12-21-2005, 07:35 PM
Los Mejores: The Greatest Fighters in Mexican History

By Matteo Alderson from Boxing Scene

Whether youíre a Barrera or a Morales fan, you have to concede to the fact that with his masterful performance the other night, Marco has to be considered the over all victor of their epic three fight trilogy. I mean Barrera entered the fight more than a two to one underdog, he was fighting at a weight that was better suited for Morales, and he had been previously knocked out the last time he faced a fighter who wasnít a prohibitive underdog. Still Barreraís crisp combinations and faster hands made him the clear winner. Even though the fight was hotly contested, Moralesís face told the whole story. He looked beat up and tired while Marco looked fresh and elated. Even though itís really too early to tell how we should evaluate the overall greatness of these two fighters, Iím going to rank the greatest fighters in the history of Mexico and somehow try to place Morales and Barrera on the list by evaluating their careers up to this point. Remember, the fighters have to be born in Mexico. Boxers like Jose Napoles and Oscar De La Hoya donít count because they werenít born in Mexico.

First and foremost you have to place Julio Cesar Chavez at the top of the list as the greatest fighter in Mexican history. He meets all the qualifications. He won legitimate championships in three weight divisions and accumulated over 30-title fight wins during a championship reign that spanned 12 years. He won the vacant WBC 130-pound title against tough Mario Martinez. He defended the title nine times before moving up to 135 pounds where he dethroned Edwin Chapo Rosario and then partially unified against compatriot Jose Luis Ramirez. Next he jumped up to the 140-pound division where he dominated over the course of the next five years.

Numbers can be misleading, I mean Marty Jakubowski has over a hundred wins, but the thing with Chavez is that he beat so many world class fighters that it would take too long to even try to list them. Certainly his biggest wins were against Edwin Rosario and Meldrick Taylor. You have to remember, coming into his fight with Chavez, Rosario was the WBA lightweight champ and considered one of the hardest punchers in the sport. He was also coming off a knockout win over a prime Livingstone Bramble and a controversial decision loss to Hector Camacho. Many experts feel that the Macho Man really regressed as a fighter after that debilitating encounter and that he lost his zest for the game, very much the same way that Prince Nasseem did after he was humbled and humiliated by Barrera. The fight with Edwin Rosario garnered Chavez a lot of attention and solidified his status as one of boxingís top fighters. Before the bout with Rosario, a lot of people thought that Chavez was overrated and pointed to his lackluster decision wins over Rocky Lockridge and Juan Laporte, but Julioís utter domination of Rosario completely changed this perception among critics. After picking Edwin apart and knocking him out in the 11th round, Chavez was universally recognized as one of the five best pound for pound fighters in the sport.

The Meldrick Taylor win was Chavezís crowning achievement. Meldrick was a young undefeated gold medallist. He had recently beaten the highly touted Buddy McGirt for the IBF 140 pound title and he probably had the fastest hands in the sport. Yes Taylor was winning the fight, but in my opinion the stoppage was legit because the referee asked him if he was all right and he didnít respond. If your that discombobulated to where you canít answer a simple Yes or No question then I donít think you should be allowed to continue, regardless of how much time is left.

In evaluating Julioís overall career itís hard to place him in the elite upper echelon of the regular all-time great lists because he never really beat a great fighter in his prime. In fraudulently drawing with Pernell Whitaker, he lost his chance to be ranked up there with greats like Sugar Ray Robinson and Roberto Duran. Still, Chavez was a great warrior and did more then enough to be considered the greatest fighter in Mexican history and this is the general consensus among boxing historians.

This pick may be a little sentimental, but Salvador Sanchez is the second best fighter in Mexican History. I know he was 23 years old when he died and itís easy to eulogize the career of young talents when they die prematurely, much the way that society has done with James Dean and Tupac Shakur. If you look at his record with out bias, youíll see that Salvador Sanchez accomplished enough in a short time period to be considered the second greatest Mexican fighter of all time. Salvador won the WBC featherweight title against the hard punching Danny Little Red Lopez and made nine successful defenses, but the main reason that he is held in such high regard is that the fighters he beat were of a very high caliber. In fact some of them ended up either dominating or contending in their divisions for years after his death.

The crowning achievement of Salvadorís career was knocking out Wilfredo Gomez. The Puerto Rican juggernaut had dominated the 122-pound division, having made 13 consecutive defenses by knockout. He had even knocked out Sanchezís countryman, the great Carlos Zarate who had entered the bout with a 52-0 record. At the time Wilfredo Gomez was considered to be one of the best fighters in the world and a lot of experts picked him to beat Salvador, but it didnít happen and Sanchez stopped Gomez in eight rounds to retain his featherweight title. After the bout, the Puerto Rican great went back down to 122 pounds where he defended his title 4 more times, which included a knockout over Mexican Lupe Pintor, before he moved up and won championships at Featherweight and Super featherweight. Salvador also beat Juan Laporte by decision and Laporte ended up winning the WBC featherweight championship before becoming a long time contender from 130 to 140 pounds. Laporte even gave Julio Cesar Chavez a hell of fight when he challenged him for the WBC 130 title in 1986. In fact, two of the judges had Chavez winning the fight by a one point margin.

Really the second most important victory in the career of Sanchez was his knock out over Azumah Nelson. The story went like this. Don King wanted to showcase Salvador to an American audience and the original opponent fell out so King found this African fighter, Azumah Neslon, who was 13-0 and happened to be the Commonwealth Featherweight title-holder. He told Salvador that it was going to be an easy fight because the guy was a novice, but to Sanchezís surprise, the fight was a war and the outcome was in doubt until the very end when Sanchez stopped Neslon in the 15th round. At the time of the stoppage, one judge had Azumah ahead. After the fight Sanchez told King, ďIf thatís your idea of an easy fight I donít want anymore easy fights from you.Ē Anyway Azumah Nelson won the WBC featherweight championship two years later and actually lost his last world title in 1997, 15 year after he had been stopped by Sanchez. He was never stopped by another fighter.

There are still some inconsistencies with Sanchezís career. First and foremost his championship reign didnít last that long because he died at the tender age of 23 just three weeks after the Nelson fight. Also he never unified against long time WBA counterpart Eusebio Pedroza.

Rankings are always tricky because they are so subjective and the next two fighters that are vying for the position as the 3rd greatest fighter in Mexican History are equally deserving. First you have Ricardo Lopez, who was a longtime WBC 105-pound champion as well as an IBF 108 pound titlist. He won over 20 title fights and retired without losing an amateur or professional fight. He even engaged in a great rivalry with Nicaraguan Rosendo Alvarez. Their first fight ended in a controversial draw and in the rematch less than a year later Alvarez came in over the limit and Ricardo decided to let the fight go on as scheduled and won a split decision in one of the better fights of 1998. Today Rosendo Alvarez is still a world-class fighter and currently holds the WBA 108 pound title. Also Lopez knocked out Saman Sorjaturong in two rounds in a 1993 defense, and the Thai Lander ended up knocking out Humberto Gonzalez for the partially unified junior flyweight championship in 95. Ricardo Lopez deserves to be considered the 3rd greatest fighter in Mexican History but in all honesty he should have accomplished a lot more. Lopez stayed at 105 pounds way too long and the minimum category is kind of an illegitimate weight class thatís not even close to having the prestige or legitimacy of one of the eight traditional weight classes. Come on, how many men in the world actually/naturally weigh 105 pounds? Also Ricardo didnít even press Don King for a fight with Michael Carbajal or Humberto Gonzalez while they engaged in their lucrative three fight trilogy. I mean how hard would it have been for Ricardo to have gone up three pounds and fought one of those guys. Hell in my mind he should have moved up and fought Yuri Arbachakov or even Mark Too Sharp Johnson for the Flyweight title. They were both real solid champions and with a win in any of the aforementioned fights, El Finito would have staked his claim to being the greatest fighter in Mexican history.

Itís hard to evaluate fightersí careers in the contemporary setting. For instant how many titles has Marco Antonio Barrera won and should those bouts that he engaged in without a real title on the line be considered part of his championship record? Sometimes you have to look at a fighters wins and not really look at the title fight numbers. I mean look at Ezzard Charles, he is widely considered to be the greatest light heavyweight in history and he never engaged in a title bout at the weight. So for all intents and purposes Iím not going to view Marco as a 122-pound world champion. Can you tell me who he beat for that WBO junior featherweight title? I didnít think so. Still Barrera fought a number of contenders and former world champs on his way to the featherweight championship. And yes I consider all of his fights after the Nassem Hamed fight and up until the Manny Pacquioa fight as being for the World Featherweight title since the Prince had beaten all the other champions of the different organizations. He had beaten Tom Johnson for the IBF title, Wilfredo Vazquez, the WBA champ, and Cesar Soto for the WBC title. So prior to dethroning Prince Naseem Hamed, I view Marcoís fights as being non-title bouts. His wins against McKinney and Eddie Cook were still impressive. Both of those guys were top ten contenders that really challenged Marco. Plus Iíve been to a lot of great fights such as the first Bowe-Holyfield, the first Morales-Barrera fights and I can honestly say that the McKinney fight is the best live bout that Iíve ever seen.

Early on in his career Barrera was raw, he was the quintessential Mexican warrior, throwing hard left hooks to the body, and willing to take one to give one. It was in his virtuoso performance against Jesus Salud the fight prior to the Hamed match that Barrera really metamorphisized into a great fighter. Then Marco just didnít have an awesome offensive arsenal but he also had a tight defense and a fighting rhythm that transformed him into a calculated assassin. As a result his fundamentally sound defense and controlled aggression allowed him to dominate Hamed and to capture the true world featherweight championship. His subsequent performance were also impressive with the exception of the second Morales fight where it appeared that he had been outboxed. The third fight cleared up the controversy and now you have to rank Barrera ahead of Morales because if you really look at their bouts as one 36 round fight, you have to acknowledge that Marco won it. Thus with his victories over an underrated Naseem Hamed and his two wins against Erik Morales, along with almost ten years of success at the world class level, you have to say that Marco Antonio Barrera is the fourth greatest fighter in the history of Mexico.


1. Julio Cesar Chavez

2. Salvador Sanchez

3. Ricardo Lopez

4. Marco Antonio Barrera

5. Erik Morales - WBC titles in 3 divisions. Solid wins against Wayne McCullough, Junior Jones, Daniel Zaragoza, and In-Ji Chi. Throw in the trilogy against Barrera and you have yourself the 5th greatest fighter in Mexicoís history. Think about it, heís engaged in 18 title fights and heís only 28 years old.

6. Carlos Zarate - Made 8 defenses of the 118-pound title. At one point he was 45-0 (44 KOs). He also knocked out Alfonso Zamora out in 4 rounds in a unification fight that wasnít sanctioned, at the time Zamora was 29-0 (29 KOs). It really hurts Zarate that he was knocked out by Wilfredo Gomez. Itís the whole Mexican-Puerto Rican rivalry thing, it hurts even worse when itís to a rival.

7. Vicente Saldivar - Maybe this guy should be ranked higher. He made 8 defenses of the unified featherweight title from 64 to 67, retired, then came back and won it again two years later. He also has wins over Sugar Ramos and a young Ismael Laguna.

8. Ruben Olivares - The old timers love this guy and he was a pure knock out artist who won his first 60 bouts. He was a champ at bantamweight and twice at featherweight, but he partied as hard as he hit and he was only 8-5 in world title fights.

9. Humberto Gonzalez-Chiquita - A classy fighter and itís like fans have forgotten that he won two out of three against Carbajal. Is it because Humberto had to box to beat little hands of stone in their anticlimactic second and third matches? Also he twice lost unexpectedly by knock out. The first time to Rolando Pascua and the second time to Saman Sorjaturong. He still has to be considered the greatest fighter in 108-pound history based on his victories or Carbajal.

10. Miguel Canto - He was the WBC flyweight champ from 75 to 79 and made fourteen consecutive defenses. Jesus Rivero, the legendary Mexican trainer that had De La Hoya trying to use defensive maneuvers to beat Pernell Whitaker, trained Canto. In 1994 Ring magazine ranked him as the second greatest flyweight in history.

11. Daniel Zaragoza - Daniel won the WBC 122 pound title on three occasions. Along the way he engaged in 20 title fights and beat such outstanding fighters as Wayne McCullough and Hector-Acero Sanchez. His wars with Paul Banke were legendary and part of Los Angeles boxing lore.

12. Chalky Wright - The guy won over 100 bouts during the Golden Age of featherweights and lost the title to Willie Pep. Thatís an honor in itself.

13. Gilbert Roman - Held the WBC 115 title for three years in the late 80s and won 13-title fights during the course of his two reigns. In 1994, Ring Magazine ranked him as the second best Junior Bantamweight in the divisionís history.

14. Miguel Angel Gonzalez - He was supposed to be the second coming of Chavez and he just didnít pan out. Early on he had some good wins against tough opposition, but it seemed like his career went down hill after the Lamar Murphy fight. At the end of the day, he made 10 defenses of the WBC lightweight title against pretty good opposition that included Hector Lopez, Levander Johnson, and Jean Babtiste Mendy.

15. Rafael Marquez - He won the title from a good champion in Tim Austin and holds two wins over Mark Johnson. Has potential to climb this list.

16. Jose Luis Ramirez - His reigns were short, but his knockout of Edwin Rosario, a career that spans over 100 fights, and the gift decision against Pernell Whitaker are enough to make the two-time lightweight champ one of Mexicoís greatest fighters.

17. Pipino Cuevas - He won the WBA welterweight title and scored 10 knockouts in 11 defenses. He was almost decapitated by Thomas Hearns.

18. Carlos Palomino - Made seven defenses of the WBC Welterweight title that he won from John Stracey, Jose Napolesís conqueror, and lost it to the great Wilfredo Benitez. Andy Price beat both Palomino and Cuevas before they won their titles.

19. Jorge Paez - Retained his IBF featherweight title on eight different occasions. He also gave Sweat Pea a good fight when he challenged him for the lightweight title and was a top contender for years in the lightweight division.

20. Lupe Pintor - He won the WBC Bantamweight title with a controversial decision over Carlos Zarate and then made 8 defenses of the title. He also captured the WBC 122 pound title and his fight with Wilfredo Gomez was a classic.

21. Raul Perez - Made seven defenses of the WBC bantamweight title that he won from the tough Miguel Lora. He also won a championship at 122.

22. Juan Manuel Marquez - He was ducked by Prince Naseem for years, but his fight against Pacman and his wins over Peden, Medina, and Gainer help him break into the list. This guy might be in the top five before itís all over, but I keep thinking about his mediocre performance against Norwood.

23. Manuel Medina - Won versions of the Featherweight title on five different occasions and has recorded wins against some good fighters which include Tom Johnson, Scott Harrison, and Alejandro Gonzalez.

24. Alfonso Zamora - Was 29-0 (29 KOS) when he met Carlos Zarate in a unsanctioned unification bout. He also defended his WBA Bantamweight title five times and one of those defenses was a knockout over future featherweight great Eusebio Pedroza.

25. Alejandro Gonzalez - Made two defenses of the WBC Featherweight title, but his thrilling victory over an undefeated Kevin Kelley is what really allows him to make the cut.


Currently there are eight Mexican born fighters enshrined in the boxing hall of fame. They are Vicente Saldivar, Chalky Wright, Miguel Canto, Pipino Cuevas, Daniel Zaragoza, Carlos Palomino, Carlos Zarate, and Salvador Sanchez.

Battling Shaw was the first Mexican to win a World title and he lost his Junior Welterweight Championsip to Tony Canzoneri in 1933. Baby Arizmendi was the second and he won two out of five against Henry Armstrong.

Even though most boxing fans consider Carlos Palomino to be American, he was born in Mexico.

(Special Thanks to Sherman Lambert for helping me out with the research)

12-22-2005, 07:43 PM
Dan-i agree with you on those guys, i would add Enrique Bolanos,Lauro Salas, Rafael Herrera, Chucho Castillo,and Juan Zurita, just to name a few

Frank B.

12-22-2005, 07:44 PM
How about Jose "Toluco" Lopez, Ignacio "Zurdo" Pina, Alfredo Urbina, Edmundo Esparza, Pajarito Moreno, Battling Torres ... There's more. I do agree with Kikibalts & Dan's picks also.

I thought Miguel Angel Gonzales really doesn't belong, a real stretch & Chalky Wright & Carlos Palomino don't belong on the lists. They both were fine fighters but more American than Mexican. Wright had less than a handful of his long career's fights in Mexico. Palomino never fought in Mexico. He was raised & fought out of S. Cal.


12-22-2005, 07:57 PM
Nice article. Personally I would have rated Jose Becerra, Jose Medel and Raul (Raton) Macias among Mexico's best. What do you think Frank B. (kikibalt)?

12-22-2005, 07:59 PM
The article leaves out way too many fighters who preceded JC.

And, once more fucking time -- Chalky Wright wasn't Mexican nor was he born there!

Mr E
12-22-2005, 08:18 PM
I'd rate Rockabye Ruben Oliveres number 1. I think he would have gone through Carlos Zarate like a hot knife through butter, for example.

I thought Carlos Palomino was an Amercian of Mexican descent rather than a Mexican National. But, if he WERE a Mexican, my view is that he sure as heck would rate above Pipino Cuevas.

Nice article, though.

12-22-2005, 08:19 PM
Carlos Palomino was born in Mexico, but he started fighting here in the good USA .

Frank B.

12-22-2005, 11:55 PM
Frank, also excellent choices. Also, happy belated birhday!


12-22-2005, 11:58 PM
Thank you Dan

Frank B.

12-23-2005, 12:03 AM
Frank, here is a link to an article I wrote five years ago about 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.

www.ibroresearch.com/Arti..._Rev01.htm (http://www.ibroresearch.com/Articles/Mexican%20Bantams/Mexican%20batams_Rev01.htm)

12-23-2005, 01:30 AM
Dan--Great article , i seen Moreno,Macias, Lopez and Becerra fight in person , but i never got to see Ohm fight

Frank B.

12-23-2005, 01:39 AM
I admit that I am not a real fan of Julio Cesar
Chavez Sr. Yes, he was a great fighter with
tremendous durability, good ring smarts, a
wicked body attack, and an ability to cut off
the ring. However, he was very easy to hit
and lacked the all-around ability of a Ruben
Oliveras or a Roberto Duran, both of whom
could box extremely well.

Baby Arizmendi was another great Mexican
fighter. Yes, he had alot of losses, but he
had alot of wins over top fighters.

I have a big problem with rating Carlos
Palomino on the list of the Greatest
Mexican Boxers because he lived
in the U.S. since he was a child.
What's more, I saw a list of the greatest
Australian fighters that omitted Peter
Jackson on another website. The reason
was that Jackson wasn't born in Australia!
Under such logic, Johnny Dundee wouldn't
be regarded as an American fighter even
though he lived in the U.S. since he was
a child.

- Chuck Johnston

Dan Hanley
12-23-2005, 03:31 AM
Chuck, on a boxing web group I belong to someone dropped the link to this article. I replied that the article was a joke because it was obvious that the author hadn't done any research, simply naming the most recent big names in Mexican boxing and calling it an all-time list. I printed out your list from the all-time ratings that is on the table of contents on the front page of the message board for my colleagues and stated, "Now this is a list!" Although I did not agree with several of your picks I totally appreciated the obvious research you put into it. Perhaps you can reprint them here.


12-23-2005, 10:59 PM
Here is a pic. of another great mexican fighter
Luis Castillohttp://tinypic.com/j0l0uo.jpg

12-23-2005, 11:31 PM
i would have loved to seen those fights. rojas was a hero in my hometown of san pedro but i was too young to catch any of his early career. what do you remember about those two fights? knockdowns? how they ended? did moreno ever hurt raul ?

be great to hear about that. thanx.

12-23-2005, 11:32 PM
Greg----the first fight ended with Pajarito been cut, both were rocked on their heels more then once.
The second figth was the same as the first, they were taking turns rocking each other, i don't remember if there were any knock downs in any of the two fights , but you don't see fight like that every day, yes Moreno did hurt Raul, but Raul hurt Moreno right back , man i can close my eyes an see both of those fights right now

Frank B.

12-23-2005, 11:41 PM
i am not even going to try and make a list. the sport of boxing owes a big portion of its existance to the spirit of the mexican fighters.

did you see either of the pajarito moreno- raul rojas fights?

12-24-2005, 01:16 AM
Greg---yes i seen both of them in person

Frank B.

12-24-2005, 01:59 AM
Greg---There was more action in 2 or 3 rounds with those guys that you get with guys like RJJ or Hop in 12 rounds

Frank B.