Carlos Zarate looks back at Mexican-Puerto Rican rivalry
Carlos Zarate was involved in one of the biggest Mexico-Puerto Rico duels ever when he met Wilfredo Gomez on Oct. 28, 1978.
The eagerly anticipated match up saw Zarate move from 118 pounds to 122 pounds and travel to Puerto Rico to face WBC titlist Gomez. Gomez won the battle of the unbeatens, stopping Zarate in the fifth round.
Zarate, now 64, is looking forward to the latest chapter in the heated rivalry when RING middleweight champion Miguel Cotto faces Canelo Alvarez on Saturday night.
“As a Mexican, I’m going for Canelo,” Zarate told RingTV.com through Nancy Rodriguez, “but I don’t discount Cotto. It’s going to be a dangerous fight for both of them. Canelo’s youth and power can be the advantage to beating Cotto but then Cotto has the experience. He has the great team behind him but he has also been hit a lot.”
Much has been made of the rivalry but, according to Zarate, it’s a good one: “It’s a healthy rivalry; it’s those rivalries that bring in the crowds, the hardcore fans.”
During his Hall of Fame career, Zarate fought two Puerto Ricans, winning one and losing one.
“In my record, I’m 1-1,” he said. “Wilfredo (Gomez) beat me and I beat (Andres) Puppy Hernandez.
“For me, it’s worse (taking) the loss. I can’t get over that loss because it is that rivalry; it was very important for me to win that fight. It hurts me more because I was very sick in the preparation for that fight. I took a knee and still got hit. They had all the advantages to win that fight.”
It’s still something that appears to rankle the mild-mannered Mexico City resident but does he feel things would have been different had he been healthy?
“I wouldn’t have had an excuse,” he explained. “I wouldn’t have said, ‘I was sick.’ I would have said, ‘The better man won,’ but, in this case, I have this thing, saying, ‘ didn’t feel good; I wasn’t doing good.’ That’s always something I’m always going to have in the back of my head.”
Almost three years after Zarate had lost to Gomez, the Puerto Rican stepped up in weight and fought another Mexican legend, the late, great Salvador Sanchez. This time Mexico won. Sanchez scored an eighth round stoppage.
When asked about if this was revenge, Zarate emphatically says with a chuckle: “I don’t know what to call it. I don’t know if it was revenge but I LOVED it.”