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A look at the Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry

6/8/2010
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Calderon Ready For Iribe

Ivan Calderon talks about his upcoming fight against Jesus Iribe

When Ivan Calderon defends his junior flyweight title against Jesus Iribe on Saturday, it will be the continuation of a long-running rivalry between boxers from Puerto Rico and Mexico.

Here is a look at 10 memorable Mexico-Puerto Rico showdowns.

10. Ivan Calderon W12 Hugo Cazares -- Coliseo Rub&#233;n Rodriguez, Bayamon, Puerto Rico (Aug. 25, 2007)

Calderon twice defeated the bigger, harder-punching Cazares in fights for the junior flyweight title, each time on Calderon's Puerto Rican home turf. The first fight was far more exciting than the sequel, as Calderon survived an eighth-round knockdown to box his way to a split-decision win. Cazares chased Calderon around the ring but often swung and missed while the elusive southpaw ducked, dodged and then peppered him with quick punches. In the rematch, the fighters clashed heads in the seventh round, and Calderon -- who suffered a cut on the forehead -- won on a unanimous technical decision.

9. Antonio Margarito KO11 Miguel Cotto -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas (July 26, 2008)

In a fight of two halves, Cotto dominated the early rounds but was worn down and overwhelmed in an exciting welterweight championship fight. Veteran boxing writer Michael Katz, with a hint of awe in his voice, turned to colleagues at ringside to describe Margarito as being like a zombie from "Night of the Living Dead" for the way the Mexican fighter walked through the best punches that Cotto could fire at him.

Cotto won four of the first five rounds on two judges' cards, but Margarito was starting to catch him and hurt him with hooks and uppercuts by the sixth. The Puerto Rican fighter, who had a bloody nose and mouth, swollen face and a cut over the left eye, was a slowly sinking ship by the ninth round. The end came when Cotto wearily took a knee for the second time in the 11th. This fight would rank much higher on our list if not for the question marks hovering over some of Margarito's knockout wins after the much-chronicled "loaded hand wraps" issue when he met Shane Mosley six months later.

8. Felix Trinidad TKO4 Yory Boy Campas -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas (Sept. 17, 1994)

Undefeated welterweights clashed in a spectacular shootout when Puerto Rican favorite Trinidad climbed off the canvas to bomb Campas out of the fight in the fourth round. The situation looked bleak for Trinidad when a left hook dropped him in the second round, but he came back to produce "a display of punching power so stunning that it brought gasps of awe from ringsiders," as I described it in Boxing Monthly. "You've seen one of the most remarkable performances that I've ever seen in boxing -- it was reminiscent of the late, great Sugar Ray Robinson," promoter Don King said during the postfight news conference.

7. Jose Luis Ramirez TKO 4 Edwin Rosario -- Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan (Nov. 3, 1984)

Puerto Rico's Rosario had home-turf advantage in his two lightweight title bouts with Mexican southpaw Ramirez. Rosario, unbeaten but relatively untested, barely won the first fight on a unanimous but close decision on May 1, 1983, with all three judges scoring it 115-113.

"Although Rosario was the winner, he looked the worse when the fight ended," The Associated Press reported. "His left eye was swollen nearly shut from the 10th round on, and he was bleeding from the mouth at the final bell."

The rematch 18 months later was far more dramatic and exciting. Rosario, a hard puncher with either hand, had Ramirez wobbling on the brink of defeat, knocking him down in the first round and again in the second. Ramirez survived, though, and came back with a furious onslaught that had Rosario turning away in surrender with eight seconds remaining in the fourth round. "It was indeed an amazing turnabout for the Mexican," The Associated Press reported.

6. Hector "Macho" Camacho W12 Jose Luis Ramirez -- Riviera Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas (Aug. 10, 1985)

Sometimes the boxing public forgets what a brilliant boxer Camacho was in his prime. Camacho easily outpointed Jose Luis Ramirez, knocking him down with a left hand in the third round, bloodying Ramirez's nose and dominating the all-southpaw fight to take the Mexican boxer's lightweight championship on a unanimous decision. "It was a brilliant performance, made at the expense of the workmanlike but outclassed and much bloodied Ramirez," Richard Hoffer reported in the Los Angeles Times.

5. Julio Cesar Chavez W12 Hector "Macho" Camacho -- Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas (Sept. 12, 1992)

Chavez proved much too strong for Camacho in their 140-pound title bout, but the Puerto Rican southpaw was praised for his courage in sticking it out for 12 painfully one-sided rounds. "He really took a lot of punches," Chavez said afterward through an interpreter. "I have to give him credit. He fought a great fight and had a lot of heart." By the later stages, Camacho's left eye was swelling shut and he was cut over the right eye, but he fought back valiantly and was never off his feet. "Camacho took everything the champion threw at him, and at the end he was still firing back, snarling through the blood," Pat Putnam reported in Sports Illustrated.

4. Wilfredo Gomez TKO5 Carlos Zarate -- Roberto Clemente Coliseum, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico (Oct. 28, 1978)

Although the Puerto Rican Gomez and the Mexican Zarate were both undefeated, the fight turned out to be brutally one-sided. Zarate struggled to make the weight limit for the 122-pound title fight, needing four trips to the scales, and he was knocked down twice in the fourth round (the second time after the bell had sounded) and again in the fifth before veteran British referee Harry Gibbs stopped the fight. Gibbs said afterward that the crowd made so much noise that no one heard the bell to end the fourth round. The fight was stopped after 44 seconds of Round 5, with the Mexican corner throwing in the towel. Gomez, the shorter man, was faster, sharper and stronger than the probably weight-drained Zarate. "Pound for pound, Gomez is one of the best I have seen," Gibbs noted in his autobiography, "Box On."

3. Julio Cesar Chavez TKO11 Edwin Rosario -- Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas (Nov. 21, 1987)

The lightweight title fight between the unbeaten Chavez and defending champion Rosario was one of the most eagerly anticipated of all the Mexico-Puerto Rico showdowns, but what the fans saw was one man steadily wearing down and eventually beating up another. Rosario was expected to be the stronger fighter, as Chavez was moving from 130 pounds, but the Mexican boxer was in command from the beginning. Rosario's left eye was swelling shut; he was cut over the right eye and bleeding from the nose and mouth when his corner tossed in the towel. Rosario was brave, but his punches failed to deter Chavez, while the great Mexican fighter bobbed and ducked under many of his opponent's blows. "The boxing display was phenomenal," columnist John L. Smith reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "This wasn't the fight of the year. It was the performance of the year. Chavez was something to see."

2. Salvador Sanchez TKO8 Wilfredo Gomez -- Caesars Palace, Las Vegas (Aug. 21, 1981)

Featherweight champion Sanchez proved too big, too strong and simply too good for Gomez, who although moving up from the 122-pound division was the betting favorite. This was the first big fight I covered on site in Las Vegas, and it thus has a special significance to me. Sanchez knocked down Gomez in the opening round, but the Puerto Rican fighter rallied gamely, winning three of the next six rounds on the scorecards of all three judges before the champion overwhelmed him with a barrage of punches in the eighth. With both eyes swollen and closing and blood coming from his nose, Gomez made a supreme effort in the seventh round, but Sanchez withstood the last-gasp onslaught and the Puerto Rican fighter had nothing left in the eighth. "Sanchez fought a disciplined, scientific battle to crush the challenge of an opponent whose firepower was considered far superior," I reported from ringside for the British publication Boxing News.

1. Wilfredo Gomez TKO14 Lupe Pintor -- Superdome, New Orleans (Dec. 3, 1982)

The main event was Thomas Hearns meeting Wilfred Benitez, but the 122-pound championship bout between Gomez and Pintor stole the show and, more than this, was surely one of the all-time greatest fights in boxing's lighter weight divisions. Pintor, the bantamweight champion, was moving up in weight to challenge "Bazooka" Gomez, who had scored all 37 of his victories by knockout. For 13 rounds, the courageous and competent Pintor was battling almost equally with the bigger puncher as the two traded blows. Indeed, it was Pintor who seemed to be coming on strongly in the 12th and 13th rounds. "Gomez's face was a swollen mess," Thom Greer reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

In the 14th, though, Gomez's heavy artillery finally blasted through Pintor's resistance. Referee Arthur Mercante waved the finish when Gomez knocked down Pintor for the second time in the 14th round. Pintor, who was leading on one judge's card, was on the canvas for several minutes being attended to by his doctor and anxious cornermen, but he left the ring under his own steam.