Ted Sares fought as an amateur boxer in the Chicago area in the 50's. He has since become a boxing historian and member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He specializes in articles that capture the pathos of the sport. His works have been featured on a number of boxing sites and magazines including East Side Boxing, Fightkings, WAIL Magazine, IBRO Journal, Saddoboxing.com, and many others

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Mini-Titans

The Mini-Titans

By Ted Sares

José Isidro Cuevas González, alias Pipino Cuevas, with an impressive KO percentage, was a breaker of jaws, noses and eye sockets. His left hook was something to behold. But then he met up with another Killing Machines by the name of Thomas Hearns, 28-0 with 26 Kos, in August 1980 and he was never quite the same. The “Hitman” destroyed Cuevas in two rounds with a straight right that was also something to behold. In so doing, he won the WBA Welterweight Title. But hold on, these two guy were welterweights and that rules them out as “mini-titans.”

Ricardo "Finito "Lopez

His final record was 51-0-1 with 38 ko's, but even more impressive was his amazing 25-0-1 (KOs) championship record. He was like a miniature Joe Louis. He could crack but he also could be a stylist. His last victory, a KO victory over recent world champion Zolani Petelo, book-ended his career with solid efforts and showed that his skills remained intact throughout. He was a world champion for over 10 years and fought many of his opponents in their home countries of Japan, South Korea and Thailand. He fought ten times in Las Vegas and also battled in California and Texas. Like Rocky Marciano, you can't argue with perfection. At the end of the fight, it's whose hand the referee raises that matters and Finito's hand was raised 51 out of 52 times!

The only blemish on his record was an eighth-round technical draw against tough Rosendo Alvarez in March 1998, an outcome he avenged in a rematch that might well have been the fight of the year had it not been for Robinson-Gatti. Lopez and Alvarez let it all hang out in the final round each fighting as if he were behind in the cards.

Ricardo was a great sportsman always complimenting his opponents and never making self-promoting boasts. In this respect, he was “old school.” He is a 2007 Hall of Fame inductee along with the great Duran and Pernell Whittaker. Oh yes, he had an undefeated percentage (sometimes referred to as a winning percentage) of 98%. Not bad!

Zarate, Zamora, Gomez and Zaragoza

Carlos “Cañas” Zarate, 61-4 with 58 KOs was an even more prolific puncher, albeit a bantamweight one, with an astounding 89% KO percentage. He had an amateur record of 33-3 with 30KOs, and he won the Guantes De Oro, or Mexican Golden Gloves

A meeting of brutal punchers took place when he and WBA champ Alfonso Zamora met at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California in 1977. Now get this. Zamora was 29-0 with 29 knockouts while Zarate was 40-0 with 39 knockouts. Their combined KO percentage was 99%. Somebody’s “O” would have to go.

Zarate decked Zamora twice in the fourth round before his corner threw in the towel Zarate claimed the unofficial bantamweight crown. The win earned him Fighter of The Year honors from Ring magazine. Zamora never recovered from this loss.

Still another memorable meeting of mini-titans occurred when Zarate moved up in weight to meet the lethal “Bazooka,” Puerto Rican Wilfredo Gomez, for the WBC Super Bantamweight Title at Roberto Clemente Coliseum in Puerto Rico. Zarate was 52-0 while Gomez was 21-0-1. Again the combined KO percentage was 99%. Once again, it was time for an “O” to go. Gómez and Zarate had one of the highest knockout win percentage of any two boxers paired inside a ring in history. Gomez gave Zarate a thorough beating winning by KO in the fifth round. It was the first defeat in Carlos’s career. He would retire after losing to the great Daniel Zaragoza, 35-4, in a bid for the vacant WBC Super Bantamweight Title in 1988.

Gomez' would go on to win 44 fights with only 3 losses and a draw (which came in his very first fight); 42 wins came by knockout. After his draw, he won 32 consecutive fights by knockout and his first 40 victories, all came inside the distance. Like Cuevas and Zarate, he is in the Hall of Fame.

Khaosai Galaxy

But for sheer finality, my favorite was the great Thai champion, Sura Saenkham who, following a Thai custom of adopting an attention-getting pseudionym, became known as Khaosai Galaxy. Maybe he was my favorite because I had seen him fight twice in Thailand while he was in the already-legendary stages of his career.

Now I dearly love Thailand. I love everything about it; the food, the beach, the culture, the wonderful people - everything. And I love the experience of watching boxing in Thailand. First a steam bath and rubdown, then dinner - steamed Thai dumplings, spicy Viet Nam noodle soup with pork and Thai beer (Singha). Then the fights at Rajadamnern Stadium in Bangkok. Hot and steamy night. Drums and staccato cheers every time a heavy punch landed. Surreal-like sounds.
When Galaxy stunned his foe, he moved in and gave new meaning to the word “closure.” The crowd would go absolutely wild. In one fight I witnessed in 1990, he iced Cobra Ari Blanca in the 5th round. I also saw him starch a Panamanian named Enesto Ford in Petchaboon later that same year. Of course, after the fights, we would journey back to Khao San Road for more rest and relaxation and maybe watch a Muy Thai fight or two. In Bangkok, boxing is the linchpin that connects many other pleasant activities. It was also a welcome relief from the press of negotiating business deals.

Aside from his loss to Sakda “Sak Galaxy” Saksuree, 9-9, for the Thai Bantamweight Title in 1981, which he quickly avenged by brutal KO, Galaxy never took part in what could be called a close fight.

When reigning WBA junior bantam king Jiro Watanabe failed to defend the title against Galaxy, the belt was declared vacant. On Nov. 21, 1984, Galaxy won the vacant WBA Super Bantamweight Title in 1984 by knocking out Eusebio Espinal in Bangkok. He would defend it successfully 18 times, the longest title reign in his division's history, though it went somewhat under the radar in the West. No other Asian boxer has defended a world title for so long.
Sometimes called “The Thai Tyson,“ Galaxy possessed embalming fluid in his fists. With a staggering KO percentage of 86%, he had one-punch knock out power. But, like a spider paralyzing its prey with a sting, he also could stun an opponent with a single punch, setting him up for the end. When this happened, his fists and arms would be held high ready to cut loose. As he got close, he would impose his tremendous physique and the frenzied crowd would be up and roaring. He became the very essence of a stalking predator closing off the ring, making contact, and quickly accomplishing the kill with a variety of savage power shots thrown with uncanny accuracy and evil intent.

Khaosai was an equal opportunity cruncher. He did his thing against Mexicans, Venezuelans, South Koreans, Japanese, Colombians, Indonesians, Panamanians, Dominicans, Americans, Thais and fighters from the Philippines.

Khaosai Galaxy won the WBA Boxer of the Year award twice, in 1989 and 1990. In 1999, he was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame where I had an opportunity to talk with him. When I mentioned I had seen him fight in Bangkok, his eyes lighted up and he was visibly moved. Like so many other great warriors, he was a delight to converse with and left me with warm memories.

Thailand's greatest boxer retired with a record of 49-1 with 43 KO’s and was acknowledged by many as the best 115-pounder in history, as well as one of the greatest fighters from Asia. He remains an immensely popular figure in his native Thailand.

When he retired after beating Armando “Monstruo” Castro in December 1991, he joined a close and savvy fraternity of Asian fighter who retired as World Champions - and stayed retired.

Watch for Ted Sares‘s new book, Boxing is my Sanctuary, due out in the fall 2007


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