Former light middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez will fight Miguel Cotto for much more than the WBC and The Ring title belts on Saturday night in Las Vegas. The 25-year-old superstar, blessed with lightning quick hands and hard punching power is also looking to ascend the rich, deep list of storied and successful Mexican fighters.
Handing Floyd Mayweather Jr. his only loss in 2013 would have warranted Alvarez’s inclusion in the discussion, but he didn’t, and it’s quite clear he has much farther to go before joining the below ranks. Alvarez is still young, so there's plenty of time for him to garner more acclaim. A victory over Cotto, and possibly Gennady "GGG" Golovkin or Manny Pacquiao, would certainly boost his cause.
Some of boxing’s greatest fighters of all-time, no matter the weight class or era, have called Mexico their place of birth and home and here’s a quick breakdown of who we think belongs in the unofficial top five.
1) Julio Cesar Chavez, Active: 1980-2005; Record: 107-6-2, 86 KOs
Maybe the rarest specimen boxing has ever seen. Chavez spent a quarter century leveling opponents with his lethal combination of blinding power and stamina. No other Mexican-born fighter before, and likely ever, will be able to match his 107 victories, and his streak of 27-straight title defenses and 31 title-fight victories will keep him atop this list for decades.
2) Ruben Olivares, Active: 1965-1988; Record: 89-13-3, 79 KOs
Before Chavez usurped the crown, there was Olivares. Beloved in his country and likely deserving of credit for setting the bar so high for Chavez, Olivares lives on as one of the greatest bantamweight champions in history. Over the first five years of his career he went undefeated in his first 62 bouts.
3) Miguel Canto, Active: 1969-1982; Record: 61-9-4, 14 KOs
Unlike the rest of this list, Canto didn’t beat his opponents to a bloody pulp. The Yucatan native outsmarted and outboxed them as one of the flyweight division’s all-time greats, and among the greatest defensive specialists ever. He defended the WBC flyweight belt a record 14 straight times, with 13 of those bouts going the full 15 rounds. Canto's record is misleading, as he owned 60-2-4 record in the 1970s and had won 24 straight before showing signs of slowing down.
4) Carlos Zarate, Active: 1970-1988; Record: 66-4-0, 63 KOs
Joining Olivares as one of the bantamweight division’s best, Zarate came at opponents like a hungry knockout monster from the start of his career. Consider that it took 43 bouts before an opponent lasted longer than 10 rounds with Zarate, and he tore through the division’s best in the heart of his career and defended his title nine times. Zarate defeated underrated Azumah Nelson in his prime with a 15th-round TKO at Madison Square Garden, and punished quality boxers like Alfonso Zamora.
5) Salvador Sanchez, Active: 1975-1982; Record: 44-1-1, 32 KOs
Beginning his career as a 16-year-old, Sanchez’s greatness is difficult to measure because he died in a car crash seven years into his incredible run. Once he got ahold of the WBC featherweight belt with a 13th-round TKO over American Danny Lopez, Sanchez wouldn’t relinquish the title until his death with nine straight defenses. He was more in the form of Canto, known for his precise counterpunching and the smarts of when to strike.