MEXICO CITY – With Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. looking to add another formidable chapter to the already expansive list of Mexican boxing rivalries, here are some of the most bellicose bouts between Mexicans that have gripped boxing fans throughout the history of the sport.
Francisco Vargas vs. Orlando Salido
June 4, 2016 at StubHub Center, Carson California
A year after ripping the spotlight away from Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto by delivering an amazing bout against Takashi Miura, Vargas faced Orlando Salido in Southern California. For 12 rounds, Salido, a 13-time loser in his pro career, went blow for blow with Vargas, a fighter who at the time had never lost.
Despite the lack of knockdowns, both fighters simultaneously doled out and endured punishment from the first to last bell. After 12 rounds, despite one favorable scorecard for Vargas, the fight ended in a majority draw decision. The bout later won Ring Magazine and ESPN.com Fight of the Year honors for 2016.
Rafael Marquez vs. Israel Vazquez
March 3, 2007 at Home Depot Center in Carson, California
Marquez, the younger brother of Juan Manuel Marquez and a former world champion in his own right, faced off against the versatile and punishing Vazquez four times between 2007 and 2010. The final tally would give each boxer two wins, and all but one fight would end in a knockout.
Billed as a local battle between two fighters born in Mexico City, the initial rivalry match sparked a quartet of fights. Though both the second and third bouts between Marquez and Vazquez would deliver Fight of the Year statuses, none was more dramatic than the first fight.
After a first-round flurry which ended in Marquez breaking Vazquez's nose, the fight dragged on for six more episodes, despite Vazquez dramatically lobbying trainer Freddy Roach to quit after the fifth round. The eventual Marquez knockout set up the next three fights, including their last bout in 2010, which ended Vazquez's career.
Carlos Zarate vs. Alfonso Zamora
April 23, 1977 at the Forum in Los Angeles
A 1977 matchup in Inglewood between Zarate and Zamora, both hailing from Mexico City, was anticipated as one of the most potentially explosive bouts up to that time due to their reputations as power punchers and supreme finishers. Coming into the fight, all but one of the fights Zamora and Zarate previously had contested ended in a knockout, and both fighters were undefeated.
Zarate quickly established himself as the dominant fighter, sporting a reach and height advantage that was difficult to overcome. The fight ended dramatically, with Zarate knocking Zamora out after four rounds and Zamora's father entering the ring to confront trainer Cuyo Hernandez, who at one time managed both fighters during their careers.
“You're a liar and a cheat,” Zamora's father was quoted as saying to Hernandez, after accusing the trainer of spiking Zarate's gloves with an irritant. Though Zarate would go on to compete for more than a decade following the bout, Zamora's career was irrevocably damaged, and the former champion would box only seven more times at the professional level, losing three more times and retiring at the age of 26.
Erik Morales vs. Marco Antonio Barrera
February 19, 2000 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada
The three-episode war between Mexico City's Barrera and Tijuana's Morales epitomized the rivalry between two of the country's boxing meccas. "Barrera is from Mexico City, and the people there think they're better than everyone else," said Ricardo Jimenez, a boxing promoter for Top Rank. That characterization, however, was disputed by Barrera himself, who said he was treated badly in Tijuana when he lived there earlier in his career.
At their first bout in Las Vegas, Morales eked out a majority decision, prompting jeers from Barrera's camp after and calls for a rematch. The bout was named Fight of the Year by Ring Magazine in 2000 and later made the cut for HBO's Fights of the Decade series. Noted for its non-stop action and alternating flurries throughout, Rounds 5 and 9 were singled out as some of the best for either fighter in their illustrious careers.
A win for Barrera in their second match created the opportunity for a rubber match, one that in 2004, would again be named Fight of the Year and make the highlight reels for all-time bouts. Despite both fighters having since retired, Morales confirmed in a tweet that a fourth fight would happen, with the two boxers now in their 40s.
— Erik Morales® (@terrible100) March 27, 2017
Jesus "Chucho" Castillo vs. Ruben "Puas" Olivares
October 16, 1970 at the Forum in Los Angeles
When Jesus Castillo passed away in 2013, his longtime rival Ruben Olivares recalled him with a curious mix of aggressive flattery. “Chucho was a tough [expletive],” Olivares told La Jornada. “We've lost a real warrior,” Olivares continued. “We faced each other three times, and each fight was so tough because [he] was such a strong puncher.”
All three bouts would be held at the Forum in Inglewood, each with growing anticipation. In the days of 15-round fights, Olivares and Castillo went the distance the first time, with Olivares winning. Castillo, then an underdog, surprised those in attendance with his performance, prompting a rematch.
Castillo dominated the second fight, knocking Olivares out and taking his undefeated record away just six months after their initial tangle. Almost a year to the day of their first bout, Olivares and Castillo settled their score once and for all – with a unanimous decision in favor of Olivares, in a bout that unified the WBC and WBA world bantamweight titles.