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The Greatest Mexican Boxers Of All-Time And Why Canelo Is #1

As we head into the start of the most exciting part of the boxing schedule for the start of the year in which we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel for Canelo Alvarez’s return to the ring, it is only right – we try to look at where the current pound-for-pound number one fighter in the world stacks up against the very best from Mexico all-time.

01) Saul “Canelo” Alvarez

Accomplishments: Nine-time world champion, winning belts from light middleweight, middleweight, super middleweight, and light heavyweight. The undisputed super middleweight champion by the end of 2021, and the biggest star in boxing since Floyd Mayweather retired. His lone career loss is to Floyd Mayweather, though some will questions his wins over Gennady Golovkin as well, but one thing you can’t question is Canelo is one of the most accomplished boxers in the history of the sport.

Title Wins and Record: Matthew Hatton (WBC 154 lbs), Austin Trout (WBA 154 lbs), Miguel Cotto (WBC 160 lbs.), Liam Smith (WBO 160 lbs.), Gennady Golovkin (WBA, WBO, and IBF 160 lbs.), Rocky Fielding (WBA 168 lbs.), Sergey Kovalev (WBO 175 lbs.), Callum Smith (WBA & WBC 168 lbs), Billy Joe Saunders (WBO 168 lbs.), and Caleb Plant (IBF 168 lbs.)

World title record 17-1-1, 10 KOs.

Criticism: Canelo was always the marquee big draw, and got the benefit the doubt in close fights such as his bout with Austin Trout, and two bouts with Gennady Golovkin. Canelo also has a drug test failure which should be noted. That being said – Canelo is the best and the golden standard of Mexican boxing moving forward.

02) Julio Cesar Chavez

Accomplishments: A six-time world champion across three weight classes. A Mexican boxing icon, largely responsible for what people think of as “Mexican-style” boxing, as he was a come forward pressure fighter with high volume. One of the most feared fighters of his era – a true legend. Power, speed and beyond that flat-out crazy. He made it cool to be a Mexican boxer, and truly was the first Mexican boxer to put the country of Mexico on a world stage in boxing.

Title Wins and Record: Mario Martinez (WBC 130 lbs) Edwin Rosario (WBA 135 lbs), Jose Luis Ramirez (WBC 135 lbs), Roger Mayweather (WBC 140 lbs), Meldrick Taylor (IBF 140 lbs), Frankie Randall (WBC 140 lbs)

Chavez’s record in world title fights is 31-4-2, 21 KOs.

Criticism: A lot of Chavez’s fights were on his term. Early in his career legend has it he was supposed to be DQ’ed, but the decision got overturned, his fight against Pernell Whittaker was ruled a draw, when most feel it wasn’t, and the final seconds of Chavez vs. Meldrick Taylor, might have only happened in Chavez’s favor if he was Chavez or equal star. In short, despite being a legend, if you don’t like him, or want to poke holes in his resume, you can – but the guy was truly special in his prime.

03) Salvador Sanchez

Accomplishments: The 1981 Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year, might just be the best Mexican fighter ever, but sadly, a pre-mature death will make him one of boxing’s greatest what-ifs. With stoppage wins over legends Azumah Nelson, WBC featherweight champion Danny Lopez, and Wilfredo Gomez – Sanchez looked the part of an all-time great, yet sadly passed in a car accident at the age of 23-years-old. In terms of skill and talent, Sanchez might just be number one, but he never got to finish what he started.

He was only the second Mexican fighter to win the featherweight world title at the time with the first being Ruben Olivares. He stopped world champion Danny Lopez two times

Title Wins: Danny Lopez (WBC 126 lbs)

Sanchez’s record in world title fights 11-0, 5 KOs.

Criticism: The thing one can say is Sanchez didn’t get a chance to win belts in other weights and create legacy beyond what he accomplished.

04) Marco Antonio Barrera

Accomplishments: A three-weight world champion holding six belts in the process, and made eight straight world title defenses to begin his title run at 122 lbs. Barrera was a brawler, who evolved into a boxer, and got the best of Mexican legend Erik Morales winning two of the three bouts, Barrera also was the man to beat “Prince” Naseem Hamed, at his height, and got a win over Paulie Ayala, who beat Barrera’s good friend, Johnny Tapia.

Title Wins: Daniel Jimenez (WBO 122 lbs), Richie Watson (WBO 122 lbs), Erik Morales (WBC 126 lbs), Robbie Pendon (IBF 130 lbs), Erik Morales (WBC 130 lbs).

Barrera with a world title record of 22-4, 12 KOs.

Criticism: The end of Barrera’s career was rough. Finishing just 3-3, losing all of his major fights to Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Amir Khan.

05) Erik Morales

Accomplishments: Not unlike Julio Cesar Chavez it wasn’t just how Morales’ record it was his mentality. Morales hated his opponent and was a part of the greatest Mexican trilogy with Marco Antonio Barrera. Morales was all-action with at times reckless abandon. Morales also holds the notable win of beating Manny Pacquiao in Pacquiao’s rise to fame, despite losing in the rematch, and holds wins over Paulie Ayala, Junior Jones, and Wayne McCoulough amongst others.

Title Wins: Daniel Zaragoza (WBC 122 lbs), Marco Antonio Barrera (WBO 122 lbs), Guty Espadas Jr (WBC 126 lbs), Jesus Chavez ( WBC 130 lbs.), Carlos Hernandez (IBF 130 lbs), Pablo Cesar Cano (WBC 140 lbs).

Morales is 18-5 with 11 KOs in world title fights.

Criticism: Real down periods in his career. Morales was 1-4 with his one win being a win over Manny Pacquiao. Morales ended his career 1-3, with his win being over a young at the time Pablo Cesar Cano, as he lost twice to Danny Garcia, and once to Marcos Maidana. Morales, who had the most exciting style of them all had serious declines at points in his career, which could be accredited to such a physical and “tough guy” style of fighting.

06) Ricardo Lopez

Accomplishments: The greatest minimumweight fighter ever as he retired undefeated across 52 fights with only a lone draw that stands out. The biggest power puncher in the lower weight classes I had ever seen, and so exciting he ended up on PPV, despite being a weight class most people didn’t watch. Lopez won a title from each of the sanctioning bodies, and was the best fighter in his weight class of all-time and his era.

Title Wins: Hideyuki Ohashi (WBC 105 lbs), Alex Sanchez (WBO 105 lbs), Rosendo Alvarez (WBA 105 lbs), Will Grigsby (IBF 108 lbs).

His world title record is 25-0-1 with 19 KOs.

Criticism: Lopez stayed too long at a weight class that doesn’t have a lot of historical context. To get noticed at a strawweight or even flyweight you have be a historical great, and in the past fifteen years can you name one strawweight fighter? I doubt it….The issue some might have is Lopez never went after the “mega-fights” of his era leaving the weight class he felt comfortable in to pursue all-time great status in the sport, and not just his division.

07) Juan Manuel Marquez

Accomplishments: The most fundamentally sound boxer ever, by most people’s standards, and along with fellow Nacho Beristain trained fighter “Finito” Lopez was a traditional classical boxer, rather than a boxer-brawler Mexican fight fans were used to. Marquez was known for punching within the punches of his opponent, and really became famous for his fights with Pacquiao, as his fourth bout against the legendary fighter saw Marquez knockout Pacquiao. They first fought to a draw, Pacquiao won the rematch, and Pacquiao won a hotly debated trilogy bout, setting up a rare fourth fight.

Title Wins: Manuel Medina (IBF 126 lbs), Derrick Gainer (WBA 126 lbs), Terdsak Jandaeng (WBO 126), Marco Antonio Barrera (WBC 130 lbs), Juan Diaz (WBO and WBA 135 lbs), Serhii Fedchenko (WBO 140 lbs).

Marquez has a record of 9-5-1 with 3 KOs.

Criticism: The opposition. Marquez fought the greats Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Marco Antonio Barrera, but not having faced Erik Morales at one point, hurt him. Marquez style was not fan-frinedly as well, as he was a thinker in the ring, as well as Marquez was always in the shadow of Morales and Barrera until late in his career with his bout with Pacquiao and Mayweather. To put it bluntly, it felt like Marquez should have done more with all the talent he had despite being a hall-of-famer.

08) Ruben Olivares

Accomplishments: Considered one of the greatest bantamweights to have ever lived, Ruben Olivares was a precursor to the modern showman in Mexican boxing. Olivares was not afraid of his fans and Nigel Collins once wrote, “…he could party as hard as he could punch.” Not just was Olivares a great fighter, who is modern-type fight figure fighting in 70’s paving the way for the modern Mexican greats, and in many ways laid the path Julio Cesar Chavez who came after him.

Olivares is where the Mexican left hook to the body orginated from, at least to me.

Title Wins: Lionel Rose (WBA & WBC 118 lbs), Chucho Castillo (WBA & WBC 118 lbs), Zensuke Utagawa (WBA 126 lbs), Bobby Chacon (WBC 126 lbs)

Olivares was 10-6 with 6 KOs in world title fights.

Criticism: Focus. It seemed that he loved going out and having fun as much as training. His career went on about a decade longer than it should have, and he got dropped a lot for an elite fighter in his fights, especially at the world level.

09) Carlos Zarate

Accomplishments: Was a tremendous puncher, who had forward aggression and had a habit of getting buzzed. Zarate brought fight fans world-class fights with the drama of Morales vs. Barrera without winning most of them, years prior. Zarate along with his peer Ruben Olivares are known for being the only two professional boxers in history to put together two streaks of 20 or more knockout wins in a row, which got fans excited about both of their fights.

A highly influental fighter, who his style is still seen to this day. That said in another decade I am not sure if he stays on this list. When Zarate used his gifts of length, size and reach, he looked like Juan Manuel Marquez before Marquez, and when he exchanged too much he looked like Marquez when Marquez would get rocked in fights. Zarate’s career is hard to explain, but it was a good one.

Title Wins: Rodolfo Martinez (WBC 118 lbs)

Zarate is 10-4 with 10 KOs in world title fights.

Criticism: The guy who lost to all the guys. When looking at his record, when facing the truly great of his era Jeff Fenech and Wilfredo Gomez, he lost. Zarate truly lacks that huge win on his resume to say he should be at the top of the list.

10) Vicente Saldivar

Accomplishments: Possibly the most underrated Mexican fighter as he holds the most wins in unified featherweight title bouts as well as the longest unified featherweight championship reign in boxing history at 8 title bouts and 7 title defenses, a feat that has not been duplicated. Saldivar had a slow heart rate that allowed him to keep up a tremendous pace, along with a southpaw stance that was troubling for opponents.

Title Wins: Sugar Ramos (WBA & WBC 126 lbs), Johnny Famechon (WBC 126 lbs)

Saldivar was 9-2 with 5 KOs in world title fights

Criticism: It is hard to really fathom what Saldivar would look in the modern era as his feats were not that of Ray Robinson, in which you can guess he would adjust to the times. Some might question if his success was also based around how young the sport was at that time.

Honorable Mentions:

Israel Vazquez, Emanuel Navarrete, Oscar Valdez, Rodolfo Casanova, Miguel Canto, Albert Arizmendi,

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Lukie Ketelle

Lukie Ketelle