Five Fights That Helped Define Boxing’s Greatest Rivalry

A look at the five of the most iconic bouts in the Mexico vs. Puerto Rico boxing rivalry as welterweights Danny Garcia and Adrian Granados rekindle the feud Saturday, April 20 on FOX.

On Saturday, April 20, former two-division world champion Danny Garcia takes on Adrian Granados in the latest installment of one of the great rivalries in boxing – Puerto Rico vs. Mexico.

OK, Garcia and Granados aren’t natives of those countries; they were both born in the United States, Garcia in Philadelphia and Granados near Chicago. But that’s neither here nor there. It seems bloodlines matter at least as much as country of birth when it comes to these two boxing-crazy nations—and fireworks are expected when Garcia (34-2, 20 KOs) and Granados (20-6-2, 14 KOs) clash in a welterweight headliner on PBC on FOX (8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT).

Here’s a look at five classic Puerto Rico vs. Mexico fights that helped shape the rivalry:

WILFREDO GOMEZ VS. CARLOS ZARATE

Date: October 28, 1978

Location: Coliseo Roberto Clemente, San Juan

At stake: Gomez’s WBC junior featherweight title

Records: Gomez 21-0-1 (21 KOs), Zarate 52-0 (51 KOs)

Result: Gomez TKO 5

Summary: To understand the excitement going into the Gomez-Zarate fight, look at their combined record at the time they fought: 73-0-1, with a mindboggling 72 knockouts. Someone was getting stopped, which is always intriguing for fans. The Mexicans loved Zarate, a three-year 118-pound champion who overwhelmed one opponent after another with a take-no-prisoners style and the punching power to match. Gomez, more athletic than Zarate but just as powerful, was a reigning 122-pound titleholder and building a reputation as arguably the greatest Puerto Rican boxer ever.

This one didn’t end pretty, at least not for Zarate. The Mexican went down twice late in the fourth round and, still in a daze, once more early in the fifth as a cornerman was in the process of throwing in the towel and the Puerto Rican fans were going nuts. Gomez reached legendary status with that victory.

SALVADOR SANCHEZ VS. WILFREDO GOMEZ

Date: August 21, 1981

Location: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

At stake: Sanchez’s featherweight title

Records: Sanchez 40-1-1 (30 KOs), Gomez 32-0-1 (32)

Result: Sanchez TKO 8

Summary: The story of this fight was written on the face of Gomez afterward: “Right cheekbone broken, both eyes closed and his nose bleeding,” according to The New York Times. Gomez almost didn’t make it out of the first round, in which he was knocked down and suffered the broken bone. Somehow, he survived and gave a good account of himself in a wild, entertaining fight even as his face became deformed.

All three judges had Sanchez winning a close fight after seven rounds. Then came a brutal eighth where Sanchez pummeled a beaten Gomez against the ropes and put him a down a second time to end the fight. Sanchez had avenged in dramatic fashion the loss of his countryman Carlos Zarate, who fell to Gomez three years earlier. And it seemed to be only the beginning for the 23-year-old from Mexico City, who became national hero that night. Alas, he would fight only thrice more before dying in a car accident at 23.

JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ VS. EDWIN ROSARIO

Date: November 21, 1987

Location: The Hilton, Las Vegas

At stake: Vacant WBA lightweight title

Records: Chavez 56-0 (44 KOs), Rosario 31-2 (27 KOs)

Result: Chavez TKO 11

Summary: The fact that the oddsmakers considered this an even match gives you an idea of Rosario’s ability. The Puerto Rican was a complete fighter, a polished boxer who could also crack and a future Hall of Famer. And he was only 24, a year younger than his opponent. The fact Chavez obliterated him tells you all you need to know about the Mexican legend. Chavez, moving up in weight to challenge for the vacant title, employed his measured, but relentless seek-and-destroy style to perfection in arguably the greatest performance in his own Hall of Fame career. Rosario, as tough as he was talented, survived into the 11th round but at what cost? His face was battered, his left eye completely closed, as Chavez pounded him to the head and body until Rosario’s corner finally ended the slaughter. Chavez went on to gain recognition as the best boxer his country as ever produced. Rosario, who abused drugs, died at 34.

FELIX TRINIDAD VS. OSCAR DE LA HOYA

Date: September 18, 1999

Location: Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

At stake: Trinidad’s IBF and De La Hoya’s WBC welterweight titles

Records: Trinidad 35-0 (30 KOs), De La Hoya 31-0 (25 KOs)

Result: Trinidad MD 12

Summary: The Trinidad-De La Hoya fight was compared to the first meeting between Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns, which gives you an idea how massive the welterweight title-unification bout was. Both fighters were charismatic and on top of their games, as each was in everyone’s pound-for-pound Top 3. It’s no wonder the fight set a then-record non-heavyweight pay-per-view buy rate of 1.4 million.

Too bad the fight didn’t live up to the hype. De La Hoya exposed the Puerto Rican’s technical limitations during the first half of the fight. Except De La Hoya stopped boxing and started running about eight rounds in, which allowed Trinidad to rally.  Some thought the majority decision victory for Trinidad was a gift from the judges but others believe De La Hoya forfeited the right to complain because he opened the door to the controversy.

SAUL “CANELO” ALVAREZ VS. MIGUEL COTTO

Date:  November 21, 2015

Location: Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

At stake: Cotto’s WBC middleweight title (155-pound catchweight)

Records: Alvarez 45-1-1 (32 KOs), Cotto 40-4 (33 KOs)

Result: Alvarez UD 12

Summary: Cotto, 35, was beyond his peak when he met his 25-year-old, rising Mexican rival but he remained popular and could still fight. The Puerto Rican star had lost back-to-back decisions to Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout in 2012 but bounced back in 2014 to stop Sergio Martinez and win a middleweight title, regaining his place among the best in the sport. Alvarez-Cotto generated considerable excitement and it didn’t disappoint.

Cotto used all his skills and experience to make life difficult for Alvarez, who had to work for every punch he landed and took some punishment himself. In the end, Alvarez outworked Cotto to win a unanimous decision and continue his ascent. But the competitive fight certainly was worthy of the Mexican-Puerto Rican rivalry. For Cotto, it was a last hurrah of sorts: Two fights later, he lost a decision to Sadam Ali and hasn’t fought since.

For a closer look at Garcia vs Granados, check out our fight night page.

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