May 26, 2020

Mexican Legends Ricardo “Finito” Lopez and Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr.


Sergio F. Borges


A year ago, my friend Ramiro Guzmán and I were chatting about technical boxing legends. I shared my passion regarding the showcases of ring generalship displayed by Floyd “Pretty-Boy/Money” Mayweather, Jr., and of course, Willie “Will o’ the Wisp” Pep (from what I had seen on YouTube). Ramiro chuckled (respectfully), and in a manner that I will never forget, began to describe a legend — a Mexican General. To my surprise, it was not “El León De Culiacán,” Julio César Chávez, Sr.

I was so intrigued! I couldn’t recall ever seeing this fighter, but the name did ring a bell. How could this be? A fighter, considered a legend, who was active during my teenage and young adult years, yet, I never saw him fight? He’s considered by boxing aficionados a master ring General? In shock, I began to pull-up his bouts online. Instantly, a nostalgic wave ripples through my mind and I’m taken to that Saturday in September of 2001. The boxing card’s main event was Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins vs. Félix “Tito” Trinidad, but the co-main event is where my memory “touched-down.”

I clearly recall the bout! My 67-year old Cuban father yapping away in Spanish (as he drank his Glenlivet single-malt scotch or as he referred to it: H2O), “You see that little man?” “That is one of the greats!” “He operates like a surgeon with precision and sharp like a concord needle!” “Ha, ha…you see how he dictates every second of the fight? Reminds me of that bastard, Castro…ha, ha!” The fighter’s name was now seared into my memory: Ricardo “El Finito” López!

López was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007 after producing a body of work that consisted of 52 bouts. With a career record of 51-0-1 (38). In his career Amateur and professional, López never lost a fight. He held three of the four sanctioning body titles at 105 pounds before winning a version of the junior flyweight world title in October of 1999. He defended the WBC Strawweight crown a record 21 times and his title reign of 9 years is also a record. Ring Magazine recognizes López as the greatest strawweight of all time.

López began his professional career in 1985. 13-years later, López faced his toughest challenge when he fought the undefeated (24-0-0), Rosendo Álvarez. This was López’s 48th bout, he faced an opponent that came, not for the pay check, but for López’s WBC title. For the first time and only time in his career, López was on the canvas. A clash of heads occurred in the eighth round and López was unable to continue. The fight was declared a draw (split draw). The tie-breaker match occurred eight-months later. Álvarez weighed-in three and one-quarter pounds above the 105 pound limit. Álvarez refused to shed the weight and López was advised (by his father) to cancel the fight. He went against his father’s wishes and won a 12-round split decision.

The only López fight I had the privilege to see (live) was with my father that September evening of 2001. López knocked out Zolani Patelo in the eighth round that night. It was López’s 52nd professional and what turned out to be his final bout. Without even knowing what I had just witnessed, this ring General bows-out on top after a perfect 17-year boxing career!

In Spanish, “El Finito” means “The Thin One,” and it also means “The Finest/Classiest,” all traits and attributes that describe the manner in which López conducted himself in and outside of the ring. He was a humble, soft-spoken gentleman. During his illustrious perfect career, he believed (and humbly stated on many occasions) that Roy Jones, Jr., Oscar De La Hoya, and Félix Trinidad deserved to be above him on the mythical pound-for-pound list. As López stated (paraphrasing and translating from Spanish), “I consider them better than me…I respect their accomplishments.” WOW! How things have changed…180 degree change! Why? We now have middle-of-the-road champions claiming they are the greatest of all-time! The current middleweight champion of the world, who happens to be Mexican, demands respect from his countrymen!

In every dictionary, under the definition of ring generalship, there should be a picture of Ricardo “El Finito” López! I give respect when respect is due (and earned). I would also like to pay respect to another legendary Mexican General, his name is recognized among all boxing fans, Julio César Chávez, Sr. Chávez discovered López in a local professional boxing match in rural Mexico and convinced Don King to sign him, which led to Lopez being one of the only 105 pound fighters in history to have national PPV exposure. It was Lopez who paved the way for the lighter weight fighters like ‘Chocolatito” and that kind of endorsement from the likes of Chavez, Sr. opened the much needed doors for the lighter weight fighters.

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