “Thunder Meets Lightning” was one of the five greatest prizefights in boxing history.
In March 1990 in Las Vegas, WBC Welterweight titlist Chavez (66-0) decimated IBF Welterweight Champion Taylor (24-0-1) via TKO in the bloodiest battle since Antietam.
Entering the final round, all three judges had Taylor winning on their scorecards.
Chavez sensed urgency in the 12th round and landed a vicious barrage of punches that floored Taylor with 13 seconds remaining in the bout.
Taylor, nicknamed “The Kid,” somehow managed to make it to his feet before being counted out.
Nevertheless, referee Richard Steele decided to halt the bloodbath with two seconds left in the fight because he believed Taylor’s health was at grave risk.
Although extremely controversial, in retrospect, Steele likely made the right decision.
Taylor suffered several bone fractures in the contest and the damage done to his kidney caused the former Olympic gold medalist to urinate blood for a week.
“Meldrick suffered a facial fracture, he was urinating blood, his face was grotesquely swollen,” said Dr. Flip Homansky, who examined Taylor after the fight and immediately sent him to the hospital. “This was a kid who was truly beaten up to the face, the body, and the brain.”
Granted, if Steele had afforded Taylor a mere two seconds, the Philadelphia native would likely have earned a valiant and courageous triumph for the ages.
However, Taylor was never the same fighter—or human being—after this savage affair.
In the aftermath of Ring Magazine’s “Fight of the Decade,” Taylor went a pedestrian 14-8 before he mercifully retired in 1992.
Today he speaks with such a jumbled and slow voice many have theorized that he suffers from pugilistic dementia.
“It was hard to watch,” said Brad Sherwood, 30, a resident of South Boston who is employed at Gold’s Gym in Medford. “The man was a shell of himself.”
Taylor lost more than a fight that night in Sin City—he lost a piece of his life and existence.