20-20 vision – The greatest fighter from Mexico: Julio Cesar Chavez
Most countries have produced at least one or two special boxers whose ring exploits have been etched permanently in our collective memory. That includes tiny nations like Puerto Rico and behemoths like the U.S. and Mexico, as well many in between.
In this feature, The Ring looks closely at 20 countries with strong boxing traditions and selects the best fighter from each.
The process wasn’t easy. First, we had to select the 20 countries, which proved to be painstaking. Some nations that have produced memorable fighters didn’t make the list. And, second, choosing a single boxer from the countries that did make the cut was easy in some cases – Panama, for example – but excruciating in others.
The countries will be rolled out in alphabetical order one day at a time at The Ring.
Notes: The “five more” listed at the bottom of each capsule were among other fighters in the discussion for each nation. … Some boxers lived in more than one country. We assigned each to the country where they spent their formative years. For example, a fighter who left one country as a small child was assigned to his second country.
JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ
Birthdate / place: July 12, 1962 / Ciudad Obregon, Sonora
Years active: 1980-2001; 2003-05
Record: 107-6-2 (85 KOs)
Major titles: WBC junior lightweight (1984-87), WBA lightweight (1987-89), RING and WBC lightweight (1988-89), WBC junior welterweight (1989-94; 1994-96), IBF junior welterweight (1990-91)
Greatest victories: Hector Camacho, Roger Mayweather (twice), Jose Luis Ramirez, Edwin Rosario, Meldrick Taylor (twice)
Background: JCC was bigger than boxing. Heck, he was bigger than life. He fought his way out of poverty to become the greatest boxer in his boxing-crazy country and a beloved icon of the Mexican people, who continue to revere him. His career reads like fiction. He won his first 87 fights, at which point he controversially drew with fellow Hall of Famer Pernell Whitaker. He won seven major titles in three weight classes. And, most important, he gave his fans one thrill after another over two glorious decades. Chavez wasn’t a one-punch knockout artist but he was a destroyer who could chase down almost any opponent nonetheless, as his 87 knockouts illustrate. He could box, he could punch (oh, those midsections he pulverized) and he might’ve had the greatest chin in the history of the sport. He had so many great moments. He stopped capable Mario Martinez to win his first title in 1984. Three fights later he knocked out Roger Mayweather for the first of two times. And the demolition continued regardless of the level of opposition. Perhaps his greatest moment came in March 1990, when, behind on the cards, he stopped Meldrick Taylor with 2 seconds remaining in their classic fight. He evolved that night from a great boxer to something beyond that – magician? – which cemented his place in the hearts of fans. Of course, the magic was destined to end. Frankie Randall would hand a 31-year-old Chavez his first loss, a split decision in 1994. And while he avenged that setback, his years of winning his biggest fights were behind him. He was bloodied and stopped by young star Oscar De La Hoya in a passing-of-the-torch fight in June 1996. And he was stopped again by De La Hoya two years later. He fought once more for a major title but lost to another young star, Kostya Tszyu, in 2000. Chavez would fight a few more times before finally stepping away. Few fighters in history have built a legacy of success in the ring combined with the ability to touch legions on a profound level outside it the way Chavez did.
Quote: “I wasn’t a fan of boxing, I was a fan of Julio Cesar Chavez. All of Mexico stopped to watch his fights. Old, young, left, right and center,” said Diego Luna, Mexican actor, director and producer.
Five more from Mexico (in alphabetical order): Canelo Alvarez, Juan Manuel Marquez, Ruben Olivares, Salvador Sanchez, Carlos Zarate
Next up: Panama
Ones you missed:
Argentina: Carlos Monzon
Australia: Jeff Fenech
Canada: Sam Langford
Cuba: Jose Napoles
France: Marcel Cerdan
Germany: Max Schmeling
Ghana: Azumah Nelson
Ireland: Barry McGuigan
Italy: Nino Benvenuti
Japan: Fighting Harada
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