Cinco de Mayo Weekend has become a kind of annual boxing holiday. Credit for that goes to the Mexican fans, perhaps the most passionate on the planet. The Sweet Science enjoys a special place in their culture, and their ring warriors receive an extra level of respect.
This weekend, Mexico’s biggest current boxing star, Saul Alvarez, will face the son of the greatest Mexican star of all time, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. It’s a major event, to be sure, and could end up being an exciting fight. But Canelo and Jr. will have their work cut out for them to match the great all-Mexican rivalries from history.
In honor of the event, here are the top three:
Rafael Marquez vs. Israel Vazquez
Israel Vazquez was the recognized lineal super bantamweight champion when he faced Rafael Marquez for the first time in March 2007. Marquez was moving up in class, having held the IBF version of the bantamweight crown for four years. The challenger broke Vazquez’s nose in Round 1 and then climbed off from the canvas and survived the third on wobbly legs. Vazquez was finally forced to quit in his corner following Round 7. The rematch six months later was another slugfest, with both men badly bloodied. Vazquez evened the score by stopping Marquez in Round 6. The rubbermatch was yet another war, with Vazquez earning a split-decision victory. Marquez stopped Vazquez in Round 3 of a fourth fight in 2010. Both the second and third fights between these two were Ring Magazine Fights of the Year.
Ruben Olivares vs. Jesus “Chucho” Castillo
By 1970, Ruben Olivares had already established himself as Mexican boxing legend. The charismatic star was the undisputed, lineal bantamweight champion, with a record of 57-0-1 and 53 KOs. But Chucho Castillo was about to become his greatest rival. Olivares had to climb off the canvas to win a decision over Castillo in their first fight in April 1970. Six months later Castillo cut Olivares early in their rematch and stopped him in Round 14, to hand the superstar his first defeat. Olivares reclaimed his title by decision in the rubbermatch, in April 1971.
Erik Morales vs. Marco Antonio Barrera
Marco Antonio Barrera was known as “The Baby Faced Assasin.” He represented Mexico City, the nation’s political and cultural capital. By contrast, Erik “El Terrible” Morales, hailed from Tijuana, a poorer city with a perpetual chip on its shoulder. The city rivalry rested at the bottom of this boxing rivalry that absorbed the attention of the boxing world at the turn of this century. Morales was undefeated when they met for the first time February 2000, and he stayed that way, winning a narrow split decision, fought at a relentless pace. But Barrera handed Morales his first loss in the June 2002 rematch, becoming the lineal featherweight champion in the process. Barrera won the rubbermatch by majority decision. Both the first and third fight were Ring Fights of the Year. All three fights were non-stop action, with only a razor margin separating them across the rivalry.