Best I’ve Faced: Orlando Canizales
Throughout his career, Orlando Canizales was never the biggest puncher, best boxer, guy with the best skill set or blessed with blinding speed, but the sum total of his abilities combined made him one of the best fighters in the world in the late 1980s and early 90s.
Canizales would go an impressive 108-12 in the amateurs, though surprisingly he never won a national title. He turned pro in 1984 and two years into his career, fighting as a flyweight, he lost his undefeated record to Paul Gonzales via wide unanimous decision despite dropping the Olympic gold medalist in the third round.
A couple of years later, after several rebuilding fights the Lone Star state prodigy had moved up to bantamweight. He was to follow in his brother Gaby’s footsteps by becoming a world champion, stopping Kelvin Seabrooks in the 15th round to become the IBF bantamweight titleholder.
All told, Canizales would make a division record 16 title defenses (with one no-contest), reigning for six and a half years. He successfully turned back the challenges of, among others, Billy Hardy (SD 12, TKO 8), Gonzales (KO 2), Bones Adams (TKO 11) and Gerardo Martinez (KO 4). Canizales fought in several locations around the U.S. and also headed overseas, defending his belt in France and South Africa.
With no obvious challenges left, Canizales vacated his title and opted to head four pounds north, where in early 1995 he met Wilfredo Vazquez and lost a close split decision.
Though he was to remain active for the better part of five more years, the magic that he produced at 118 wasn’t quite there. In 1996 he lost a split decision to former WBA bantamweight champion Junior Jones, who would win the WBO title against Marco Antonio Barrera three fights later.
Canizales had always wanted to fight Jones in his prime, when both held titles at bantamweight, but it never came to fruition.
“It happened but I wish it happened earlier in my career,” Canizales told RingTV.com. “It happened at 122. I wish it could have happened at 118. Also Luisito Espinosa, the Filipino guy who was the WBA (bantamweight) champion (from 1989-91), that was one that never happened.”
Unable to get a second title opportunity and his best years behind him, the Texan retired after losing to future featherweight titlist Frankie Toledo in the fall of 1999, with a record of 50-5-1 with 37 wins inside the distance.
Looking back on his career he fondly remembers a couple of key moments as his best nights in boxing.
“It has to be when I won the title, when I broke the record for most defenses, those are all great fights,” he said.
The biggest disappointment of his record-breaking career? “When I moved up in weight and challenged Wilfredo Vazquez (Sr.) for the WBA 122-pound title. I came up short, losing a split decision. That’s one fight that’s always in the back of my mind and wish it was a little different now.”
His achievements were recognized by The International Boxing Hall of Fame, who inducted him in 2009.
Today the 49-year-old pride of Laredo still lives in his hometown.
“Boxing is my life,” said the humble Texan. “I enjoy boxing and I like working with kids and that’s what I do, I train kids.”
RingTV.com caught up with Canizales and spoke with him about who he sees as the best he faced in 10 key categories.
Best Skills – Junior Jones: I would have to say Junior Jones. He was taller, he was strong, he was a good boxer, he had fast hands, he had good speed and he was a very smart fighter. Wilfredo Vazquez was also a smart fighter, a good puncher, a smart fighter, very difficult to fight.
Best Jab – Jones: Of all the fighters I fought, Junior Jones had the best jab. He was real quick, he had a strong jab.
Best Defense – Wilfredo Vazquez Sr.: He was a smart fighter and he was a good defensive fighter as well.
Best Chin – Francisco Alvarez: I hit him with everything. I hit him with good shots and thought he was going down but he never went down. He took a lot of shots. He was the toughest guy I ever fought. (Canizales won a near-shutout decision over Alvarez in 1992.)
Best Puncher – Vazquez: I would say Wilfredo Vazquez. We fought at 122. Of all the fighters he was the strongest puncher I ever fought. I was down twice [in my career], once in one of my early fights when I fought for the NABF title against Armando Velasco – he dropped me, I got up and I stopped him. I fought Alonzo Gonzalez in San Jose, California – he dropped me. It was a quick knockdown, but I got up and won a 10-round decision.
Hand Speed – Jones: He had good speed. He was a little bit taller, long reach, and it was difficult because of his reach and speed.
Fastest Feet – That’s a good one, that’s a real tough one. I can’t think of one particular person that comes to mind.
Smartest – Jones and Vazquez: It’s hard to pinpoint one guy who’s the smartest fighter but I guess two guys who come to mind are Junior Jones and Wilfredo Vazquez Sr.
Strongest – Vazquez: Well I guess I felt the difference moving up in weight. It felt a little different but of all the guys he was the strongest.
Best Overall – Vazquez: It’s hard to pinpoint one fighter. I fought several guys who were real tough fighters but two guys come to mind: Junior Jones and Wilfredo Vazquez. If I had to pick one I’d say Wilfredo Vazquez. They were hard punchers and they were difficult styles of fighters. Junior Jones was a little bit taller than me and was fast – he had fast hands and, as I say, he was a good puncher.
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