The last two decades of boxing have given us some great Mexican boxing champions: Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Oscar de la Hoya (he’s Mexican-American but we’ll claim him). You’re probably reading this and thinking, “WHERE IS JULIO CÉSAR CHÁVEZ?!” Hey, slow down, I’m getting there. No disrespect to these other fighters, but Chávez was on a completely different level.
Julio César Chávez, one of the best to have ever put on a pair of boxing gloves, didn’t lose (or get knocked down for that matter) until his 90th fight. Let that sink in a little bit…the man won eighty-nine professional fights in a row without ever losing. He beat notable opponents like Roger Mayweather, Pernell Whitaker, Edwin Rosario, and Hector “Macho” Camacho. Chávez is best remembered, however, for the March 1990 mega-fight, where he put up his WBC Welterweight Title up against the IBF Welterweight Champion (and also undefeated) Meldrick Taylor. Chávez beat Taylor by a controversial TKO stoppage that was named Ring Magazine’s “Fight of the Decade.”
While Chávez’s place in boxing history can’t be disputed (many boxing historians place him in the top-25 of all-time, not bad at all), he is widely regarded as the best Mexican fighter to ever step into the ring. Similar to how basketball fans are waiting for the next Michael Jordan, Mexican boxing fans are waiting for the next Julio César Chávez. Sure other great, recent Mexican boxers have provided some great memories, but none of them, for one reason or another, were able to reach Chávez’s status.
Enter a 20-year old kid (born only a few months after Chávez’s historic victory over Taylor) from Guadalajara, by the name of Saúl ‘Canelo’ Álvarez. Nicknamed ‘Canelo’ for his cinnamon-red hair, the kid that left adolescence less than a year ago has already won 36 professional bouts, with one draw and zero defeats. His combination of power, footwork, humility, and the devastating body punch that has made Mexican fighters notorious, has endeared him to Mexican boxing fans, seemingly overnight.
Although Álvarez still has a long way to go until he’s considered one of the best current pound-for-pound fighters, his promise cannot be ignored. He already has the WBC Junior Middleweight Title to his name, and if he continues to improve he’ll also have many more belts in different weight classes. I still remember the first time I saw Oscar de la Hoya fight in 1995, when he decimated what was a very good Rafa Ruelas.
As they interviewed de la Hoya, my Tío Juan said to me, “Remember that name m’ijo, Oscar de la Hoya, he’s gonna be one of the greats.” He was right, so let me pull a Tío Juan on y’all: remember the name Saúl ‘Canelo’ Álvarez, he’s gonna be one of the greats. And, who knows, maybe in 15 years we’ll be comparing him to Julio César Chávez, the greatest Mexican boxer that ever lived (sorry Julio César Chávez Jr.).
Note: Canelo Álvarez puts his WBC Junior Middleweight Title on the line against Ryan Rhodes June 18 on HBO from Guadalajara, Mexico.