WBC Super-Featherweight king Miguel Berchelt is aiming to add his name long list of Mexican ring legends, ahead of his next World Title defence on November 3rd. Glynn Evans identifies the cream of those who went before him.
7) Erik Morales
‘El Terrible’ from Tijuana was feted for a raking right hand and an indomitable fighting spirit.
Purported to have been born inside a boxing gym (!), his father Jose began tutoring him in the Manly Art, aged five, and he began punching for pay at 16.
Hugely exciting, Morales netted the first of his six World Titles – spread from Super-Bantam to Light-Welter – at the age of 21 and embarked on violent trilogies with compatriot Marco Antonio Barrera (whom he despised) and Filipino Manny Pacquiao. He triumphed in the first encounter with both.
When the curtain finally came down on his near 20 year career in 2012, this archetypal Azteca brawler’s arm had been lifted after 18 of his 23 World Title gigs and he’d mounted the scalps of 15 fellow World Champions.
6) Marco Antonio Barrera
This fistic thoroughbred from Mexico City met and mastered the best of his generation between 122 and 130 lbs; winning 22 of 26 World Title fights.
A future law undergraduate, he entered the land of prizefighting at 15, and his decorated 75 bout career brought six World Championships plus victories over fellow Hall-of-Famers Erik Morales (twice) and Prince Naseem Hamed.
‘The Baby Faced Assassin’ could box, brawl and bang and was as smart as he was vicious; famously boxing the spots off the then-undefeated, and increasingly obnoxious, Hamed’s leopard print trunks for 11 rounds, prior to ramming his head into the turnbuckle in the final session whilst whispering: ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’
It cost him a point but earned him ring immortality!
5) Carlos Zarate
This study of moustachioed menace from Tepito had the frame of a Bantamweight but the punch power of a Middleweight.
Sixty-three of the 66 victims on his 70 fight CV failed to cross the finish line while all four defeats were inflicted by rival World Champions. Known as ‘Canas’, Zarate is the only fighter to have compiled two separate streaks comprising more than 20 consecutive kayos...and this in a Golden Age for the 118lb class.
After claiming the WBC belt by icing able compatriot Rodolfo Martinez in nine, he successfully retained on nine occasions but is most revered for a four round non-title blow out against 29-0 (29 KOs!) WBA champ Alfonso Zamora in ‘The Battle of the Z-Boys.’
Ring Magazine honoured concussive Carlos as the greatest Bantamweight of all time in 1994 – the same year that he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
4) Juan Manuel Marquez
One of only three Mexicans to score World Titles in four separate categories, ‘Dinamita’ could rumble with the best but was also a masterful counter-puncher with subtle skills and guile that are largely alien in the land of the sombrero.
A product of the Mexico City barrios, JMM started out at Featherweight and had a prime Naseem Hamed scurrying to the other side of the street whenever his shadow loomed. Morales and Barrera were equally eager to swerve him.
Another from a professional background – he moonlighted as a government accountant – Marquez reigned from Featherweight to Light-Welter and bettered elite scrappers like Barrera, Joel Casamayor and Manny Pacquiao.
The latter win came in 2012 at the fourth attempt. After succumbing to three decisions (one draw), this stick of dynamite sent PacMan to sleep for several minutes with a monster right hand– one of the all-time great kayo punches.
The secret behind his prowess? Marquez consumed his own urine, claiming it was rich in protein and vitamins!
3) Ruben Olivares
‘Rockabye’ Ruben’s lethal fists caused more headaches than tequila and his left hook to the liver was one of the truly great signature shots in ring history.
One of 12 children (only six survived), he was born into poverty and violence and was frequently slung out of school for slugging – prior to securing fame and fortune through his atomic fists.
Defeated just 13 times in a 105 fight career that stretched from 1965-88, Olivares bagged the World Bantam and Feather straps twice each and was widely acknowledged as a prime P4P contender during Ali’s exodus in the late 60s, early 70s. He went undefeated during his first 62 starts.
His malice between the ropes was matched by his cordiality and compassion beyond. Cameo roles in several films elevated him into something of a national treasure.
2) Salvador Sanchez
Thrill merchant Sal from Tianguistenco might possibly have been the finest ever had he not surrendered his life during a high speed car crash in 1982, aged just 23.
Already ‘Chava’ had captured the WBC Title from Hall-of-Famer Danny ‘Little Red’ Lopez and successfully retained it on nine occasions against competition from the very highest tier. He saw off the Native American in a return then bashed up the likes of Juan LaPorte, Wilfredo Gomez, our own Pat Cowdell and the great Azumah Nelson before the Man Above retired him.
His only reverse in 46 came by split decision to the Mexican Bantamweight Champ, aged just 18. Sanchez was blessed with a surplus of every attribute; a quick and fluid counter puncher with a kayo kick in both mitts plus a chin cast from concrete.
Despite his brief innings, he was inducted into the IBHOF in 1991 and listed as the third greatest Featherweight of the twentieth century by the Associated Press.
1) Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.
The stats don’t lie. ‘JC Superstar’ went up the steps 115 times during a career that spanned three decades, yet only conceded six times.
He went unbeaten in his first 90, spanning 13 years, fought the most World Title fights (37), recorded the most wins (31) and held the record for most defences (27). The 132,000 compatriots who crammed the Estadio Azteca for his 1993 mauling of US motormouth Greg Haugen remains a record attendance for the sport.
One of 10 children raised in an abandoned rail car, JCC started earning his corn in the ring, aged just 17. He evolved into a fearless, industrial tough hunter who brought suffocating pressure and crippling power – either hand, head or body.
Roger Mayweather, Edwin Rosario and Hector Camacho were among the 15 World Champions Chavez mauled and he earned iconic status when – far adrift on the score cards – he rallied to crush slick US show pony Meldrick Taylor with just two seconds remaining to retain his WBC Light-Welter strap. One seriously sinister hombre.
[Image credits: The Fight City, Boxing.com]