The subject of who is the greatest Mexican fighter of all time is a topic guaranteed to cause debate with compelling fans. Passionate cases could made for the likes of Julio Cesar Chavez, Juan Manuel Marquez and Salvador Sanchez but one name, inexplicably, often gets left out of this debate:
Ricardo “Finito” Lopez.
With a professional record of 51-0-1(38 K.O’s) and the record for most consecutive world title fights without defeat, a record he shares with the great Joe Louis, Ricardo should be in the thick of this debate.
Ricardo became a professional at 18 years of age fighting in the minimum weight division. At this early stage of his career it was his power that caught the eye of those lucky enough to see him stop his first 8 opponents within the scheduled distance. As he progressed through increasingly with tougher fights in Mexico, his power alone wasn’t enough to win. As a result, he developed into a gifted ring technician with excellent foot work, a solid defence, and pin-point accurate punches.
The little genius’ first trip to foreign shores saw him capture the WBC belt from Hideyuki Ohashi in front of his own fans in Tokyo, by stopping him in the fifth round.
From there, Lopez never looked back, going on to defend his belt 21 more times.
In 1997, he gained his second belt in much the same way as his first, stopping WBO champion Alex Sanchez in five.
Like all great fighters “Finito” had a rival, Rosendo Alvarez. Alvarez is the man responsible for the only blemish on Lopez’s record. In 1998 they faced off in a unification fight, with Ricardo attempting to add Rosendo’s WBA belt to his collection.
Early on, it became clear that this was the hardest test of the Mexican’s career. In the second round, Rosendo knocked him down for the first and only time in his career.
In the 8th round, a cut above Lopez’s right eye was deemed too severe to continue and the fight went to the judges’ scorecards; one card in favour of Rosendo, one in favour of Lopez, and one a draw which resulted in the fight being a technical draw.
Both fighters showed heart by agreeing to a rematch of their gruelling battle, a fight which very nearly didn’t happen. Rosendo weighed in 3 ¼ pounds over the 105 limit, losing his WBA belt on the scales. Lopez decided to face the heavier man for the vacant belt and came away with a split decision in his favour.
That was to be Ricardo’s last fight at minimum weight, perhaps he felt age was catching up to him, as 32 years of age is relatively old for a fighter in the lower weight divisions. He moved up to light flyweight where he won, and twice successfully defend the IBF belt before doing the rarest thing in this sport, retiring at the top.
With all his achievements taken into account it’s hard to believe that he is regularly over looked in this debate. The fact that he fought in a division where so few could challenge him, could be the only issue that would diminish his accomplishments. But all those that saw him produce punch perfect performances in his prime will remember him as truly one of the all time greats.
The greatest Mexican of all time? Possibly
The most underrated boxer of all time? Possibly
The greatest minimum weight of all time? Undoubtedly