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Thread: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

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    The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    The All-Time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    The Neutral Corner by Jason Probst FROM MAX BOXING

    It seems like yesterday, but in truth it was nearly six years ago when I was on yet another drive from San Diego to Las Vegas, en route to the Oscar De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad fight, when I saw the epitome of how serious some matchups can be.

    Blowing by me in the passing lane was an ancient, battered Buick, covered in Mexican flags and the rear right window missing. In its place was a cardboard sign that read: "Win or Die."

    Very nice. Inside were two cholos en route to the big fight. Vegas, baby! Maybe they saved their money for the fight as opposed to automobile upkeep, but you have to respect the gesture of going that far into the well to support your guy.

    That memory is always with me, as testimony to the core appeal of boxing-as-tribalistic-expression. Back in the Golden Eras of the prewar fight boom, your surname -- be it Irish, Jewish, Italian, Mexican, or whatever -- was the quickest guarantor of a fan base, especially if you had a modicum of skills and/or a crowd pleasing style (preferably both, but especially the latter). These days, the last remaining holdouts are Latin fans, who are easily the most knowledgeable and loyal to the sweet science. And they carry the gravitas of going deep for their heroes, bringing flags, their homies, high hopes and everything else they can gather up in support of their rooting interest.

    That's why today, more than ever, all-Latin showdowns are especially important in sustaining the health of boxing. A crossover star in recent years like Mike Tyson will generate widespread interest but at almost all the lower levels, it comes down to fan base and the pluck and luck of getting or making the breaks. Take a fistic genius like Floyd Mayweather, who was nearly nine years into an unbeaten career before getting his first
    pay-per-view show last June against Arturo Gatti. Sure, his style isn't the most exciting for casual fans but it's hard to envision him in an earlier era where he wouldn't have been more properly appreciated.

    Potential fans have too many competing distractions, especially since postseason playoffs in baseball, the NBA and hockey seem to last half as long as their respective seasons themselves. The only boxing fan that doesn't have a considerable competing professional constituency are those of Latin descent, and as a result they are the most likely to follow the sport. And the showdowns between their combatants comprise a considerable chunk of boxing history. Today, their accrued market value is more important than ever, and that underlying support helps elevate great matches like Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales into the legitimate realm of at least mainstream coverage, simply because ten thousand screaming fans knew enough to buy tickets. Perhaps it's a fait accompli, but at least the break goes boxing's way in that case.

    Tonight’s De La Hoya showdown with Ricardo Mayorga is the latest version of the all-Latin showdown. Galore with stylized pre-fight machismo, this one will have to measure up to some high standards to crack my rankings (albeit highly unofficial) of the greatest all-Latin rivalries. Here they are, judged on the weight of the match up and what interest it generated, how they brought in casual fans and possibly hooked them to want more, and the ferocity of the combat that ensued. For purposes of efficacy, only championship bouts or bouts between champions are listed (otherwise this list would take a lot longer to compile, and I'd have to conference call Lee Groves, Marty Mulcahey and Dougie Fischer to comb the archives).

    Here's my list of "The Great All-Latin Eight." If Mayorga-De La Hoya comes remotely close to cracking this list (and one fight alone would have to be a real doozy to land a spot among this esteemed company), it's going to be one helluva Cinco De Mayo weekend.

    8. Felix Trinidad-Fernando Vargas

    Okay, so maybe some generational bias. It was only one fight, which Trinidad took by vicious 12th round stoppage in December 2000, but it was one memorable battle, pitting two undefeated champs against each other at 154 lbs. Both guys had considerable drawing power, and the Mexican-American vs. Puerto Rican angle is always a boost in my book. It puts so much more on the line. This one, I believe, will be remembered in history as one of the greatest championship fights of its era, merely for the stunning momentum changes that preceded the violent end.

    Vargas is floored twice in the first twenty seconds, his head nearly removed from his shoulders by Trinidad's booming left hook. He survives a terrifying opening round, ducking, slipping and sashaying away from Tito's merciless follow-up bombs, and his head clears. Working himself back into the fight as he recovered his legs, and his bearings, Vargas springs the trap in the fourth, driving Tito halfway across the ring with a punishing left hook, dropping the slugger. Trinidad fouls him after rising from the knockdown, causing some controversy, but recovers down the stretch. Trinidad's eye
    swells shut after catching a thumb, as both guys are forced to suck it up big time.

    Vargas showed a ton of heart and desire in this fight, and watching the tape is both exhilarating and saddening, as you can see him lose himself, piece by piece, giving a battle every inch of the way. Finally, in the twelfth, Trinidad crushes him with the same left hook, dropping him in a heap. Vargas amazingly rises twice more before being sent down for the third time, the picture of a battered warrior finally out of gas. Trinidad, teary-eyed at the post-fight press conference, showed what a great champion he was. This
    one will always hold a special place in my tape collection and it's probably the one I watch more than just about any of them, as I'm still amazed Vargas gets through that opening round disaster. I'm half-convinced that someday, he won't, because what he did was about impossible to recover like that. He left much of himself in the ring that night, and that's why fans will always love him.


    7. Alexis Arguello-Alfredo Escalera

    Between 1974, when he won the WBC featherweight title with a gutty 14th-round stoppage of Ruben Olivares, and 1982, when he was turned back in that same round by WBA 140-lb. king Aaron Pryor, Alexis Arguello participated in 20 title fights and won them all, spanning three divisions en route. His two battles with Escalera were waged in 1978 and 1979, and were brutal affairs, with Arguello winning both by 13th-round stoppage. The vicious punishment he doled out and took in return from the tenacious Puerto Rican was vintage, with brutal exchanges and the kind of heart-stopping action that only comes in a 15-round championship fight. Beloved in Nicaragua, these two wins cemented his fame across the world as a true fighter to watch. For while he consistently blew out decent to middling challengers with relative ease, the Escalera bouts were indelible proof that Arguello could go deep to dig out the win. If they happened today, they'd probably be fights of the year. Back then, they were merely the expectable spoils of a Golden Era with so many tough fighters in the lower weight classes.

    6. Carlos Zarate-Alfonso Zamora

    The "Z boys" only met once, in 1978, and the setup was perfect. Both were unbeaten, with a combined record of 74-0 with 71 knockouts, incredible numbers for bantams. Both were Mexicans, beloved as heroes by adoring fans. Both were champions, with Zarate holding the WBC belt, Zamora the WBA. Something had to give.

    After four rounds of intense combat, Zamora finally did, knocked out by a chillingly determined Zarate, who absorbed some bombs early only to walk through them and wear Zamora down. Fittingly, after the ref waved it off the two guys' managers got into a fight on the ring apron. Nothing spells "disgruntled" like the site of Zamora's chunky manager in a bad 1970s pantsuit trading punches with Zarate's guy. That, my friends, is keeping it
    real.

    5. Robert Duran-Esteban DeJesus

    Duran shockingly lost their first match, a non-title scrap, in 1972, getting dropped by a perfectly timed DeJesus left hook that finally made him look human. He got big payback, however, in successful defenses, stopping DeJesus twice, in 1974 (TKO 11) and 1978 (TKO 12). DeJesus always gave him trouble, and easily represented the biggest threat to Duran's lightweight reign when his skills made good fighters seem woefully overmatched. DeJesus brought out the best in Duran, making him use his hunter's savvy to break down the slick Puerto Rican over the distance. Duran's technical abilities are often overlooked due to his imposing aura, but it was fighters like DeJesus that revealed what an incredibly gifted artist "Manos De Piedra" was, when he had to be. And at lightweight he was never better than against Esteban.

    4. Michael Carbajal-Humberto "Chiquita" Gonzalez

    The class of the little men during the early 1990s, Carbajal had a natural foil in Gonzalez, a hard-punching fighter who generated impressive power for a 108-lb. man. Their first bout was clearly the class of the trilogy (Gonzalez took the last two by decision), as Carbajal rebounded from two brutal knockdowns early and starched Gonzalez with a massive left hook in the seventh.

    Carbajal was never better, and subsequent matches may have shown the effects of their first bout as well as a style he had that was not conducive to a long career in top form. But what really made these matches historically significant for their time was that their first showdown generated the first million-dollar purse for both combatants in their weight class, proving that great matchmaking can overcome perception that little guys can't bring in the bucks. It also, in this writer's opinion, was one of the key fights in the last fifteen years, showing promoters that Hispanic fans will back a good fight regardless of weight class, allowing the promotion to build into something bigger than a mere Latin vs. Latin niche attraction. The legacy of Carbajal-Gonzalez lives today, as Top Rank and other promoters offer up plenty of smaller Latin fighters in the hopes they will generate the kind of fan base these two had.

    3. Ruben Oliveras-Chucho Castillo

    At his peak, "Rockabye Ruben" was a physical phenom blessed with numbing power and wicked charisma that made him a huge fan attraction in Los Angeles in the late 1960s and through the mid-1970s. With a career record of 88-13-3, he registered 78 knockouts, a stunningly high stoppage rate for a guy whose best days were at bantam.

    However, every phenom has his Kryptonite, and Castillo may have been his, at least at 118 pounds and at his peak. After besting the tough Castillo in April 1970 over 15 rounds, Oliveras was upset via 14th round stoppage later that year. It was probably every bit as shocking as when a seemingly overmatched Junior Jones blew out Marco Antonio Barrera in 1995. He absolutely, positively had to win the rubber match in April 1971, and did, taking another 15-round decision, regaining his title.

    Olivares fights weren't just fights. They were sporting extravaganzas, as Mexican-American fans packed L.A. famed fight houses and often would riot if they didn't like the outcome, or just for the hell of it. That's pressure, and the atmosphere there was no doubt every bit as charged and passionate as those in old-time fight clubs decades earlier, where the whole damn neighborhood would show up to watch you represent.

    2. Salvador Sanchez-Wilfredo Gomez
    Aug. 21, 1981

    Talk about a dream all-Latin match up. They only fought once, with Sanchez scoring a brilliantly delivered eighth round knockout. When they stepped into the ring, however, it was a match up between two guys that were top five pound for pound in the world. Gomez, the feared WBC 122-lb. champ, had a 32-0-1 ledger and had made 13 straight defenses, all by KO, and was emerging as one of the greatest Puerto Rican fighters ever. Sanchez was 40-1-1, having bested dangerous Danny Lopez twice with disdainful ease. It's hard to imagine how high the stakes were for both, especially as Gomez has destroyed the Mexican Sanchez' countryman Carlos Zarate.

    Sanchez was never better in this fight, flooring Gomez in the opening round and clinically dismantling him, turning his usually smothering pressure against him. Impressively, Sanchez used his slick boxing skills while fighting in the pocket much of the time, giving a great example of how you can fight defensively while countering in close. When Gomez finally succumbed, it was as though you could feel the air go out of the Puerto Rican fans in the arena, so complete was his beating.

    1. Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales

    Morales-Barrera. It goes together like PB&J, don't it? What's great about this trilogy are all the subtle juxtapositions that fed into the rivalry. Morales, a Tijuana boy of Indio blood, is the diametrical opposite of Barrera, who came from a middle-class family in Mexico City (for you Gringo types who miss the distinction, that's the Mexican equivalent of a Southern cracker against a diehard Yankee).

    Waged across three weight classes, Barrera was believed to be a shot fighter before their first and third matches. Coming into the first bout in Feb. 2000, he was seen as served-up fodder for the skyrocketing Morales, having lost to Junior Jones twice, only to give Erik 12 rounds of hell before losing a hotly disputed decision. The rematch was more tactical, with Barrera taking a disputed decision, perhaps a bit of Karmic payback.

    For the rubber match in November 2004, Barrera had been brutalized a year earlier by Manny Pacquiao, while Morales was riding high off solid wins over Jesus Chavez and Carlos Hernandez. But something about these two men always forced incredible parity to develop, and Barrera took another close decision. It almost seems criminal to make them fight again, but their three incredible clashes have arguably been the most significant fights below heavyweight to keep fans coming back. What's amazing about these fights is every time you watch them, especially the second and third, it's virtually impossible to score more than a handful of ones definitively for one guy or the other. Every minute, every second was a war, a battle of wills, and neither willing to give up no matter what the cost. There may have been better Latin fighters that met up in the squared circle, but never two like this that made for so many heated exchanges over the duration of a long, taxing, brutal war.

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    Re: tTHE ALL-TIME GREAT EIGHT: LATIN RIVALRIES

    Some great rivalries listed here, but I think you'd have to include the Bobby Chacon/Bazooka Limon rivalry right up there with the best of them.

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    Re: tTHE ALL-TIME GREAT EIGHT: LATIN RIVALRIES

    Quote Originally Posted by No Dice
    Some great rivalries listed here, but I think you'd have to include the Bobby Chacon/Bazooka Limon rivalry right up there with the best of them.
    I'd throw in Carlos Monzon v. Rodrigo Valdes as well.

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    Mr.E. you took the words right out of my mouth. Their was bad blood between those two.

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    Here are some that I remember, most are local rivalries but never the less these fighters were top 10 in their days.

    Art ( Golden Boy ) Aragon
    vs
    Don Jordan--he was part mex's.

    Art ( Golden Boy ) Aragon
    Vs
    Mario Trigo

    This was a big one
    Art ( Golden Boy ) Aragon
    vs
    Enrique Bolanos


    Enrique Bolanos
    vs
    Eddie Chavez

    Ricardo ( Pajarito ) Moreno
    vs
    Raul Rojas

    Cisco Andrade
    vs
    Battling Torres

    Cisco Andrade
    vs
    Lauro Salas

    I don't expect the younger members to know who these guys are but the old farts on the CBZ should know.

    Frank B.
    Last edited by kikibalt; 05-12-2006 at 11:18 PM.

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    kikibalt;

    What insight can you provide about that zarate---zamora bout?

    That was one of the most highly anticipated fights for me in my life. I was a big admirerer of zarate but I wasn't all that sure he would beat the guy.

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    Robertk
    I'm sorry that I have to say that I never seen that fight, when that fight came around I was out of town with one of my fighter, an I have never seen a tape of the fight, but I was picking Zarate to win I just thought that he was the better fighter.

    Frank B.

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    This rivalry is legendary if only in Mexico City, but it ranks highly when we consider that it involved not two, but three National Champions of the Mexican Republic, all of whom showed in California during boxing's Golden Era. What's more, at least two of the fighters earned a world ranking in Ring Magazine in their prime.

    Joe Conde, Juan Zurita and Baby Casanova were caught up in a crazy round-robin matchup that lasted through some 20 or more bouts. They fought each other many times not only in the Mexican capital, but also in the provincial arenas. I don't have the piece I did on them many years ago, but it seems that Zurita would beat Conde, Casanova would defeat Zurita and then Çonde would trounce Casanova! This went on over a period of several years. Even after multiple meetings among themselves a definite superiority was hardly established.

    In my time at the Legion Stadium, two rivalries stand out: Manuel Ortiz and Carlos Chavez, close friends throughout their careers, tore into each other repeatedly, indoors and outdoors, with a ferocity that never reflected their esteem outside the ring. Honestly! And then we had a two fight series between Artie Aragon and Lauro Salas. One of those clashes was at a Mexican restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in L.A The second fight was for pay at a packed Olympic Auditorium, When I reminded Art about the first brawl five years ago he just smiled sheepishly...but no comment.

    hap navarro

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    The first bout between Carlos Palomino and Armando Muniz is
    one of the most memorable that I have seen in person in the
    Olympic Auditorium.

    - Chuck Johnston

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    The ALL_TIME Latin Rivalry is without a doubt the incredible round-robin among Chango Casanova, Joe Conde, and Juan Zurita!

    nothing comes close -- the series I guess compised at least 20 bouts! I ahve been going through the Mexican newspapers of the era, along with my small collection of Mexican boxing mags from the 1930s and this series is tops!

    Now that I think of it, I guess I'll write this one up for WAIL!

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    Escalera and Arguello was great. Best part to me was as a kid I got to see both fights live on free televison. Thank God for the days of no pay-per-view

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    Mike, while going through those papers have you found any bouts for Kid Chino (later Kid Azteca) circa 1929 thru 1932 ?

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    Frank, or anyone, was Don Jordan the guy who claimed he was a former assassin-for-hire and was a general weirdo?

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    Gong

    I thought that was Chuck Berris.

    Hawk

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    now you're being silly.

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    Now!?!!?

    In all seriousness, the Latin "rivalry" that I enjoyed so much really wasn't a rivalry, rather it was a succession of Bouts between Ham and eggers and some rising stars.

    A yound Stevie Cruz, Tommy Cordova, Lenny Valdez, Joey Medina, Victor Acosta, Nicky Perez and (non Latino) Freddy Roach all made for some fantastic fights in the early to Mid 80's. Most were on ESPN or other cable shows and the bouts, whatever matchups, were almost always fantastic.

    The good old days.

    Hawk

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    Sharkey

    No Don Jordan was none of those things, Jordan was a very good fighter that won the title in 1958 from Vigil Akins an then lost it to Benny (Kid ) Paret.
    His life out side the ring was what mess's him up an the mob tying to take him away from Jackie McCoy an he just could't handle that.

    Frank B.

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    I always confuse Jordan with whomever I am thinking of..who I never can remember.

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    I'm sure that story

    is covered in Nigel Collins' book Boxing Babylon, which I unfortunately have packed away right now.

    I can't think of his name right now. And it isn't Chuck Berris.....

    Hawk

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    I originally remember it from Harry Mullan...I NEVER remember this guy's name. And he was a champion to boot. In the Caribbean, claimed he killed guys for money with poisoned darts before he became a fighter.

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    According to IN THIS CORNER . . ., it was Don Jordan. He even claims to have killed thirty people in one month. PeteLeo.

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    AHA! Thanks Pete. Born in the Caribbean, moved to LA. Dominican Republic I think.

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    What a bunch of s--t, Don Jordan never killed anybody an he was't from the Caribbean's he grow up in East Los Angeles, I used to train with him lots of times at the Teamster gym in L.A.

    Frank B.

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    Frank B. is right.....it is well-known among boxing historians
    that Don Jordan gave Peter Heller a bunch of bull in an
    interview.

    Before being managed by Don Nesseth and Jack McCoy, Don Jordan's
    manager was Harry Kabakoff. By the way, Frankie Carbo, Blinky
    Palermo, and Truman Gibson were convicted for trying to muscle in
    on Don Jordan's earnings. I would say that the case was the most
    successful Federal prosecution pertaining to boxing.

    - Chuck Johnston
    Last edited by Chuck1052; 05-18-2006 at 05:42 PM.

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    Chuck-is right about Jordan been managed by Harry Kabakoff before Jackie McCoy and Don Nesseth, after Jordan left McCoy and Nesseth he was managed by Micky Cohen the mobster.
    Jordan who was known as "Geronimo" died in Sept. 1996 after being robbed and seriously assaulted in Los Angeles.

    Btw Kabakoff is living in Mexicali, Mex.

    Frank B.
    Last edited by kikibalt; 05-18-2006 at 08:34 PM.

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    I

    never said I BELIEVED the story.

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    Just repeating what I read in the book, guys. Re-sheath the pig-stickers. PeteLeo.

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    hawk5

    I remember seeing Lenny Valdez fight Hector Lopez back in 1987 @ the Forum in inglewood Calif. losing a ud , he also beat Freddie Roach by tko in 2 rds. that was in 1982.

    Frank B.

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    I was a biiiiig Hector Lopez fan. Tough, tough hombre'..steady, nothing spectacular. Always wished he had that 6th gear to draw on.

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    Re: The All-time Great Eight: Latin Rivalries

    A great Mexican rivalry from the 50's that was really heated was between Jose Becerra & Jose Medel. They were the two top Mexican bantams & were both highly ranked top ten fighters.

    Becerra emerged the winner of their trilogy between '57 & 58. He won all three by decision & all three fights were close barn burners like the more modern Barrera-Morales rivalry. Becerra got the shot against Alphonse Halimi in LA in '59 & won the bantamweight world championship.

    In Mexico were I grew up as a kid both of these guys had ardent & I mean EXTREMELY passionate fans & all their fights are still unforgetable to me almost 50 years later.

    Me? I idolised both of them as a kid.

    GorDoom

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