When you think of Mexican bantamweights the names of Hall of Famers Ruben
Olivares and Carlos Zarate quickly come to mind. And if you think further,
maybe the names of Raul (Raton) Macias, Jose (Toluco) Lopez, Ricardo (Pajarito) Moreno, Jose
Becerra, Jose Medel, Jesus Pimentel, Jesus (Chucho)
Castillo, Rafael Herrera, Rodolfo Martinez, Romeo Anaya, Alfonso Zamora and
Lupe Pintor ring a bell.
me the Mexican bantamweight revolution started in the fifties with Raul
(Raton) Macias, Jose (Toluco) Lopez, Ricardo (Pajarito) Moreno, German Ohm and
Jose Becerra. Macias, Lopez, Moreno and Becerra were national idols. The
little known Ohm's popularity was a rung below the other three, but he still
had his moments.
bantamweights dominated the rankings during the fifties: Raul Macias 1/54 -
11/58; Fili Nava 11/54 - 2/58; Jose (Toluco) Lopez 7/55 - 5/61; Ricardo Moreno
7/56 - 10/56 (he outgrew the class and entered the featherweight rankings)
12/56 - 7/66; German Ohm 11/56 - 2/58; Joe Becerra 6/57-2/61 (he won the
title); and, Joe Medel 4/59 - 7/67 (first entered as a flyweight). In the October 28, 1956 Ring Ratings, Mexico had five
bantamweights ranked in the top ten: Macias # 1, Moreno # 6, Lopez
# 7, Ohm # 9 and Nava # 10.
fighters are among the most colorful in the history of boxing. They stand and
fight and don't seem to know the meaning of the word retreat. They pack power
in their punches and they are not reluctant to keep throwing their heavy
artillery. Unfortunately, too many of them don't just leave their aggression
in the ring. More than one good Mexican fighter has had his ring career
curtailed because of aggressive activities out of the ring. Here is the story of the best of Mexico's battling bantams of
was born on July 28, 1934 in Tepito a small suburb of Mexico City. His two
older brothers Gaby and Jose were professional fighters and Raul learned to
fight under their guidance.
started to box when he was eleven years old and at twelve was able to hold his
own in sparring sessions with many pro fighters who trained at the gym. He got
his nickname Raton, which means mouse in Spanish, when a visitor to the gym
saw him dart between the legs of a heavyweight with whom he was boxing.
At 14 Macias began his amateur career and won the
junior flyweight title of Mexico. The following year he won the flyweight
championship and repeated in 1950 and 1951. In 1951 he also won the
bantamweight title, and the Central American bantamweight crown, which
qualified him for the Pan-American games held in Argentina, in which he
1952 Raton retained his Mexican and Central American bantamweight honors and
was selected to represent Mexico in the Olympic games at Helsinki. He reached
the second series before losing.
turned pro the following year. Unlike most fighters, 18 year-old Raul started
fighting main events from the very beginning. He made his professional debut
on April 15, 1953 by outpointing the highly rated Cuban, Manuel Armenteros in
ten rounds. In his next outing he defeated the veteran Trini Ruiz, over ten
this time Edel Ojeda, the Mexican bantamweight champion, announced his
retirement and the Mexican Commission launched an elimination tournament to
find a successor. Those named to compete were former champion Luis Castillo,
the flyweight ruler; Otillo Galvan, the ex-flyweight king; Raul Solis, Baby
Rivera, Emilio de la Rosa, Genaro Sarafin, Beto Couary and Raton. There were
some protests over the inclusion of Macias, because he only had two pro
fights, but after taking into consideration his brilliant amateur record he
advanced to the finals by defeating Galvan and Serafin. In the finals against
Beto Couary, Macias turned in a brilliant demonstration of speed and ringcraft
to win in a breeze. In only his fifth pro fight he was champion of Mexico.
rapid rise continued. In his next three fights he won by decision and kayo
over Chilean champion Alberto Reyes and by seventh round kayo over former
North American bantam titleholder Billy Peacock. After eight professional
fights Macias was the number four-ranked contender in the Ring ratings. At
this stage of his career the then 19 year-old wunderkind wasn’t considered a
hard hitter. He was characterized as a clever boxer who hit sharply with
either hand, and was strong and durable.
continued to hone his skills by taking two decisions over the clever and
durable Fili Nava, and winning the North American Bantamweight Title from 1952
Olympic Flyweight Gold Medalist Nate Brooks. His victory over Brooks took
place in Mexico City before a crowd of over 50,000 wildly partisan Macias’
fans. Macias easily defeated Brooks with an incessant body attack which beat
Brooks into complete submission. Only Brooks’ great heart enabled him to
last the 12 round distance. Brooks was nearly kayoed in the seventh round when
the bell came to his rescue. He was never the same again, losing his next four
fights – three by knockout.
The win over Brooks not only made Macias a national
hero but also propelled him into a title fight with newly crowned champion
Robert Cohen of France. Only a week earlier in Thailand, Cohen won the title
vacated by Jimmy Carruthers by split decision over top contender Chamrern
Songkitrat of Thailand. But before he could face Macias, he was injured in an
auto accident and was out of action for nine months.
National Boxing Association (NBA), (now known as the WBA), for reasons that
continue to make no sense even today, decided to vacate Cohen’s title during
his recovery and sanction a bout between number one ranked Songkitrat and
Macias for the vacant NBA title. The NBA title fight received little support
from other commissions.
On March 9, 1955, 20-year-old Raul Macias, in only his
twelfth professional fight, won the NBA version of the title with an eleventh
round stoppage of Chamrern Songkitrat at San Francisco’s Cow Palace. Macias
dominated the fight with his long reach and height advantage, taking all but
two rounds. He employed an excellent left jab, a thunderous left hook and
powerful straight rights and just walked through his opponent. Songkitrat was
down four times, three from punches and one from a low blow. The first two
knockdowns occurred in the sixth round (the second from a low blow) and the
final two in the eleventh round. Referee Fred Apostoli stopped the fight after
the second knockdown in the eleventh when it was obvious that Songkitrat was
too exhausted to continue.
soon as Macias’ hand was raised in victory, hundreds of his fans scrambled
to ringside, battered down reporter’s typewriters, waved the national
Mexican flag and tossed sombreros and even a live rooster in the air to
acclaim Raul the new king of the bantams. He was carried around the ring on
their shoulders in a proud display of emotion.
decided to remain busy and after scoring two knockouts in non-title fights he
was surprisingly kayoed by former victim Billy Peacock in three rounds and
suffered a broken jaw. The
knockout loss was the first time Macias was ever dropped in over 300 amateur
and professional bouts.
to the ring, Raul showed no adverse effects and went on a 17 bout winning
streak, scoring 14 knockouts. The winning streak included handing highly
regarded Leo Espinosa, Juan Cardenas and Dommy Ursua their first knockout
defeats - Espinosa and Ursua in NBA title fights and Cardenas in a non-title
fight. He also won an easy decision over the ultra tough Tanny Campo in a ten
round non-title fight.
was now regarded by most boxing experts as the most dangerous and dominant
bantamweight in the world.
the stage was set for Raul to face Alphonse Halimi, a French-Algerian fighting
out of France, for universal recognition as world champion. During Raul's
reign as NBA champion, Robert Cohen, rated by all boxing bodies except the NBA
as world champion, lost his title to Mario D'Agata, who in turn lost the title
in his first defense to Halimi.
November 6, 1957 the two met before a crowd of 18,385 at Los Angeles' Wrigley
Field. Halimi proved his right to universal recognition as world bantamweight
champion by outclassing Macias over 15 rounds. To most veteran observers the
fight was one of the finest seen in the division in many years, However, to
the pro Macias contingent the fight was disappointing. They had come to see
him score a knockout. During the
early rounds Halimi turned the battle into a slugfest. Fighting from a half
crouch, he kept pressing forward tossing hooks and uppercuts to Macias' body
and head. Halimi was stronger physically and made the most of his strength by
maneuvering Macias into close quarters every chance he had. Raul did not back down and met him head on. Both fighters
stood head-to-head, tossing punches at each other. Seldom did the referee have
to separate them.
fight was close after 10 rounds. Fearing that he would lose a close fight,
Halimi switched tactics from in-fighting to long-range jabbing. His tactics
paid off. Raul didn't win another round. When the decision was announced in
Halimi's favor, Macias' fans were crushed. Up until that time no Mexican
fighter in the history of boxing had ever been held in such high esteem by the
Mexican fight fans as Macias. Macias was crushed when his fan's cheers turned
to jeers. He left the ring with a look of disbelief. He was disconsolate. But
he was honest and a gracious loser. He said: "The only reason I lost was
because Halimi was better. He put pressure on me. I would like to fight him
again, to redeem myself and Mexico." But unfortunately for Raul, the
rematch never came to pass.
remained out of the ring for a year and ultimately was dropped from the
ratings for inactivity. He returned to the ring 369 days after his loss to
Halimi as a featherweight by outpointing Kid Irapuato in Tijuana, Mexico. He
followed that victory with knockout victories over Luis Trejo in Leon, Mexico
and Carmen Jacobucci in Mexicali, Mexico. On February 28, 1959 he made a
triumphant return to Mexico City. Before a record crowd of 16,000 adoring fans
he won a ten round decision over Ernesto Parra.
after the Parra fight, Macias shocked his fans when he announced his
retirement at age 24. Although he
remained retired he did return for one fight on a special benefit show in
Guadalajara, Mexico on October 13, 1962. Fighting a six rounder he kayoed
Chocolate Zambrano in five rounds. The win brought his final ring record to
36-2-0, with 22 knockouts.
was born Jose Lopez Hernandez on June 21, 1932 in El Oro, Mexico. Like Macias,
Jose also started his professional career fighting ten rounders. He was
nicknamed “Toluco” after the city of Toluca where he began his fistic
his graduation from school, he worked as a plaster’s helper, than a
journeyman plasterer, but found that he enjoyed plastering opponents better
won all 15 of his amateur fights and was state champion in 1953. He made his
professional debut just 17 days shy of his 21st birthday against
journeyman Baby Garcia on June 4, 1953 in Cuernavaca, Mexico. He stopped
Garcia in the 8th round. A strong willing mixer, he quickly reached
main bout status and by the end of 1954 had established himself as one of the
best 118 pounders in Mexico. His record stood at 14-3, with 5 knockouts.
this stage of his career he was more of a scientific boxer and realized that
if he was going to continue to grow and reach the next level he would have to
adapt his style. So he adopted a more aggressive style and started to set down
on his punches more. His new exciting style started to pay off immediately and
he became a tremendous drawing card in Mexico City, La Laguna and the Mexican
was his breakout year. When Raul Macias gave up his national title, Jose was
matched with Fili Nava for the vacant crown. He came through with a victory.
In 29 bouts he had only lost four decisions, and reversed three of those
losses. Lopez had stopped 11 and was the seventh rated challenger for the
world bantam title by “The Ring.”
started off 1956 impressively, knocking out Emilio de la Rosa in eleven rounds
to defend his national title and Joey Benson in one round. These two victories
catapulted him to the number three ranking by "The Ring." He was
riding high. But that was about to change - quickly!
August 14, 1956, Toluco made his highly anticipated debut in Los Angeles to
face Billy Peacock at the Olympic Auditorium.
The gallery was sold out a half-hour after going on sale. Mexican fight
fans felt that the colorful Lopez was the fighter to avenge Peacock's recent
mastery over Mexican fighters. In previous appearances, Peacock had knocked
out Raul Macias in 3, Pimi Barajas in 4, Memo Sanchez in 3 and Kildo Martinez
in 6. But Peacock continued his
mastery by winning a lopsided decision over ten rounds. Peacock repeatedly
nailed Toluco with crushing rights hands. Lopez took every one of those right
hands and came back fighting. Lopez put on such a gutsy performance that he
received a standing ovation from the crowd when he left the ring.
Bud Furillo of the Herald-Express said in his column the next day
"Toluco Lopez is the most courageous fighter I've ever seen!"
All in attendance including the promoter agreed that he would be
heartily welcomed back at any time.
unwisely decided to return to the Olympic just five weeks after his grueling
loss to Peacock to meet featherweight Rudy Garcia. The hard-hitting Garcia
entered the ring
a record of 35-10-1, 20 kayos. His kayo victims included Harold Dade, Chico
Rosa, Gene Smith and Nate Brooks. He held decision victories over Jackie Blair
Lauro Salas, Auburn Copeland and Carmelo Costa. Garcia never looked better as
he scored a 50-second knockout over Toluco. The echo of the opening bell had
scarcely died away before Garcia drilled Lopez with a two-punch combination
sending Lopez down for an eight count. Toluco bravely got up and ran into a
savage left hook, followed by three hard rights sending him down again, this
time for the full count.
losses to Peacock and Garcia dropped him to the seventh spot in "The
resilient Toluco wasn't discouraged by the losses. Less than a month after the
Garcia loss he was back in the ring again winning a ten round decision over
Joel Sanchez in Mexicali. He continued to fight up and down the Mexican
provinces winning 19 of his next 20 fights, 14 by kayo. His only loss - a
close decision to Havana, Cuba veteran Manuel Armenteros, later avenged. He
also avenged his loss to Billy Peacock by beating him twice - by decision in
Tijuana and by knockout in Los Angeles. A month prior to his knockout of
Peacock he scored the biggest victory of his career when he kayoed Memo Diez
in five rounds to defend his national bantam title. The knockout defeat was
the first of Diez's career. Only a year before Diez had been "The
Ring's" number one ranked flyweight before losing his lofty position by
upset decisions to Dommy Ursua and Ramon Arias.
again, Toluco was ranked the third rated challenger for the world bantam title
by “The Ring.” His ring record stood at 46-7-0, with 27 kayos. Of his
seven defeats, five had been avenged.
however, couldn't handle prosperity. On
May 11, 1958 an out of shape Lopez took on lightly regarded Willie Parker in
Acapulco. Parker in only his second year as a professional came into the fight
with a record of 5-6-1, with no kayos. Two of his six losses had been by kayo.
Parker surprised everyone by giving the out of shape Lopez a thorough
beating and stopped him in the seventh round. Lopez dropped in the ratings
from third to sixth.
was so embarrassed by his performance he demanded a rematch. He got himself in
shape taking on two tune-up fights - winning both by knockout. His rematch
with Parker took place before a large crowd at the Olympic Auditorium in Los
Angeles. Lopez turned the tables on Parker by winning an easy ten round
stayed in shape and ran off another string of impressive victories culminating
with a third round knockout of 23-year-old hard-hitting Mexican prospect
Carlos Cardoso on December 3, 1958.
February 1, 1959 Lopez returned to California to face Horace (Boots) Monroe
for the North American Bantamweight Title. The 21-year old Monroe was the
hottest prospect in California. His ring record was a gaudy 20-1-0, with 16
kayos. His only loss was a four round decision in his third professional fight
- later reversed. He held knockouts over Willie Parker, German Ohm, Willie
Lucedo, Roberto Hernandez, Nacho Esclante and Herman Marquez and outpointed
Kid Irapuato, Billy Peacock and Joe Medel.
a capacity crowd at the Hollywood Legion Stadium Lopez shocked the crowd by
stopping Monroe in only two rounds. Monroe got off to an excellent start,
utilizing his superior height and reach and employing the long left jab for
which he was noted. Near the end of the round, however, Toluco stepped in and
nailed Monroe with a hard right and visibly shook him. In round two, Lopez
came out quickly and dropped a still dazed Monroe three times before the
referee mercifully stopped the fight. The win catapulted Lopez to third in
"The Rings" world ratings. Again,
he was on top of the world!
were underway for Lopez to fight bantam champ Alphonse Halimi at Wrigley
Field. While negotiations were
taking place, Toluco returned to Hollywood on March 24, 1959 to take on
unranked Danny Kid of the Philippines in a tune up fight. Before a near
capacity crowd at the Hollywood Legion Stadium, 6-1 underdog Kid employing an
excellent left jab and superior ring generalship had the better of the first
seven rounds. Lopez realizing he was behind came out for the final three
rounds with everything in his arsenal and engaged Kid in an exciting
toe-to-toe slugfest. But his rally was too late and he left the ring the loser
of a majority decision and a title shot with champion Halimi. The title shot
instead went to fellow Mexican Jose Becerra. This was the closest Lopez would
ever again get to a title shot. Toluco would remain in the top ten ratings
until April 1961 by going 29-5-1-1, with 20 kayos. During that stretch he beat
Danny Kid twice by decision and outpointed Eloy Sanchez and Manny Elias. But,
he also lost his Mexican Bantamweight Title to Joe Medel by decision on August
1, 1959 and suffered knockout defeats to Medel and Otilio Galvan in 1960. He
was dropped from the ratings for good after suffering a seventh round knockout
loss to Hector Agundez on April 2, 1961.
his last two years in the ring (1962-1963) he went 10-7, with six knockouts.
His final ring ledger was 99-20-2-1, with 62 kayos. He was stopped seven
was born in the small mining town of Chalchihuites in the state of Zacatecas
on February 7, 1937.
left school to work as a metal breaker at the mines. Later he went to Mexico City where he worked as a parking lot
attendant before turning to boxing. He did not fight as an amateur.
two-fisted slugger with terrific power in either hand he turned professional
at age 17 on June 16, 1954 with a first round knockout of Oscar Diaz in Mexico
City. He won 19 of his first 20 fights in his first two years as a pro, all 19
of his wins by kayo. His only loss came in his fifth pro bout when the much
more experienced Nacho Escalante outpointed him in six rounds.
Most of his
knockouts were in three rounds or less.
one so young and with no amateur experience behind him his knockout victories
were quite impressive when you consider the caliber of his opponents such as
Mike Cruz, Jorge Gabino, Baby Moe Mario, Aurelio Rivero, and Americo Rivera
who had just upset Jose (Toluco) Lopez.
the end of 1955 18-year-old Moreno was considered by many the hardest punching
bantamweight in the world. The question on everyone's mind was whether he
could take it as well as he dished it out. In 20 pro fights he had not met any
one who could stand up to him long enough to find out.
January 22, 1956 his management decided to find out just how good their
prospect was. They matched him with another hard-hitting prospect, Memo Diez
the current Mexican and North American Flyweight Champion. The 21 year-old
Diez had won the national title by knocking out Memo Sanchez in 10 rounds in
only his fourth professional fight, and the North American Bantamweight Title
by knocking out Keeny Teran in 3 rounds in his 14th professional
fight. He was also the sixth ranking flyweight in the world.
a crowd of over 30,000 fans Diez outpointed the still green Moreno over ten
scorching rounds that had the fans on their feet all the way. Although Moreno
was clearly outpointed, he hurt Diez on three occasions and only Diez's great
chin and heart saved him from going down.
months later Diez shocked the boxing world by knocking out the world's number
one ranked Young Martin of Spain in the first round. Diez would change places
in the ratings with Martin and remained number one until he suffered an upset
decision loss to Dommy Ursua at the end of the year. Diez's record prior to
the loss to Ursua was 21-5-2, with 13 kayos.
Ricardo lost to Diez, the experience proved invaluable. After winning a
technical decision over Kildo Martinez and knocking out Alejo Mejia, Moreno
was ready for his next cross roads fight. His opponent was Cuba's national
flyweight champ Oscar Suarez, the eighth raked flyweight in the world. Suarez
entered the fight with Moreno in Mexico City with an impressive record of
44-3-2, with 18 kayos. Among his victims were Orlando Rodriquez, Dagoberto
Fernandez, Memo Sanchez and Memo Diez.
was no contest! Moreno completely overpowered and destroyed Suarez in two
rounds. The victory earned Ricardo the number ten spot in the world ratings.
Interestingly enough, two months later Suarez gave a good account of himself
in exchanging knockdowns with Flyweight Champion Pascual Perez before being
stopped in the eleventh round of their title fight.
scored four more kayos before 1956 ran its course, the most impressive a third
round knockout of veteran Henry (Pappy) Gault in three rounds. By October 18,
1956 Mexican fighters dominated five of the top ten spots in "The
Ring's" bantamweight ratings. Raul Macias was ranked number one, Moreno
number six, Jose (Toluco) Lopez, number seven, German Ohm, number nine and
Fili Nava, number ten.
began 1957 by invading the United States for the first time. On January 29 in
El Paso he knocked out Jessie Mongia in two rounds; on February 12th
in Hollywood he kayoed Tommy Bain in three rounds; and, on April 1st in San
Francisco he kayoed Gaetano Annaloro in five rounds. By now he had outgrown
the bantamweight class and was the ninth ranked featherweight in the world and
possessed an imposing record of 29-2-0, with 28 kayos - the last 10 in a row.
May 28, 1957 a crowd of over 13,000 came to see the sensational 20 year old
Moreno take on the rugged 23 year old Jose Luis Cotero of Los Angeles in
Hollywood, California. Like Mike Tyson many years later, Moreno brought the
element of suspense and appeal that a savage puncher brings into the ring. The
air was full of electricity when Moreno entered the ring. Cotero entered the
ring with a record of 32-11-5, with 11 kayos. He had never been stopped.
fight was a thriller from the opening bell. The fans stood and cheered
throughout the fight. Cotero a 10-7 underdog suffered a deep gash over his
right eye and his chin was also cut. Shortly after the seventh round began the
referee stopped the fight to examine Cotero's gashed eye and then reluctantly
let the fight continue. A desperate Cotero fearing the fight was going to be
halted drove Moreno into the ropes with a savage barrage of punches to the
head. As Moreno tried to slide
along the ropes to avoid the carnage being heaped upon him Cotero caught him
flush on the jaw with a thunderous right hand. Moreno went down hard. Moreno
was too weary to rise and remained on the canvas for the full count.
took a well deserved rest and returned to Los Angeles six months later to take
on Ike Chestnut the second ranked featherweight in the world. Ike's record was
29-8-3, with 4 kayos. He had never been stopped. His record in California was
an all winning one. He went to the post five times with five victories. His
last victim was Jose Luis Cotero whom he outpointed in Hollywood just two
months prior. Ricardo earned a
number six ranking and a title shot at featherweight champion Hogan (Kid)
Bassey when he stopped Chestnut in six rounds.
April 1, 1958 21-year-old Ricaro (Pajarito) Moreno, Mexico's "Little
Bird" met featherweight champion Hogan (Kid) Bassey before a crowd of
over 20, 000 in Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California. The champion seemed
determined for a quick victory and rushed Moreno at the opening bell. It was
the kind of tactics Moreno favored. Moreno wasn't as polished a ring
technician as the champion, but one thing he could do was punch, and a wild
swinging brawl was just what he wanted. It didn't take Bassey long to realize
he had chosen the wrong tactic. Several times in the round Moreno jolted him
with vicious left hooks to the head and body, and late in the round a right
hand had the champion skittering backward into the ropes. Bassey also suffered
a slight cut over his left eye. Bassey came out more cautiously for the second
round and started picking his spots. Realizing he was much faster and craftier
than his challenger, Bassey opened up with everything in his repertoire.
He repeatedly landed left jabs, straight rights, left hooks and right
uppercuts on the onrushing Moreno. Moreno fought back stubbornly. Late in the
round a right uppercut buckled his knees. Another uppercut knocked out his
mouthpiece just before the end of the round. By the middle of the third round
it was obvious that the end was near. Bassey was catching Moreno with deadly
combinations and was battering him from one side of the ring to another.
Finally a hard right hand caught the dazed Moreno square on the chin and
dropped him on his back. Instinctively Moreno was struggling to rise when the
referee finished the count with two seconds left in the round.
in the year after two knockout victories Moreno met future champion Davey
Moore in Los Angeles and was knocked out in the very first round. For all
intents and purposes the Moore fight finished Moreno as a serious contender.
He fought on until 1967 with moderate success. He was able to knockout some
reasonably good fighters from time to time, but every time he stepped up with
the better fighters he was unceremoniously knocked out. Finally after
suffering two consecutive knockout defeats in 1967, 30-year-old Ricardo (Pajarito) Moreno retired for good. His final ledger was 60-12-1, with 59
kayos. He himself was stopped nine times.
Ohm was born of German ancestry on May 28, 1936 in Mexico City, Mexico. He was
raised in Ciudad Lerado. Leredo is a little town in La Laguna where there are
thousands of fig trees. Ohm spent his early youth as a fig planter.
launched his pro career at age 18 in Gomez Palacio, Mexico on November 11,
1954 losing a four round decision to Chato Campos. Undaunted, German knocked
out Jesus Alvarado in Lerdo, Mexico six days later and returned to Gomez
Palacio December 9th to knockout Vicente Ramirez in the third
started his 1955 campaign on a sour note by fighting Chino Flores to a four
round draw and losing a six round decision to Pinky Ruiz. Even though he
hadn't won either fight he was feeling more comfortable in the ring and won
his next five fights, four by kayo, including a six round knockout over Pinky
Ruiz in a rematch. Two of his kayos took place in Mexico City where he
thrilled hard core fight fans with his exciting style. They saw in German the
ingredients that make a fighter sensational - a knockout punch in either hand.
It was evident even then that German possessed a devastating left hook and a
bone crushing right hand.
suffered a setback when Luis Gutierrez stopped him in the fourth round of his
third fight in Mexico City. Again
undaunted, German returned to the ring wars 13 days later and closed out the
year with seven consecutive wins, five by knockout. Among his victims were two
of Mexico's toughest second tier bantams Americo Rivera and Angel Iglesias.
City veteran Mike Cruz was German's first big test in 1956. He had been in
with some of Mexico's best bantams and had only been stopped twice. And the
two fighters to stop him were two of the hottest prospects in Mexico at the
time - Ricardo (Pajarito) Moreno and Carlos Cardoso.
Although he was stopped by both, Moreno (round 6) and Cardoso (round
5), he extended both of them before succumbing to their numbing power.
German wanted to show that he too belonged with the elite and made a
good case for himself by knocking out Cruz in the third round. Two more
victories followed and on March 22, 1956 German was paired with another fast
rising youngster named Jose Becerra. The
19 year-old Becerra had turned professional a year before German and entered
the ring with a record of 30-2-1, with 17 kayos. The 19 year-old German was a
month younger with a record of 17-3-1, with 13 kayos. Ohm was well ahead on
points when the fight was stopped due to severe cuts.
Even though he lost, German came out of the fight more determined then
ever. He knew he was beating one of Mexico's best bantams and that the only
reason he lost was because of cuts. He now knew he belonged.
month after the Becerra fight, Ohm was back in the ring and won going away
against the veteran Tibico Torres. He followed that victory with three
consecutive knockouts over Martin Vasquez, Joe Chamacho and Jorge Gabino.
was now ready to step up in competition again and on June 30th he
won a lopsided decision over crafty veteran Jorge Herrera. His next fight was
against another Mexican bantam prospect 18-year old Raul Leanos. Raul had
turned pro at age 16 and possessed a record of 20-2-1, with 6 knockouts. His
only two losses were by close decision. German journeyed to Leanos' hometown
and destroyed him in two rounds. On
July 28th he returned to Mexico City and knocked out tough veteran
Babe Rivera in the second round. In and around the La Laguna, Mexico provinces
he was now being called the Mexican Teuton.
Ohm returned to Mexico City on August 18th to face Arturo
(Baby) Ruiz. Ruiz was coming off impressive victories over Jose Luis Mora and
Chucho Tello. He proved to be no competition for German and was kayoed in the
winning streak caught the eyes of the editors of "The Ring." He
entered the ratings at number ten on September 21, 1956. The only bantams in
Mexico ahead of him now were number one ranked Raul Macias, number four ranked
Jose (Toluco) Lopez and number seven ranked Ricardo Moreno.
September of 1956 German fought twice, outpointing Kildo Martinez in ten and
knocking out Avelino Felix in seven. Felix had just come off of a victory over
Luis Gutierrez who had stopped German in his eleventh professional fight. Both
victories led to his elevation to the ninth spot in the October
German Ohm - Jose Becerra rematch took place on October 18, 1956 before a
packed arena. Ohm was at his best and gave Becerra a boxing lesson enroute to
a unanimous decision. The victory was sweetened when Ohm again was elevated in
the "Ring" ratings to number eight. Now the only Mexican bantams
rated higher than he were number one Macias, and number six Lopez.
one to sit on his laurels, Ohm took out Chango Ceballos in nine rounds and
then headed into the biggest fight of his career against unbeaten sensation
Carlos Cardoso. Cardoso entered
the December 8, 1956 Mexico City showdown unbeaten in 26 fights, with 12
kayos. The 20-year old Ohm ended the 21-year old Cardoso's streak with a
unanimous ten round decision. On January 12, 1957 he met Baby Ruiz in a
rematch and repeated his earlier victory by blasting Ruiz out again in one
fourteen bout winning streak, including his impressive victories over Baby
Ruiz, Jose Becerra and Carlos Cardoso, elevated him to the number four world
ranking in the bantamweight division. More importantly, he was now the second
ranking bantam in Mexico behind number one ranked Raul Macias.
And he was only 20 years old.
did not fight again until October 26, 1957 and was dropped from "The
Ring" ratings for inactivity. The Ring's La Laguna correspondent Miguel
Ramirez Aznar commented that German was in Los Angeles under the wing of Frank
Sinatra. Be that as it may, Ohm
made his U.S. debut at the Hollywood Legion Stadium against Ross Padilla. Ohm,
a 4-1 favorite, suffered a severe gash under his right eye that hampered his
performance in the late rounds. Padilla walked off with a controversial
majority decision and snapped Ohm's fourteen fight winning streak.
months later, Ohm returned to the Hollywood Legion Stadium to take on
Hollywood's latest bantam sensation 20-year old Horace (Boots) Monroe. Monroe
was making his main event debut and entered the ring with a record of 11-1,
with 9 kayos. Monroe had no
problem with German and knocked him out in the fourth round.
July 17, 1958 German won a ten round decision over Memo Diez in Matamoros,
Mexico in what turned out to be his last professional fight. The 22-year-old
German disappeared from boxing with a record of 32-6-1, 22 kayos.
But for one 18-month period in time, German Ohm was the toast of the La
Laguna Mexican Provinces.
Becerra was born on April 15, 1936 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. He was the
second oldest of five children (two brothers and two sisters). Jose became
interested in boxing through a friend. He started in the Mexican Golden Gloves
and had thirty amateur fights winning all but two. Coming from a poor
background Jose decided to turn professional to earn a few pesos to help feed
the family. At the time he turned professional he had no thoughts of big
purses or titles. Boxing was just a means to earn a meager living.
Jose came under the tutelage of Pancho Rosales who for over thirty years had
been Mexico's leading developer of ring talent. On August 30, 1953,
17-year-old Jose Becerra made his professional debut with a fourth round
knockout victory over Ray Gomez in Guadaljara, Mexico.
quickly established himself as a comer by winning his first eighteen fights
(all six rounders) over credible opposition. Most of his fights took place in
Guadalajara and he was quickly becoming a favorite because of his damaging
punch. Nine of his eighteen opponents were knockout victims.
tasted defeat for the first time when the more experienced Luis Ibarra
outpointed him in six rounds on October 3, 1954. 15 days later Jose started
another winning streak that saw him go undefeated in thirteen fights, with
only a ten round draw with featherweight Danny Bedolla marring the streak.
Eight of his victories were by knockout. Claudio Martinez put a temporary halt
to Jose's rise when he outpointed the 19 year-older on February 18, 1956 in
than a month later Jose locked horns with another 19-year-old up and coming
bantamweight named German Ohm. Trailing on points, Jose was able to cut Ohm's
eyebrows and escape with a sixth round technical knockout. The fight was the
toughest of Jose's career. Jose
won five more fights before being matched with Ohm again. This time he wasn't
so lucky. Since their last fight Ohm had knocked out Baby Ruiz in one round
and was rated ninth in the world ratings.
The rematch took place on October 18, 1956 before a packed arena. Ohm
was better than Jose that night and gave him a boxing lesson enroute to a
unanimous ten round decision.
1957 Jose hit his stride as a big timer. Early in 1957 Jose ended the winning
streak of the veteran Cuban bantamweight Manuel Armenteros, who for many years
had been among the top men in the division. At the time Jose defeated him,
Armenteros was a big favorite in Mexico, successfully touring from city to
city. He followed this victory
with two easy ten round decision victories over another up and coming Mexican
bantam named Jose Medel. Jose, who was one month shy of his 19th
birthday, had turned pro at 17 and had already met and held his own with most
of Mexico's toughest flyweights and bantamweights. He entered the ring with
Becerra sporting a record of 20-4-3, with 14 kayos.
victories over Armenteros and Medel moved him into the world ratings on April
17, 1957. He entered as the
number ten bantam in the world. Ahead of him in the ratings from Mexico were
his idol Raul Macias at number one and German Ohm at number five.
going undefeated in twelve fights since his loss to Ohm, Jose came to Los
Angeles to fight Dwight Hawkins. The date was November 16, 1957. It was going
to be a big night because Mexican ring idol Raul (Raton) Macias holder of the
NBA bantamweight title was meeting Alphonse Halimi for the undisputed world
title. All of Mexico was worked up over the fight. Thousands of Mexican fight
fans made the trek from Mexico. Mexican fight fans living in LA made a Mexican
holiday of the event.
Jose got caught up by the occasion. Jose found it hard to keep his mind on his
own fight that night even though he knew Hawkins was a dangerous, murderous
puncher. Macias lost a decisive fifteen round decision to Halimi - and all
Mexico mourned. Jose's fight came on after the championship fight and Becerra
too was in mourning. He later said, "I was so upset by Macias' loss I
didn't care." An unmotivated
Becerra was stopped in the fourth round
stayed out of the ring for three months and came back a much more dedicated
fighter. During the next year and a half Jose ran off fifteen consecutive
victories, thirteen by knockout to find himself the mandatory challenger for
Alphonse Halimi's bantamweight crown. Among his kayo victims were Dwight
Hawkins (ko 9), Willie Parker (ko 2), Little Cezar (ko 4), Jose Luis Mora (ko
3), Ross Padilla (ko 1), Mario D'Agata (tko 10), and Billy Peacock (ko 1). His
most impressive victory was when he fought Mario D'Agata, former world
bantamweight champion in Los Angeles on February 5, 1959. D'Agata proudly
boasted that he had never been floored in his life. D'Agata, like Jake LaMotta
before him when he fought Ray Robinson, could continue that boast after the
fight. But, Becerra pounded him so relentlessly D'Agata was forced to call it
quits in ten rounds. The stoppage was the only time the ex-champion failed to
finish a fight in a career that spanned twelve years and 67 fights.
this eighteen-month stretch, Jose had demonstrated an overwhelming persistency
to cause all his opponents to fight his kind of fight. With a damaging right
hand and a powerful sneak left hook, opponents were becoming wary because they
knew that Becerra could capitalize on any mistake and take them out with one
punch. It had been a long time since the bantamweight division had seen such a
force as this devastating 23-year-old knockout artist.
July 8, 1959 Jose prepared to enter the ring for the biggest fight of his
life. In the opposite corner was bantamweight champion Alphonse Halimi who had
beaten his idol Raul (Raton) Macias 21 months earlier. Becerra had a lot of pressure on him. He wasn't just fighting
for himself; he was fighting for all of Mexico. To add to his pressure, in a
meeting with Mexico's President Adolfo Lopez Mateos Jose had promised that he
would bring the title to Mexico.
title fight was held in the new Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. 15,110
spectators were on hand to witness an unforgettable brawl. The fight was
action packed every second of the way.
got off to a good start by taking the first two rounds with his superior
boxing skills. In round three Becerra picked up the pace and tore into Halimi
relentlessly. He backed the champion into the ropes where he whaled away with
both hands. But Halimi wasn't champion for nothing. He stood his ground and
met Becerra punch for punch. The fight turned into a see-saw battle without a
moments let-up. The pace was terrific. Every now and then one or the other
would land a hard punch that would bring the already hysterical crowd to their
feet. Hopes rose and fell, but champion and challenger remained upright. It
was obvious, however, that the fight was not going to go the full 15 rounds.
end came in the eighth round. After a minute and a half of give-and-take,
Halimi hurt Becerra with a hard right to the head. But instead of backing off,
Becerra came forward an exploded a left hook, followed by a right hand to the
head of Halimi sending him to the canvas. Halimi was on his feet at the count
of four. He instinctively tried
to protect himself. But Becerra was not to be denied. He attacked recklessly
and scored with hard body punches that sapped the last remaining strength in
Halimi's body. Becerra then switched to the head and landed a beautiful left
hook followed by a right hand that dropped him on his face for the full count.
He didn't move a muscle as the referee counted him out.
Miller of "The Ring" summed up the emotions of the moment after the
knockout beautifully when he reported "That
was when the grandfather of all demonstrations took place. Pandemonium broke
loose. Frenzied fans screamed hysterically. It was contagious. Even this
hardened veteran of ring activity found himself cheering. Later a friend of
mine, sports-writer of a Spanish daily published in Los Angeles told me that
he had a wire from Guadalajara, Becerra's home town - a city of 400,000 - that
the city had gone stark mad. Thousands of people crowded around radios and
when they heard about the first knockdown, people started to embrace each
other and weep for joy. When the end came - well, try to picture it: You've
seen Mexican fans!"
excitement took place in Mexico City, where a few days later Jose received a
struck Jose on October 24, 1959 in his hometown of Guadalajara. Jose was
making his first start as champion in a non-title fight against Walt Ingram.
Jose was battering the gallant and brave Ingram so badly that the referee
stopped the carnage in the ninth round. While the fans were acclaiming Jose's
victory, the unfortunate Ingram suddenly collapsed. He was rushed to a nearby
hospital where he succumbed to the injuries.
December 12, 1959 Jose had his first fight since the tragic fight with Ingram
and won a ten round decision over Frankie Duran in Nogales, Mexico.
Jose wasn't nearly as aggressive as his previous fights and appeared to
hold back when he got Duran in position to land one of his thunderous shots.
Still he won rather handily. With a title rematch set for February against
former champion Halimi, his handlers knew he would have to show a lot more
intensity than he displayed in the Duran fight if he hoped to retain his
Becerra-Halimi rematch took place on February 4, 1960 at the Los Angeles
Coliseum before a crowd of 31,830. The
fight was shifted from its original local when it became apparent that the
arena would not hold the thousands who applied for tickets. Becerra was now
the most popular fighter to ever come out of Mexico.
came out for the first round intent on boxing from long range where he had the
advantage. He clearly took the first round with his clever boxing. The second
round was following the pattern of the first round when Alphonse caught Jose
with a body punch and floored him for a one count. After the second round,
Jose, as was the case in their first match, started to successfully trap the
challenger along the ropes. But Halimi had learned from his first encounter
with Becerra. Whenever Jose tried to get inside, Alphonse either used his
speed to get out of harms way or tied the champion up until the referee
ordered them to break. The fight turned into another tense and exciting affair
but through the first six rounds Halimi clearly had the edge. He was not only
outboxing Jose in every round but was successfully trading punches with him
when pinned on the ropes.
the seventh round Halimi was starting to show signs of fatigue for the first
time from the torrid pace. Although he was still clearly outboxing the
champion he did take a number of punishing left hooks to the head.
In the eighth round Halimi missed a long left and before he could get
set again, Becerra caught him with two beautiful left hooks that nearly
dropped him. At the end of the eighth round Halimi's corner pleaded with him
not to mix it up with the champion. They implored him to box and keep the
fight at long range. But Halimi didn't listen to his corner. He was winning
the fight with his combination boxing and slugging and apparently had no
intention to change tactics. Becerra's handlers were telling him that he was
behind in the scoring and that he needed to step it up or he was in danger of
losing his tile.
rushed from his corner to start the ninth. Halimi tried to catch the onrushing
Becerra with a right hand but missed. Becerra countered with a terrific right
to the heart that caused Halimi to wince and followed with a left hook with
full leverage that caught Halimi on the chin and dropped him flat on his back
for the full count. Nat Fleischer, editor of "The Ring" reported from ringside. " Mexico has furnished many top ringmen to the fistic world but
none more popular than Jose Becerra, world bantamweight champion. Striking
with the deadliness of a cobra, the Guadalajara fighter, in a dramatic finish,
retained his world crown by stopping Alphonse Halimi, challenger in 48 seconds
of the ninth round. One well placed left hook that crashed against the jaw of
the challenger, stiffened Halimi's neck, dropped him like a log on the canvas
where he was counted out. Ahead on points on the score cards of all officials
and most of the writers, Halimi was well on the road to regain his throne.
Then suddenly like a flash, one thunderous smash that came as a shock to the
Frenchman's many rooters, crashed Halimi's margin and ended a contest that was
replete with thrilling fighting and a dramatic ending. Becerra's single punch
momentarily held the crowd, consisting of more than half Mexican rooters,
spellbound. Then with a sudden explosion, came a roar of "Viva
Becerra", a rush for ringside, the overturning of chairs and sombreros
tossed in the air as the Mexican fans gave vent to their enthusiasm.
Pandemonium enveloped the stadium as the Becerra supporters rushed pell-mell
all over the arena. It was a sight to behold!"
engaged in two non-title fights before defending his title for the second time
on May 23, 1960 in Tokyo, Japan against Kenji Yonekura. Jose retained his
title by a close split decision. The fight resembled a track meet as Yonekura
kept retreating, slipping punches and occasionally lashing out snappy lefts to the champion's face.
Becerra was the aggressor throughout and kept the pressure on for the full 15
rounds. Many of his punches were short of the mark, but he landed enough to
sway two of the three officials.
August 12, 1960 Jose knocked out veteran Chuy Rodriquez in four rounds of a
non-title fight in Tampico, Mexico. 18 days later on August 30, 1960 Eloy
Sanchez shocked the world as well as Jose when he kayoed the champion in the
eighth round of their non-title fight in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Jose retired
immediately after the fight.
was much speculation about Jose's abrupt retirement from the ring. Some
believed he quit because of his loss to Sanchez. Others believed that Jose
lost much of his fire after he killed Walt Ingram. They pointed to the fact
that his vaunted hook had been coming across with less assurance since the
Ingram fight. And then there were rumors that he retired because of eye
problems. The rumor about the eye problems was never substantiated and Jose
was too much a man to retire over a knockout loss. The feeling here is that
Becerra retired because he just lost the fire in his belly for fighting after
the Ingram loss. Jose was a humble man who came from a deeply religious family
and never sought the adulation of the crowds that most fighters missed when
their fighting days were over.
like his idol Raul (Raton) Macias before him he walked away from the ring at
age 24. Although he remained
retired he did return for one fight on a special benefit show in Guadalajara,
Mexico on October 13, 1962. Fighting a six rounder he outpointed Alberto
Martinez in six rounds. The win brought his final ring record to 71-5-2, with
Medel was not considered in this article because his significant years were in
the sixties. The others set the standards for the excellent bantams that
followed. They were colorful, hard-hitting and brave and captured not only the
hearts of the Mexican fans, but the hearts of the hard-core fight fans of the
fifties that loved action fighters.
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