Over the years, Mexico has churned out more than its fair share of professional world champions, well over 100 since Battling Shaw became the first Mexican world champion 80 years ago.
At the time of this writing, there were more Mexican fighters ranked by The Ring magazine - 30 in total - than any other country. Finally, Juan Manuel Marquez has managed to leave the considerable shade of Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, while in his most recent fight, Saul Alvarez drew a crowd just shy of 40,000. Add Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. carrying the most famous of Mexican boxing names. These three are the leading lights, all wildly popular in their homeland. Just bringing up the rear, albeit not far, are the likes of Mexican Americans Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia, Leo Santa Cruz and three-division world champion Abner Mares.
So we’ve come up with a list to see just who in the coming years may add their names to Mexican fistic folklore.
Andy Ruiz Jr. (heavyweight): When you first see Ruiz, he doesn’t look the part of a modern-day heavyweight. But when you watch him for a while, you can see he possesses solid technique, above-average power and a solid chin. He’s promoted by Top Rank, who has a tried and tested method of building up young fighters. On the undercard of Timothy Bradley vs. Ruslan Provodnikov, Ruiz lived up to his nickname, “Destroyer,” blasting out hapless Matthew Greer in a single round. Most recently, he stayed active, taking out Carl Davis in one round to take his record to 19-0 (13). The 23 year-old Mexicali native, ranked 11 by the WBA, will head to Macao this summer when he steps up to face fellow unbeaten Joe Hanks.
Gilberto Ramirez (middleweight): It’s rare to see a Mexican boxer compete above 147 pounds; however, string bean (he’s 6’2½”) Ramirez is an anomaly. The southpaw mixes in skills with developing power and a poise that belies his age. “Zurdo” from Mazatlan signed to be co-promoted by Zanfer in Mexico and Top Rank in America as well as being promoted by Zapari Promotions (who have worked with him his entire career). Making his debut under their stewardship, stopping late sub Juan De Angel in three rounds on the undercard of Victor Terrazas-Cristian Mijares in April. It is rumoured Ramirez (who turns 22 today) will return on a Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. undercard somewhere in Junior’s ever-changing schedule. Though it‘s still a long way away, you can bet the Top Rank paymasters are looking into their crystal balls with the idea of eventually matching them in a huge event in Mexico. For now, Ramirez, a true work in progress, will benefit hugely from the expertise of Top Rank’s matchmakers moving him, matching him with a variety of styles and preparing him for a title shot and further recognition. At middleweight, he’s already ranked three by the WBC, seven by the WBA and 13 by the IBF.
Miguel Berchelt (super featherweight): Made his American debut in March starching Carlos Claudio in the opening stanza, taking him to 18-0 (15). Berchelt has natural power and an aggressive style and is still relatively new to boxing. Having only been a pro for two years, Berchelt has only boxed for six years in total, enjoying a solid amateur background prior to turning over, appearing on the national team. “Alacran,” 21, is aligned with Zanfer, who will keep him busy in Mexico as well as their partner in America, Top Rank, who are likely to showcase him as he develops. He returns this Saturday when he meets Weng Haya, who, a couple of years ago, almost shocked then-WBO 126-pound champion Orlando Salido.
Oscar Valdez (featherweight): Supremely gifted, may well be the best young prospect in Mexico at this time. Valdez, who moved to 5-0 (5) with a second round stoppage of Gil Garcia, was a big amateur unlike many Mexicans who elect to go pro in their teens. Valdez, 22, won gold at the Youth World Championships in 2008, appeared in two Olympics as well as the World Championships with his best result being silver in 2008. Valdez fought in the last Olympics at bantamweight but already looks to be filling into a full-fledged pro featherweight. He seems to be the one fighter who can be fast-tracked. Also promoted by Top Rank, he’s managed by Frank Espinoza, manager of Abner Mares among others.
Andres Gutierrez (super bantamweight): Comes from Guadalajara like his promoter, Saul Alvarez. One of three boxing brothers but like “Canelo,” he’s the cream of the crop. The youngest man on the list, Gutierrez turns only 20 next month though already advanced to 26-0-1 (22). I wouldn’t mind seeing him rematch the one fighter who put a blemish on his otherwise pristine record, Jesus Ruiz. The pair met nearly two years ago, drawing over nine frames. Already won several region and International titles including the WBC Silver 122-pound crown last time out, beating up Salvador Sanchez in five rounds (though Sanchez isn’t exactly the second coming of…well, his uncle, it proved Gutierrez could very well be one of the best young fighters in the game) on the undercard of Alvarez-Austin Trout back in April. Due to make his first defence on 6th July, meeting Rey Perez, who’s never been stopped. Will likely continue improving before getting a big push next year and is already ranked number five with the WBC.
Rey Vargas (super bantamweight): Represented Mexico at the 2009 World Championships, losing to Britain’s Luke Campbell before turning pro, where he seems more suited to a come-forward style. The tall Guadalajara native looks to initiate the attack from his southpaw stance whenever he can, possessing impressive power that has resulted in 14 stoppages among 15 victories. At 22, Vargas is still young but progressing at a steady pace, last time out stopping shopworn four-time world title challenger Cecilio Santos in two rounds with a left hook. Promoted by Promociones de Puebla, he’s already ranked 15 (at bantamweight) by the WBC and 11 (at super bantamweight) by the IBF 11.
Alejandro Gonzalez Jr. (bantamweight): Son of former WBC featherweight champion and namesake, Alejandro, at 5’7” and only 20 years of age, looks very big for a bantamweight. Been active this year, fighting three times already including a career-best win, stopping Antonio Margarito’s nephew, Hanzel Martinez (19-0 (15) entering their contest) in just two rounds. To look at “Cobrita”(the same nickname as his father), you’d think butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth but when you see how swiftly he dealt with Martinez, you can see he has real potential. Going backward, he clipped Martinez with a left hook, sending his adversary backward and instantly jumping on his foe. A combination left his fellow prospect flat on his back to be counted out. Currently, the Zanfer promoted prospect is 19-0-2 (13) and comes from the same gym that brought us Giovani Segura and current IBF lightweight champion Miguel Vazquez.
Carlos Cuadras (super flyweight): A former amateur contemporary of Alex Valdez, turned pro in 2008, gaining good international experience. Cuadras has already fought three times in Japan, where he’s represented by Teiken. The 24-year-old scored a career-best win last time out, stopping Victor Zaleta in seven thus improving his record to 28-0 (23). He’s won several fringe WBC titles and a shot at Srisaket Sor Rungvisai before the end of the year is likely. “El Principe” is ranked number one by the WBC and five by the WBO.
Ivan Morales (super flyweight): Another who comes with breeding, looking to emulate big brothers, legendary Erik and Diego (who both won world titles). Currently 21-0 (13), campaigning at 115 pounds and standing at 5’7”, he’s likely to fill out further. Won a workmanlike eight-round decision over Raul Hidalgo on the Alvarez-Trout card on 20 April in San Antonio (Morales’ second fight in America). The young southpaw is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions as well as big brother Erik’s company, Promociones Box Latino. Morales, 21, is ranked by the WBC at 13 while the IBF has him ranked at 12.
Julian Yedras (light flyweight): At 25, he’s been a pro almost four years. Won the WBC Youth Silver 105-pound title in late 2011 but seems to have now settled three pounds north at light flyweight. Had a busy 2012, fighting six times, taking him to 20-0 (12), though he has yet to fight once this year. “El Nino Artillero” (“The Child Gunner”), from the southwest of Mexico in Campeche, is ranked number 10 by the WBC and 11 by the IBF (both at 105 pounds) while the WBA has him listed at seven at 108 pounds. Looks to be the type of guy not currently aligned with a name promoter (likely because of his size); however, seems equally the sort of guy who could come from nowhere to win a title.
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