Viva La Mexico: Mexico’s Greatest Fighters

Tom Dunstan

Throughout boxing’s storied history, no country has managed to become a conveyor belt of talent quite like Mexico has.

To all fight fans, Mexico holds a very special spot in our hearts. It’s not just the endless talent that it has managed to produce, the Mexican’s brave and explosive style of fighting is something that has almost been embedded into boxing’s DNA. Here’s a look at some of the finest warriors that have come out of Mexico:

Julio Cesar Chavez Sr

It would almost be disrespectful to start anywhere else. In the case of Julio Cesar Chavez, he is almost universally regarded as the greatest fighter his nation has ever produced, he undoubtedly stands as their most influential and recognisable.

For Chavez, you simply have to look at the stats to see why he has earnt his spot as the elite of the elite. The Mexican god was unbeaten in his first 90 professional contests over a 13-year spell, his 37 world title fights is still a record today and his 31 recorded wins is still the most in history. In 1993, a staggering 132,000 crammed the Estadio Azteca as Mexico’s favourite son destroyed Greg Haugen, unsurprisingly, that is also the record attendance for the sport.

Three decades, 115 fights, six world titles, one legend.

Salvador Sanchez

In boxing, there have been lots of high profile ‘what could have been?’ cases, but, Salvador Sanchez stands as the most tragic case, had he not died in a car crash at the age of 23, would he have become the best Mexican fighter of all-time? Unquestionably.

Before his tragic accident in 1983, Sanchez was a man who was quickly gaining a reputation as the best fighter on the planet. By the age of just 23, Salvador had already been crowned as the WBC featherweight champion and had successfully defended his title nine times against elite level opponents. A naturally gifted fighter who possessed KO power in both hands, in 1991 Sanchez was inducted into the Hall of Fame and despite dying before his prime, he is still ranked as the third greatest featherweight ever.

Juan Manuel Marquez

One of only three fighters in this history of Mexican boxing that has won world titles in four different weight classes, Marquez is still remembered as one of the greatest counter punchers the sport has ever seen.

To match his subtle skills, Marquez was a ferocious warrior who embodied the Mexican style we still see today. In a career spanning over two decades, in his 64 professional contests, Marquez was not stopped once and his legendary fights with the great Manny Pacquiao are still remembered by every fight fan, including that monster right hand that had Pacman asleep for several minutes.

Ruben Olivares

If there was one man who could rival Julio Cesar Chavez for his crown, that man would be Ruben Olivares. Nicknamed ‘Rockabye’ for his lethal punching power, the former bantamweight and featherweight world champion won his first 60 consecutive fights in a career that would see him walk to the ring over 100 times.

Between 1965 and 1975, the bantamweight division was considered to be in its glory days, it had a roster of Hall of Fame fighters, and Olivares stood as the best of the best. During the late 60’s and early 70’s when Ali was in exile, Ruben was ranked as the greatest pound-for-pound fighter on the planet and is still seen as a national treasure in Mexico.

Carlos Zarate

If this was a list of the heaviest hitters in Mexican history, then Zarate would be sitting on top of the pile. For Zarate, he had the punching power of light-heavyweight trapped inside a bantamweight’s body.

Ranked as the 21st greatest puncher in the history of boxing, the Mexican star still holds the record for the only fighter to have two winning streaks of 20 plus consecutive knockouts. In 1994, Zarate was inducted into boxing’s Hall of Fame and out of his 66 victories, 63 were unable to make it to the final bell, now that’s what you call knockout power.

Marco Antonio Barrera

‘The Baby Faced Assasin’ was a true thoroughbred, he was technically skilled, willing to go to war at a moments notice and contained dynamite in either hand.

Most commonly remembered for dispatching fellow Hall of Famers such as Prince Naseem Hamed and his great rival Erik Morales (twice), Barrera was a champion at both 122 and 130Ibs capturing different versions of the title on six different occasions. After winning 22 of his 26 world title fights, Barrera is commonly regarded as the greatest Mexican fighter of his generation.

Erik Morales

In the case of Erik Morales, there was only going to be one way of life for the former six-time world champion. Rumoured to have actually been born inside a boxing gym, by the age of five ‘El Terrible’ was already being taught his craft by his father, by his 16th birthday, Morales was already being paid to punch.

A fighter that always guaranteed fireworks, by the age of 21, Morales had already claimed the first of his world titles and became a dominant force from super-bantamweight all the way to light-welterweight. Retiring in 2012 after a 20-year career inside the ring, Morales holds the scalps of an incredible 15 former world champions, including Manny Pacquiao and his arch nemesis Marco Antonio Barrera.

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez

I can already feel the boxing’s purists eye’s burning through me. But, although many might feel that Canelo hasn’t earnt the right to stand among his fellow compatriots, there is no doubting that the 27-year-old is currently the poster boy of Mexican boxing.

For Canelo, it’s not just that he is the new kid on the block, he is already 52 fight veteran who has the CV of a grizzled warrior. Despite coming off the back of a controversial draw with Triple G last month, the man from Guadalajara is a three-time world champion at light-middleweight and middleweight, having held the Ring Magazine title for over two years now, the explosive Canelo is ranked as the best middleweight on the planet by BoxRec.

Vincente Saldivar

Don’t let the height fool you, although Saldivar only stood at 5’3inch, he was a violent stylist and during the 1960’s his skill set and ferocity was unparalleled. Despite only making 40 appearances, Saldivar is still seen as the greatest fighter to have ever boxed in the 126ibs division.

After defending his WBC and WBA featherweight titles for over four years and destroying anyone who was put in front of him, Saldivar retired in 1968 undefeated and still the undisputed champion.

But, in his absence, the featherweight division found two new stars, Johnny Famechon and Jose Legra, people began to say they had overtaken the mark left by Saldivar. So, after two years in retirement, Saldivar came back. And he beat both of them.



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