A look back at two of the greatest all-Mexican rivalries in boxing as fight fans await the May 1 FOX Sports PPV showdown between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Chris Arreola, Mexico's greatest heavyweights.
At its core, any good sporting rivalry requires two participants in search of the same objective. On Saturday, May 1st, PBC FOX Sports pay-per-view (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) present a four-fight card topped by an all-Mexican heavyweight showdown when former unified heavyweight world champion Andy Ruiz Jr. (33-2, 22 KO’s) battles long-time contender Chris Arreola (38-6-1, 33 KO’s).
The card also features six other Mexican fighters at different stages of their careers, all poised to go to war. The event has all the makings of a classic, recalling two recent all-Mexican rivalries that are imbedded in the minds of boxing fans everywhere.
Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Erik Morales
When these two Hall-of-Fame fighters first fought on February 19, 2000, in Las Vegas, it was a bout that everyone in the sport had been waiting on for several years. Barrera had recently regained a portion of the 122-pound championship. However, it was the recognition of being the best Mexican fighter in the world that he desperately craved. During the mid-nineties, Barrera was regarded by Mexican fans as the heir apparent to the great Julio Cesar Chavez. Two losses to American Junior Jones after forty-three consecutive victories put a halt to that conversation.
Erik Morales, a tough up and coming fighter from the streets of Tijuana, captured the Mexican public’s attention with a knockout victory of the much-respected veteran Daniel Zaragoza. With that victory, Morales claimed a portion of the 122-pound crown and the spotlight as the best Mexican fighter in the sport.
Both Barrera and Morales were eager to prove their superiority over each other. What ensued over the next three fights would become one of the best trilogies in the boxing history.
Their first encounter was an instant classic. Morales nicked it by split decision in a bout where the will of both was severely tested. Many boxing observers felt that Barrera had done enough to win. The public outcry for a rematch reached the heavens. Before that happened, Barrera wound up capturing the featherweight title when he dismantled Prince Nassim Hamed in 2001. Morales also won a title at featherweight although in less heralded fashion.
The two met again on June 22, 2002. Barrera had the more endearing victory over Hamed and the claim that he was unjustly declared the loser of their first bout. Once again, it was an all-out war. Only this time, after 12 arduous frames, Barrera’s hand was raised in victory yet it was Morales whom the public viewed as the winner.
With the grudge between the two still at its peak, Barrera went on to suffer a devastating loss to Manny Pacquiao in 2003. Morales moved up to the 130-pound division and captured a title, setting the stage for their third and final battle on November 27, 2004. Unlike before the rematch, this time it was Morales who was viewed as the fighter on the rise.
Fight three resembled their first fight from start to finish. In total, the two fought thirty-six hellacious rounds with every type of drama that a fight fan could imagine. Another see-saw battle ended with Barrera winning a majority decision and the trilogy between two of Mexico’s finest.
In the end, Barrera and Morales established themselves as two of Mexico’s greatest warriors. And over time, the punches and explicit language have been exchanged for mutual respect, laughs, and hugs.
Rafael Marquez vs. Israel Vazquez
Once again, the 122-pound division was the terrain which two of Mexico’s finest battled over. On March 3, 2007 at the Dignity Health Sports Park—the same place where Ruiz and Arreola will battle—Marquez and Vazquez engaged in the first of their four battles.
Coming into the fight, Marquez was the recognizable name. He and older brother Juan Manuel Marquez comprised one of the best boxing brother duos in history. A champion at 118-pounds, Marquez sought to enhance his legacy by moving up one division and challenging Vazquez.
Both acknowledged that they were in for a war and that’s just what they treated fight fans to. Despite being knocked down in the third round, Marquez rose to his feet and broke Vazquez’s nose with hard shots in the fifth. The game warrior valiantly fought on for two more rounds. With his charge unable to breath, Vazquez’s trainer Freddie Roach, stopped the fight after the seventh round.
In August 2007, the pair faced off again. This time, Vazquez evened the series via sixth-round TKO. Both fighters were cut and bleeding from round three onward. The back and forth abruptly ended when a Vazquez left hook dropped Marquez and ended the fight. While many thought the stoppage was premature, the match was a consensus Fight of the Year winner
The rubber match occurred on March 1, 2008. In what would become the best fight of their series, Marquez and Vazquez warred again, this time for a full twelve rounds. Round four emphasized just how close these two rivals were in skill and temperament. After Marquez knocked down Vazquez, he rose to his feet and went on to hurt Marquez on more than one occasion. Vazquez won a disputed split decision victory but the fans were the real winners that night. It’s widely believes neither fighter was the same after that brutal engagement.
A fourth and some say ill-advised fight took place on May 22, 2010 after much-needed time off for both fighters. Vazquez entered the fight having suffered several injuries to his right eye that caused him to undergo retina surgery. Marquez was a bit fresher, dominating Vazquez, opening up cuts on his face and damaging both eyes. Marquez evened the series at two fights each when the referee stopped the one-sided affair in the third round. Vazquez retired afterward. Marquez continued to fight although it was clear he had left something in the ring in those bouts versus Vazquez.
Ruiz and Arreola, the two greatest Mexican heavyweights in boxing history, hope to re-create the magic of these incredible matches when they square off on May 1. At one point, Arreola seemed poised to bring Mexico its first heavyweight championship. But it was Ruiz who accomplished this feat when he knocked out Anthony Joshua in June 2019.
After losing the rematch with Joshua, Ruiz is eager to regain the heavyweight crown. The journey back begins against the 40-year-old Arreola, a three-time world title challenger who looked reborn in a scintillating points loss to Adam Kownacki in August of 2019, a fight where a new record was set for most punches thrown by heavyweights.
Arreola is determined to prove against Ruiz that although he was not the first Mexican heavyweight champion, he could still be its next. Given the ingredients in this matchup, fight fans could be in for a new chapter in the Mexican boxing rivalry cookbook.
For a closer look at Ruiz vs Arreola, check out our fight night page.
- Ruiz vs Arreola