On this date in 1862, a Mexican army led by General Ignacio Zaragoza and composed largely of poorly armed campesinos routed a much larger, better equipped French invasion force. Contrary to what a lot of office working gringos sipping margaritas at strip bar, chain restaurants are likely to tell you today, Cinco De Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day. But it is a holiday that stands as an enduring testament to the heroic Mexican fighting spirit.
In honor of the Holiday and in advance of Saul Alvarez’s pay-per-view clash with Amir Khan this weekend, I offer my own take on the top five Mexican fighters of all time.
5. Salvador Sanchez It’s tempting to rate him higher here. If he had died tragically in a car accident at 23 he would almost certainly top this list. Compiled a record of 44-1-1 with 32 KOs. He was a sublime boxer-puncher who dominated the featherweight division in his brief career.
4. Ruben Olivares Olivares is one of two bantamweights on this list, both of who rank at the top of the 118-pound division’s all-time elite. Olivares was undefeated as a bantamweight until far into his career, when he lost his undisputed title to the great Chucho Castillo. It was a loss he avenged.
3. Juan Manuel Marquez Marquez was an aggressive counter puncher and one of the great ring generals of all time. He will forever be remembered for his rivalry with Manny Pacquiao, the greatest boxing rivalry of this century to date. Marquez triumphed decisively in the fourth and final fight, knocking Pacquiao out in Round 6. I thought he deserved to win the second and third fights, as well.
2. Carlos Zarate Arguably the greatest bantamweight of all time, he was a ferociously dangerous puncher. Compiled a career record of 66-4 with 63 KOs. Only one of those four losses came at bantamweight, by contested spit decision to Lupe Pinto, after he had already campaigned at super bantamweight.
1. Julio Cesar Chavez One of the great, multi-division fighters of the 1980s and 1990s. Chavez was a ferocious, come-forward fighter. He had a granite chin, unyielding will and thudding, concussive punching power. A brutal body puncher, Chavez was a world champion at 130, 135 and 140 pound and never lost at 140 or lower. His career record was 107-6-2 with 86 KOs.