Mexican Battles in the Super Featherweight Division

This weekend Miguel Berchelt and Oscar Valdez will battle for the WBC World Super Featherweight Title. When these two Mexican fighters get together, we should expect fireworks. The super featherweight division has had their share of Mexican battles in the past. Here’s a look at four of those encounters which impacted that division.

9/13/1984-Julio Cesar Chavez TKO 8 Mario Martinez, Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, WBC World Super Featherweight Title

The Olympic Auditorium has a rich boxing history dating back to the 1920s. One of the most memorable battles that took place there in the 1980s was between Julio Cesar Chavez and Mario “Azabache” Martinez. The fighters were battling for the vacant WBC World Super Featherweight Title. The title was vacated by Hector “Macho” Camacho, who decided to move up to the lightweight division. Before Chavez became a legend that we know him for, he was unknown at this time. Chavez had a glossy record of 41-0, 37 KO’s coming into the fight, but his record was questionable. There were no notable wins or anybody on his resume that really stood out. For Martinez, he had a record of 28-1-1, 26 KO’s. Before the Chavez fight, he had two notable wins. He stopped former world title challenger Roberto Castanon and former world champion Rolando Navarette. Martinez was rated number one by the WBC, and Chavez was rated number two. It was a good opportunity for each fighter to see who would become the new world WBC champion.

As the fight started out for round one, Martinez was the busier fighter of the two and put the pressure on Chavez. As in typical Chavez fashion, he started slowly to study his opponent. Both fighters opened up in rounds two and three. They exchanged furious punches, and it turned into a slugfest. Martinez was busier and had Chavez on the ropes. However, Chavez was landing his punches as well. In rounds four and five, Chavez held his ground more, and both fighters exchanged hook shots in the middle of the ring. In round five, Chavez landed a hard right hand on Martinez that wobbled him. Chavez would change the momentum of the fight. In round six, Chavez kept landing rights, and Martinez was starting to feel the effects of the punches more. There was still no quit in Martinez, though. A bloodied Martinez gave everything he got and traded with the JC superstar. Both fighters traded furiously once again. Both fighters continued their onslaught in round eight. Towards the end of the round, Martinez was tired. Chavez put some hard punches together, and Martinez was hurt once again. The referee stopped the fight at the end of the eighth round.

Chavez won the world title, and a legend was born. He would make nine more title defenses of the title and became one of the best fighters in the super featherweight division. Of course, the rest is history, and Chavez is considered the best fighter from Mexico. Martinez would get two more title shots at super featherweight but was unsuccessful twice in losing to Azumah Nelson.

11/27/2004-Marco Antonio Barrera MD 12 Erik Morales III, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, WBC World Super Featherweight Title

As Julio Cesar Chavez’s career came to an end, the question was: Who will be the next great fighter from Mexico? The two fighters battling for that spot were Marco “The Baby Faced Assassin” Antonio Barrera and Erik “Terrible’’ Morales. Their rivalry will be one for the ages and among the best, we have ever seen. Their first fight was named Fight of the Year by Ring Magazine in 2000. It took place at super bantamweight, and Morales won by split decision. Most fans believed Barrera deserved the nod in a close fight. The rematch was fought at featherweight; Barrera got revenge and won by unanimous decision in 2002. Another close fight, in which a few observers thought Morales should have won. In the end, it was two entertaining battles that deserved a third fight, and we needed a clear winner. This time the fight was contested in the super featherweight division. It was the second title defense of the WBC belt for Morales. Going to the fight, Morales was the favorite even though it was more of an even fight on paper. This was due to the fact that Barrera had suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of Manny Pacquiao one year earlier. There were some doubts about Barrera. Morales, on the other hand, had a good run of wins and had not lost since the second fight from Barrera. Going into the fight, Barrera had a record of 58-4, 41 KO’s, and Morales had a record of 47-1, 34 KO’s.

Both Mexican warriors picked up where they left off once the fight started. In the opening round, Morales landed a left hook to the body of Barrera and followed it up with a left uppercut. Barrera got his jab going and started to land combinations to the head and body of Morales. At one point, Morales looked at Barrera in awe after the combination landed on him. Both fighters traded shots in round two. Barrera landed a right hand, followed by a left uppercut that landed on the nose of Morales. In rounds three, four, and five, Barrera landed combinations to the body and head of Morales. Every time Barrera would land something good, Morales always fired back with punches of his own. In round six, Barrera landed a left hook that stunned Morales. Just when it seemed Morales was going to fade, he came back strong in the seventh and eighth rounds. Barrera fought back in spots, but it seemed that he took the rounds off. In rounds nine and ten, Barrera started to rip left hooks again to the body and head of Morales. Then round eleven came. Both fighters traded and landed their best shots on each other. Both fighters wanted to make a statement, and it made for one hell of a round. As Jim Lampley stated: “It’s a street fight in Las Vegas for the two greatest Mexican fighters of their generation.” In the final round, as both fighters exchanged, Morales landed a right hand that got Barrera off-balanced, but Barrera did not go down. Both warriors traded savagely until the final bell.

In the end, Barrera would win the fight by majority decision and the trilogy against Erik Morales. This fight had it all—intense exchanges with a combination of skill. The fight was awarded the Fight of the Year by Ring Magazine for 2004, and round eleven was awarded Round of the Year by Ring Magazine. These two Hall of Famers were made for each other and will always be linked to each other. They are also recognized as two of the best fighters from Mexico.

3-17-2007-Juan Manuel Marquez UD 12 Marco Antonio Barrera, Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, WBC World Super Featherweight Title

Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales were battling each other to see who the best Mexican fighter was. One fighter that was overshadowed during those days was Juan Manuel Marquez. Prior to the fight, poor management and poor decisions set Marquez’s career back. Marquez just drew with Manny Pacquiao in 2004, in which many observers felt Marquez did enough to win the fight. A rematch should have happened immediately, but it didn’t. Instead, Marquez took a fight for lower money and went to enemy territory in Indonesia to challenge the undefeated Chris John in 2006. It was a competitive fight, but one that Marquez should have been awarded the victory. However, John got the decision in his hometown. Marquez almost seemed forgotten, but he bounced back with two knockout victories. This set up the anticipated matchup between Marquez and Barrera at super featherweight. Barrera was making the fifth defense of his WBC title. For Marquez, this was a chance for him to have a signature win against his fellow countrymen. Going into the fight, Marquez was the slight favorite to win the fight, but on fight night, the odds were even.

The fighters were mirror images of themselves. In the opening round, both fighters landed counter punches on each other. Barrera did well in round two. He got his jab going and started to land left hooks on Marquez. Barrera also did a great job of making Marquez miss punches. In rounds three and four, Marquez opened up more, but Barrera was still out, landing him. Marquez came back in round five. He started to figure out Barrera more and landed his share of combinations. In round six, Barrera was more aggressive. Marquez countered well in the round. Round seven is where things would get more heated. Halfway through the round, Marquez landed a right hand that stunned Barrera. Barrera fought gamely, but Marquez did not let him off the hook. Marquez ripped straight hands and uppercuts that added more punishment to Barrera. Just when Marquez had his way, Barrera landed a nice right hand that dropped Marquez at the end of the round. Barrera made the mistake of hitting Marquez while he was down, which cause referee Jay Nady to deduct a point off Barrera. Jay Nady made a mistake and missed the knockdown. In rounds eight and nine, Barrera was able to clear his head and got back in the fight. Both fighters exchanged punches, and both had their moments. Rounds ten and eleven were big rounds for Marquez as Barrera was more tired. Marquez was able to land punches to the body and head of Barrera. In the final round, the fight could only end in one way. Both fighters exchanged punches to the final bell.

Marquez won the fight by unanimous decision by wide scores. The fight was a lot closer than what the judges had it. Barrera deserved more respect than that. Sadly, the fight only generated 225,000 PPV buys and was overshadowed by the Mayweather/De La Hoya fight two months later. The fans that were in attendance or saw the fight on TV knew better. They were treated to a special fight between Mexico’s two best technicians of the game. Barrera would never win a world title again after this defeat, but he stamped himself as one of the best fighters from Mexico. As for Marquez, his legacy was just getting started, and in the end, he would also be one of the best fighters from Mexico as well.

6-4-2016-Francisco Vargas D 12 Orlando Salido, SubHub Center, Carson, California, WBC World Super Featherweight Title

If you were looking for the Mexican version of the Gatti/Ward fight, Orlando Salido vs. Francisco Vargas was it. Francisco “El Bandido” Vargas represented Mexico in the 2008 Olympic Games and became pro two years later in 2010. After moving up the super featherweight rankings, he got his title shot for the WBC belt in 2015 against the tough Takashi Miura. Not only did Vargas show he was a good boxer-puncher, but he was an exciting action fighter. The fight with Miura was fierce, and Vargas stopped Miura in the ninth round. The fight was awarded the Fight of the Year by Ring Magazine for 2015. The undefeated Vargas (23-0-1, 17KO’s) did not step back for his first defense of the title; he went against Orlando “Siri” Salido. At the time of the fight, Salido’s record was 42-13-3, 29 KO’s; however, don’t let the record fool you. Salido started his pro career early and had many early losses. He basically learned on the job. Once his career got going, he only lost to the best fighters by decision. Prior to the Vargas fight, he previously upset Juan Manuel Lopez (twice), and he was the first fighter to defeat Vasyl Lomachenko. One more thing, he was an all-action fighter too. So, you can imagine the hype once the Salido and Vargas were announced.

From the start of the fight, both fighters got to a quick start. They traded shots close like they were fighting in a phone booth. Neither fighter was backing down. The pace continued in the second round. Vargas was trying to bully Salido, but Salido stayed strong and fought back. In round three, Salido had his moments. He put pressure on Vargas and landed some good body shots. Salido continued the attack in round four and went to the body of Vargas some more. In round five, both fighters took turns and exchanged punches at close quarters. It was a furious pace, and it was hard to imagine that the fight would go to the distance. In round six, Vargas landed a right hook to the head of Salido that stunned him. Vargas followed it up with a right uppercut as Salido tried to hold on. Vargas went for the finish, and Salido survived. Salido came back in round seven and exchanged with Vargas again. Salido had a strong eighth round. He hurt Vargas with a right uppercut and then followed it up with some right hands. In rounds nine and ten, Vargas started to work his left jab and boxed well, but that was short-lived. Both fighters traded again. Round eleven and the final round were the same—more furious action back and forth in the most violent way. Once the bell sounded, both fighters should have been awarded a victory for their display of heart and guts.

The decision was ruled a split draw, and Vargas kept his title. I don’t think there were many complaints of the verdict. It was one of those fights where you hated to see a loser and appreciated what the fighters provided to the fans. The fight was awarded the Fight of the Year by Ring Magazine for 2016. For the second time in a roll, Vargas received the fight of the year honors. Even though the fight called for a rematch, it never happened. This would be the last great performance from Salido. He would fight two more times in 2017, and he lost his last fight to Miguel Roman. Vargas would lose his title in his next defense against Miguel Berchelt in 2017. Vargas was unsuccessful in regaining the title with his rematch with Berchelt in 2019. The Orlando Salido and Francisco Vargas fight will be remembered as one of the all-time classics.