The Crunching Power of Carlos Zarate
By Jim Amato
When the question comes up, “Who was the greatest fighter to come out of Mexico,” the answer is usually Julio Cesar Chavez. Some say Salvador Sanchez while others may say Ruben Olivares. These three are truly legendary fighters, although to me one other outstanding boxer from Mexico is Carlos Zarate.
Zarate began his career in 1970 and won his first fifty two fights with fifty one by knockout (clearly a simply amazing number). That being said, a lot of Zarate’s early opposition may have been in the words of Greg Haugen, when he questioned Chavez’s fine record, a bunch of Mexican taxi drivers. Well I don’t know if I’d go that far, but Carlos beefed up his record with some poor opposition yet he was also learning his trade and learning it well.
By 1974, Zarate was moving up in the ratings. During that time he stopped a tough fighter from Odessa, Texas named James Martinez. He then halted unbeaten Joe Guevara, as well as Orlando Amores, Benicio Sosa and Nestor Jimenez too.
In May of 1976, Zarate halted the talented Rodolfo Martinez in nine rounds to win the World Boxing Council bantamweight title, which would lead to a run of seven title defenses. In 1977, Zarate would meet World Boxing Association champion Alfonso Zamora in a non title match. Zarate won the “Battle of the Z Bombers” with a convincing fourth round kayo. In 1978, Zarate would turn back the challenge of future champion Alberto Davila.
Zarate decided to move up in weight and challenge the also undefeated Wilfredo Gomez for the WBC 122 pound title. The fight took place October 28, 1978 in Puerto Rico. The extremely gifted Gomez appeared to be too fast for Zarate. Wilfredo had Zarate down and the fight was stopped in the fifth round with Gomez retaining his title.
Zarate would drop back to 118 pounds where he would defend his WBC title one more time before meeting the tough Lupe Pintor. Zarate started well but Pintor came on strong in the later rounds. After fifteen rounds Pintor was awarded a very controversial decision and the title. In disgust Zarate would walk away from the game for nearly seven years.
Zarate returned in 1986 and would reel off twelve more wins, ten by knockout. In 1987 he took on Australian sensation Jeff Fenech for the WBC super bantamweight title. Jeff held on to his crown by a technical decision in four rounds. On February 29, 1988 Zarate met Daniel Zaragoza for the vacant WBC 122 pound title. The rugged Zaragoza stopped Zarate in the tenth round. It would be Zarate’s last fight.
In all, Carlos Zarate had 70 fights winning 66 with 63 knockouts. He was tall and rangy. He had a stiff jab and a booming overhand right. He also had one of the best left hooks to the liver I have ever seen. Three of his four losses were to boxers now enshrined in the International Boxing Hall Of Fame. To me he has to rank among the best bantamweights of all time as well as one of the greatest Mexican fighters.
Jim Amato is a participating member of both the Boxing Writers Association of America and the International Boxing Research Organization. He is a longtime correspondent of sport, both inside and outside the ring, and he is currently the president and owner of Amato Sports Memorabilia. Jim’s other works and “Legends of Leather” articles can be found at http://boxinggreats.multiply.com.