Mexican legend Macias dies at 74
Raul “Raton” Macias was the first Mexican boxing idol. He died of cancer at 74 Monday. Photo / THE RING
To understand the impact Raul “Raton” Macias had on the Mexican people, think Ruben Olivares and then Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. after him. Only Macias, who died of cancer at 74 on Monday, was the first.
“He was the first real Mexican boxing idol,” said longtime boxing writer and publicist Ricardo Jimenez. “When he fought, everything in Mexico stopped. Still, even today, he’s probably one of the greatest idols in Mexico.”
Macias, raised in one of Mexico City’s tougest neighborhoods, wasn’t the brawler that Mexican and Mexican-American fans typically embrace. He was a boxer-puncher, a thinking man’s fighter who could win in many ways.
However, his combination of success in the ring (41-2, 25 knockouts), movie-star looks that would later lead him into acting and his man-of-the-people charm made him a favorite of even non-Mexicans in 1950s.
He filled arenas both in Mexico and in the United States, exclusively in California and Texas, states with many fans of Mexican descent. His fight against Nate Brooks in 1952 drew more than 50,000 to the main bullring in Mexico City.
He also had the good fortune to arrive at the advent of television. Mexicans could watch in their living rooms as their hero dominated his opponents.
“I remember he fought in the (1952) Olympics and, as the story went, he was robbed,” said Don Chargin, the longtime California promoter. “That made him a national hero in Mexico. And he could fight. He was good boxer, a hard puncher.
“I was there when he won the (NBA bantamweight) title against Chamrern Songkitrat of Thailand in San Francisco. That was a huge event.”
Macias was a prodigy. He started boxing at 11, following the lead of two older brothers; won the Mexican amateur junior flyweight title at 14; won the Mexican bantamweight title in only his ninth pro fight; and battered Brooks – the 1952 Olympic flyweight gold medalist – to win the North American bantamweight title at 20, which made him a household name.
Then, in his next fight, he put Songkitrat down four times before stopping him in the 11th round at the Cow Palace in San Francisco to win the vacant NBA bantamweight title. Afterward, fans overflowing with joy carried Macias away on their shoulders.
“After that, every boxer in Mexico idolized him,” Chargin said.
Macias went on to lose only twice, a third-round knockout to Billy Peacock at the old Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles in 1955 in which his jaw was broken, and a split-decision to Alphonse Halimi in his only shot at an undisputed world title at L.A.’s Wrigley Field in 1957.
Less than two years later, he surprised his fans and the boxing world by announcing his retirement at only 24. He fought once more, on a benefit show in 1962, and never again stepped into a ring.
His professional career wasn’t long but he certainly made an enormous impact while it lasted, paving the way for so many Mexican stars to follow.
“I saw him at several conventions in later years,” Chargin said. “He always had a friendly handshake and a big smile. He was very, very well liked. And the fans never forgot him. Whenever he was introduced at major fights in Mexico, and even here in the U.S., he’d get a tremendous ovation.
“I was surprised when I heard he’d passed away, really saddened.”
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected] Please note the new email address