By Dave Hicks
With rumors abounding that Johnny Tapia's final fight with Showtime would come earlier this evening, and that then the four-time world champion would jump ship to HBO in order to set up a mega-payday against Prince Naseem Hamed, Showtime did have one bargaining chip. While they couldn't produce someone with the crossover appeal of the Prince, they could provide Tapia with the WBO featherweight champion, who also fought tonight from London, England, giving him a shot to gain that fifth world title he craves.
Needless to say, don't be shocked to see Tapia stick around with Showtime a little while longer. If tonight was any indication, Tapia could be a five-time world champion before the year is out.
Where Tapia dispatched former world title challenger Eduardo Alvarez with a left hook to the body and right hand upstairs in one round, WBO champ Julio Pablo Chacon struggled to survive - pulling out a controversial split decision.
Fighting the tall, southpaw from Colombia, Victor Polo (30-4-2), Chacon went through stretches of rounds doing virtually nothing, especially in the opening stanzas. Polo was able to flick his jab and keep the smaller Chacon at a distance, only to shoot stinging straight left hands behind it. Through controlling the distance and pace Polo was able to dictate what happened in the fight on 1-2 combinations.
Chacon (43-2) did have his moments early, landing a devastating left uppercut, left hook combination that looked to have Polo out on his feet in the second round. The Colombian showed a solid chin, hanging on for over a minute and taking back control of the fight. In the fourth round Polo followed a stiff jab with a straight left hand that deposited Chacon on the canvas for only the second time in his career and opened a cut on the side of his right eye. Chacon hopped right back to his feet but struggled on through the middle rounds.
The champion tried desperately to connect with his patented left hook but Polo's jab kept him off balance. Polo just outworked him from the outside, taking a decent lead down the stretch.
Chacon did respond late, determined not to give up his title without a fight. Behind lunging left hooks Chacon managed to steal rounds, landing solid shots to end rounds, and work his way back into the fight. The turning point came in the eighth round when Chacon landed with a flush left hook to the body and Polo tripped over a mat on the ring apron. The referee scored it a knockdown, which it clearly wasn't, getting Chacon a much-needed point.
Julio then closed strong, dominating the championship rounds. He wobbled Polo by putting together left uppercuts and left hooks, complimenting them with straight rights in the 11th round. In the 12th he stunned Polo early with a flurry of lefts, and finished strong to take it as well.
And so it came down to whether the early lead of Polo would hold, or if Chacon managed to pull it out. The judges favored Chacon, with scores of 115-112, 114-113, and 113-114. Boxing.com scored it 114-113 in favor of Polo, although it seemed that Polo was in much more control than that.
Tapia (51-2-2) fought before the championship fight, making his first bout since last June and short night of work. A minute into the fight he trapped Alvarez (29-5) in a corner and unloaded with a volley of punches, working his way from the body to the head. A left hand to the body got Alvarez ready to go, and a right hand to the temple sent him down. Alvarez never made it up, and as the referee counted to ten Tapia did a back-flip to celebrate the win.