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The Current Top 12 Fighters from Mexico

Mar 3, 2004  By Juan Angel Zurita
Over the last fifty years, the tradition of Mexican boxing has flourished and Mexican fighters have had a tremendous impact upon the world boxing scene. Within the last 30-40 years, Mexican fighters have begun to garner well-deserved recognition as top fighters in the sport. Today, the rich tradition of pugilistic excellence continues and many of these fighters are considered top fighters in their respective weight classes and top fighters in all of boxing.

Note: The criteria for these rankings is based on quality of opposition, a fighter's performance against his opposition, and a personal "gut" feeling of how each fighter compares to one another.

1. Erik Morales - 46-1 (34 KOs) - Etched himself a place in Mexican boxing history by defeating Jesus Chavez for the WBC super featherweight crown, joining the great Julio Cesar Chavez as the only Mexican nationals to have won three titles in three different weight classes. Bob Arum, Morales’ promoter, has already announced that he’ll be challenging IBF Super Featherweight Champion, Carlos Hernandez, in a unification matchup this summer. Should he get by the tough Salvadorian, he’d have to defeat the winner of Casamayor/Corrales 2 in order to gain recognition as the cream of the crop in the super featherweight division.

2. Juan Manuel Marquez - 42-2 (33 KOs) – Perhaps the best kept secret in boxing a few years ago, Marquez boasts some superb boxing skills and solid power.  Since his controversial loss to Freddie Norwood, he's racked up thirteen wins, with all, but one of those ending inside the distance.  In his last fight, Marquez unified the IBF and WBA featherweight titles when he defeated Derrick "Smoke" Gainer.  Unfortunately, Marquez wasn't able to display his arsenal of tools due to the fact that Gainer thought he was in a marathon.  Now that Barrera has been dethroned by young buzzsaw, Manny Pacquiao, Marquez/Pacquiao is the matchup fight fans are clamoring for. With the victory, Marquez would solidify himself as the best fighter in his weight class, and would make a strong case for himself as the top fighter from South of the Border.

3. Marco Antonio Barrera - 57-4 (40 KOs) - The Barrera Express was finally derailed when he ran into a younger, hungrier, stronger fighter in Manny Pacquiao. At 29 years of age, with over sixty pro bouts, and almost 15 years of ring wear, did Barrera finally get old overnight? Did he lose the “Eye of the Tiger”? Or does Pacman just have his number? A rematch with Pacman or a shootout against fellow countryman, Juan Manuel Marquez, are the logical next options for the Mexican legend.

4. Rafael Marquez - 31-3 (28 KOs) - The younger brother of Featherweight Champion, Juan Manuel Marquez, Rafael has established himself as the top bantamweight in the world.  This power-punching bantamweight made his mark by twice defeating Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson and previously undefeated IBF Bantamweight Champion Tim Austin. In his last two fights, he notched a convincing decision against the always durable, tough, former champion, Mauricio Pastrana, and destroyed IBF #1 contender Pete Frissina in two rounds. There are several top contenders that pose a threat to him, but as of right now he's the clear favorite against everyone in the bantamweight division.

5. Oscar Larios - 50-3-1 (35 KOs) - Larios is considered by many as the best junior featherweight in the world. “Chololo,” as many call him, owns solid victories over Israel Vasquez and Willie Jorrin. In 2003, he traveled to Japan several times and successfully defended his WBC Junior Featherweight Title. In his next defense, he’ll once again travel to Japan. Tussles against Manny Pacquiao and Paulie Ayala would be great to watch and will hopefully come to fruition in the near future.

6. Antonio Margarito - 30-3 (21 KOs) - With wins over Antonio Diaz, Danny Perez, and former WBA Welterweight Champion Andrew “Six Heads” Lewis, Margarito has established himself as a top welterweight. Now that Ricardo Mayorga has lost his undisputed welterweight title to Cory Spinks, Margarito has a legitimate claim as the division’s #1 contender. Struggles with weight may lead him into the junior middleweight division where there will be plenty of intriguing matchups for him to choose from.

7. Jose Luis Castillo - 49-6-1 (45 KOs) - Since his two narrow decision losses to Floyd Mayweather, JR., Castillo’s career has been at a stalemate. Word has it that he’s set to challenge highly rated Juan Lazcano for the soon to become vacant WBC lightweight title. Lazcano would be a very tough fight, but Castillo would be favored to win.

8. Jesus Chavez - 40-3 (28 KOs) – Put together a valiant performance against Erik Morales, and never took a step backwards. He’ll be back strong within 4-6 months after his shoulder heals. With his strength and determination, he could easily become a two-time champion. El Matador isn’t finished yet.

9. Jorge Arce – 35-3-1 (26 KOs) – Thanks to his participation as a contestant on Mexico’s Big Brother program, a popular reality television show, this talented, power-punching WBC Junior Flyweight Champion is now one of the most recognizable faces in Mexico. An entire program was dedicated to him leading up to his last title defense against Joma Gamboa, and Arce didn’t disappoint as he blasted out his overmatched opponent in two lightning quick rounds. But his next match won’t be as easy. He’ll be in tough in a rematch against Mel Cob Castro, a tough veteran, who gave him fits the last time out.

10. Fernando Montiel - 27-1-1 (21 KOs) - Many had high hopes for this young, talented, skilled, boxer. He choked the first time he stepped up to the big leagues by dropping a close decision to Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson. Montiel was reluctant to mix it up early and allowed Johnson to build up a big lead on the scorecards. He rallied late in the fight, but it was too little too late. If he learns from the Johnson fight, he could go on to become one of the best fighters in the super flyweight division. We know he has the talent, but we’ll soon find out if he’s matured as a fighter.

11. Martin Castillo – 25-1 (15 KOs) - Several years ago Castillo looked like a sure bet to become a world champion. The skill and potential is still there, but not the world title. Since his heartbreaking technical decision loss via cuts to Felix Machado in early 2002, Castillo has won 5 fights in a row to put himself in title contention once again. He’s currently the #1 contender for the WBA super flyweight strap owned by Alexander Muñoz. If Castillo’s skin can hold out long enough, he may finally go on to win his first world title.

12. Cruz Carbajal - 24-11-1 (20 KOs) - No one ever said that you have to have a pretty record to be a top fighter. Carbajal’s record, as bad as it may appear, is very deceiving unless closely analyzed. He wasn’t too consistent at the beginning of his career, but lately he’s been on a roll racking up wins against Hugo Dianzo, Mauricio Martinez, and Danny Romero. He currently has his sights set on top bantamweight, Rafael Marquez. Again, don’t let the record fool you. He’d be a live underdog in that matchup.

Others: Javier Jaregui, Diego Morales, Manuel Gomez

A Few Key Observations

Erik Morales’ victory over Jesus Chavez was somewhat impressive considering the fact that he dropped Chavez twice in the second, won 8-4 on my scorecard, and captured his third world title in his third weight class. It wasn’t pretty at times, but he accomplished the feat and that’s all that matters. Props to both fighters for giving it 110% despite suffering injuries in their bout.

After watching Morales struggle a bit against Jesus Chavez, I couldn’t help, but wonder how he’d fair against #2 Juan Manuel Marquez. I know I’m in the minority, but I feel Marquez may be the best Mexican fighter in the world. The problem is that he hasn’t had that defining fight to justify my opinion. I’m crossing my fingers that he and Pacquiao climb into the ring together this summer. That would be Sanchez/Gomez in 04’.

Rafael Marquez looked devastating against IBF #1 ranked contender Pete Frissina, but Frissina didn’t even look like he deserved to be Marquez’s sparring partner. Despite the awesome performance, Rafael still looks extremely vulnerable. He can be hit and that’s not a good thing when you have a questionable beard. If he doesn’t listen to his trainer and start boxing more like his older brother, he’ll soon hear the words, “The former IBF Bantamweight Champion of the World….”

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