Among the great boxing nations, none have a passion and a history for the art of pugilism that can surpass that of Mexico. For the Mexican people, boxing is more than just a sport, it’s a religion that they swear by.
There’s a great reason for that, and it’s because Mexican boxing fans are truly passionate about their fighting heroes. Whoever steps in that ring is expected to showcase the Mexican fighting heart and lay it all out on the line.
There’s only one way for Mexican boxers to move, and that’s forward, risking it all and looking for a firefight. That all-out action is what is so endearing for fans.
From Guadalajara to Tijuana, some of the greatest fighters through decades of boxing have come from Mexico. Many fighters fight out of necessity, to bring their families out of poverty. The dire circumstances serve as motivation to succeed. But because of this, it has molded them into the fiercest competitors in the world.
You will be hard-pressed to find another country crazier about boxing than Mexico. Throughout the years, there have emerged many great ring legends. Let’s take a look at the very top of the heap.
Today, Evolve Daily lists the five greatest Mexican boxers in history.
1) Julio Cesar Chavez
Fondly known as “El Gran Campeon Mexicano,” Julio Cesar Chavez is arguably the greatest Mexican boxer of all time. He is the gold standard by which every Mexican boxer after him is judged. Competing between 1980 to 2005, Chavez is widely considered the greatest junior welterweight fighter in history.
In his prime, he was a fearsome body puncher and a masterful technician. Chavez picked apart his opponents, breaking their spirit one punch at a time. He finished his career with an astounding 107-6-2 professional record, which includes 37 world title fights, as he defeated 15 of the 19 world champions he traded leather with.
Notable victories include wins over Mario Martinez to capture the WBC Super Featherweight Title, Edwin Rosario to clinch the WBA Lightweight Title, and Jose Luis Ramirez to add the WBC Lightweight Title to his collection. At junior welterweight, Chavez stopped the late Roger Mayweather (Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s uncle and trainer) to win the WBC belt.
However, like many boxing legends, Chavez continued fighting way past his prime, and was a shell of his former self late in his career. After losing his titles to “The Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya, Chavez just wasn’t the same fighter. However, his highlight reel will live on in every Mexican boxing fan’s heart.
2) Salvador Sanchez
Considered by many boxing historians as Mexican boxing royalty, the late, great Salvador Sanchez was a hard-hitting stylist known for his fluid technique. He competed between 1975 and 1982, and was the WBC and lineal featherweight champion from 1980 to 1982.
Notable victories include wins over Danny “Little Red” Lopez to capture the WBC Featherweight Title, which he defended successfully nine times against top opposition, England’s Pat Cowdell, future titleholder Juan Laporte, previously undefeated Wilfredo Gomez, and fellow legend Azumah Nelson, among others.
At the top of his game, Sanchez surprisingly retired to focus on chasing his other dream, which was to become a medical doctor and help people. However, at the young age of 23, Sanchez passed away in a freak car accident.
With so many great opportunities before him, Sanchez’s death was truly a tragedy, and a sad day for the Mexican people.
3) Ruben Olivares
Multiple-time world champion Ruben Olivares is considered arguably the greatest bantamweight champion of all time. He was extremely popular among Mexican boxing fans, who regarded him as the country’s best fighter for a long period. A national icon, Olivares ripped through a deep bantamweight division with his unbridled power to earn him the apt nicknames of “Rockabye Ruben” and “Mr. Knockout.”
The epitome of Mexican bravado, Olivares had no equal in his prime as a bantamweight. He finished Lionel Rose to capture the WBC and WBC titles in 1969. He ignited the hearts of fans in his trilogy with Jesus “Chucho” Castillo.
However, Olivares became enamored with fame and a prosperous life, and soon outgrew the bantamweight division, forcing him to move up to featherweight where he won more world titles. Despite his success at 126-pounds, Olivares just wasn’t the same fighter and he couldn’t carry his famed knockout power to the higher weight class.
He finished his career with an 89-13-3 record, including an incredible 79 wins by knockout.
4) Carlos Zarate
Mexican legend Carlos Zarate was a professional boxer from 1970 to 1988. With devastating power embedded into his fists, Zarate ran through opponents like a bantamweight buzzsaw, the most destructive force at 118-pounds in history.
Alongside fellow great, Ruben Olivares, Zarate owns the distinction of being only one of two fighters in the history of boxing to have two streaks of 20 or more knockout victories in a row.
Notable victories for Zarate include wins over Rodolfo Martinez to capture the WBC Bantamweight Title in 1976 followed by nine successful title defenses, a technical knockout over then-unbeaten WBA Titleist Alfonso Zamora in a non-title affair, and future champion Alberto Davila. He eventually succumbed to WBC champ Wilfredo Gomez in 1978.
Zarate left the sport in 1979 after a controversial loss to Lupe Pintor, but came back seven years later to work himself back into title contention. However, he could not capture gold again, losing to both Jeff Fenech and Daniel Zaragoza.
5) Juan Manuel Marquez
The modern-day Mexican warrior, Juan Manuel Marquez was a counterpunching antitype. He wasn’t your typical Mexican fighter, because his style didn’t consist of barreling forward like a brawler. Instead, Marquez employed a cerebral and highly technical style that involved deciphering an opponent’s tendencies and capitalizing on openings.
Under the tutelage of legendary boxing coach Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain, Marquez was the third member of the famed Mexican trio, which included former world champions Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales.
Marquez won alphabet titles at featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight, junior welterweight, and welterweight. Notable victories include wins over Orlando Salido, Barrera, Rocky Juarez, Joel Casamayor, Juan Diaz, and Mike Alvarado.
However, his most famous victory and rivalry have to be with Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao, whom he fought a whopping four times.
In 2012, Marquez came into his final fight with Pacquiao, looking for the pair’s first definitive win in their series. He knocked Pacquiao out cold in the sixth round with a counter right straight that laid “Pacman” out on the canvas, unconscious for minutes.
Just outside the top five: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Rafael Marquez, Jorge Arce, Miguel Canto, Vicente Saldivar, Ricardo Lopez.
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