The history of prominent Mexican boxing champions is rich and storied. In Mexico it’s hardly enough to be a great professional boxer, you must fight with the right style, showing the correct measures of ferocity and aggression in order to be heralded as a great. Over the last 20 years the lighter weight classes, typically below welterweight or 147 pounds, have been filled with Mexican champions. Here’s a look at the 10 best Mexican boxers of the last 20 years.
1. Julio Cesar Chavez – 107 (86) – 6 – 2 – Even though the majority of his biggest accomplishments occurred more than 20 years ago, J.C. must still top this list of the best Mexican boxers in recent memory. He won the WBC super featherweight title and defended it nine times, then won the WBC lightweight title and eventually the WBC and IBF junior welterweight titles. Along the way he toppled Meldrick Taylor, ruining his career in the process, along with holding wins over Edwin Rosario, Jose Luis Ramirez, Roger Mayweather and a slew of other top fighters. In his first 98 professional fights, he officially lost only once, although an unfathomable draw with Pernell Whitaker and a retroactively corrected blemish from his early days occurred along the way.
2. Ricardo Lopez – 51 (38) – 0 – 1 – The rare fighter who was able to retire undefeated, Lopez is occasionally overlooked because of his tenure in the extremely light weight divisions, from 105 to 108 pounds. He made 22 successful defenses of his minimum weight title belt before capturing a second crown at junior flyweight.
3. Oscar De La Hoya – 39 (30) – 6 – Ostensibly a six division champion, the Golden Boy was dominant from the lightweight to welterweight classes as he progressed in his prime. His career best win however came at junior middleweight, knocking out mouthy challenger Fernando Vargas. His resume includes what should be a win over Felix Trinidad and wins over Ike Quartey, Genaro Hernandez and aged versions of Pernell Whitaker and Julio Cesar Chavez.
4. Erik Morales – 48 (34) – 6 – El Terible lost five of his last six professional fights, diminishing the gleam of his once stellar 47-1 record. However his accomplishments cannot be hidden, including nine successful defenses of his super bantamweight title, including wins over Marco Antonio Barrera, Junior Jones and Wayne McCullough; a 6-1 record in featherweight title fights besting Kevin Kelley and In-Jin Chi; a title in his third weight class at super featherweight and a last hurrah win against Manny Pacquiao. Along the way he epitomized the Mexican warrior mentality, engaging in epic battles including trilogies with Barrera and Pacquiao.
5. Marco Antonio Barrera – 65 (43) – 7 – Barrera had a 14-3 record in super bantamweight title fights, including wins over Kennedy McKinney and Agapito Sanchez. After losing twice to Junior Jones, he retuned his game and went on to capture titles in two more weight classes, beating Prince Naseem Hamed and winning his trilogy against Erik Morales. While he holds the 1-on-1 edge against Morales, Morales arguably accomplished more against other top competition while suffering fewer setbacks in his prime.
6. Juan Manuel Marquez – 50 (37) – 4 – 1 *Still active – Before his career is over he could easily skyrocket past the two names above him, his more famous contemporaries that never met him in his prime. Not gaining momentum until relatively late in his career, Marquez has wins over Derrick Gainer, Juan Diaz and the past-due remnants of Marcio Antonio Barrera and Joel Casamayor. Most fans believe he has at least one win against Manny Pacquiao.
7. Michael Carbajal – 49 (33) – 4 – Carbajal was a champion for the better part of a decade in the junior flyweight division. He won his first world title in 1990 and his last fight was a title winning effort against Jorge Arce in the same division in 1999. Along the way he piled up a 15-3 record in title fights.
8. Israel Vazquez – 43 (31) – 4 *Still active – El Magnifico is the fighter you can never count out of a fight. He won a trilogy with Oscar Larios and narrowly edged out Rafael Marquez in their trilogy, one of the best in boxing history, adding to the lore of all-Mexican trilogies such as Morales-Barrera. With an 8-2 record in title fights, he also came from behind to stop Jhonny Gonzalez.
9. Rafael Marquez – 38 (34) – 5 – Marquez lost the trilogy with Vazquez, but it wasn’t by much and he was the naturally smaller man against the career super bantamweight. Marquez was a dominant bantamweight champion, beating Mark Johnson twice then winning his title from Tim Austin and defending it successfully seven times prior to the Vazquez bouts.
10. Jose Luis Castillo – 58 (50) – 9 – 1 *Still active – Toiling away for years as Chavez’s chief sparring partner, Castillo eventually got his own shot in the lightweight division his mentor had once ruled. After besting Steve Johnston for a lightweight strap, then drawing with him, Castillo defended his title against Cesar Bazan. He lost to Floyd Mayweather twice, although most feel he won the first contest, then regained a lightweight title and beat Juan Lazcano, Joel Casamayor and Julio Diaz before engaging in his Fight of the Century with Diego Corrales. Since, he has struggled to grab a foothold in the junior welterweight and welterweight divisions.
That does it for this list of the 10 best Mexican boxers of the last 20 years, there are certainly plenty more greats in the pipeline, ready to make their own mark. It was hard enough to make this list of the best Mexican boxers as is, when you consider that fighters like Fernando Vargas didn’t make the cut.