Who is the greatest ever Mexican fighter: Ruben Olivares? Salvador Sanchez? Carlos Zarate? Miguel Canto? Juan Manuel Marquez? Erik Morales? Marco Antonio Barrera? Ricardo Lopez?
No, top of the list, above all this incredible talent, is the man who was born today in 1962 and went on to record an astonishing 107-6-2(86) pro record – the mighty, the incomparable Julio Cesar Chavez. Simply unbeatable in his prime years – 1984 to 1993 – Chavez tore through the super-featherweight, lightweight and super-lightweight divisions, capturing world titles in each weight class and retaining them for a substantial amount of time. Among the fine fighters Chavez defeated: Mario Martinez, Ruben Castillo, Roger Mayweather, Rocky Lockridge, Edwin Rosario, Jose Luis Ramirez, Meldrick Taylor and Hector Camacho.
Chavez didn’t just beat these fighters, he ruined them. The sublime Taylor for instance, was never, ever the same force again after his epic, unforgettable battle with the man dubbed “J.S Superstar.” The March 1990 fight did see Chavez come closer to defeat than at any other point in his career at that time, but the sheer damage Chavez did to Taylor before the infamous last-round, last-two-seconds stoppage more than proved who was winning the fight. Taylor was winning the points and his sheer guts along with his sheer class proved more than admirable, but Chavez had passed the ultimate test and he was now an incredible 69-0.
For a time it really did look as though Chavez would realise his dream of reaching the perfect record of 100-0; a quite unthinkable ledger for a modern day boxer. Only the slick cuteness of Pernell Whitaker, in THAT draw in 1993 prevented Chavez from reaching numbers that would likely have surpassed Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record as the most cherished in the sport. Chavez lost that day at the Alamodome, even if he has never admitted it, but one bad performance – against as tricky and as awkward a defensive fighter you could care to mention – does not rub out all the great fights and victories that came before.
Chavez fought on, and it was just three fights later when big underdog Frankie Randall made it official and took away the Mexican idol’s unbeaten record. Chavez was knocked down for the first time in his life against Randall in early 1994, a sign that his best days had passed him. Chavez of course, had been fighting for 14 long years at this point, a time in a career when many fighters would have been looking at the exit door. Indeed, imagine if Chavez had retired after the win over Taylor, or shortly thereafter – would he be ranked even higher the world over than he is today? Sometimes it is how you go out in boxing.
But Chavez, as natural a born fighting man as anyone you could point a finger at, fought on; winning the return with Randall (under controversial means it must be said) and continuing to defend his belt until he ran into the new superstar of the sport in Oscar De La Hoya. Chavez never got to 100-0, but he did have well over a 100 fights; winning most of them. He went on too long of course, losing his final fight in 2005, but Chavez has a special place in boxing history that no man will ever likely take from him: the distinction of being the greatest fighter his great country ever produced.
This honour, this distinction means more to Chavez than a shiny 100-0 record ever could.
Happy birthday, Julio!