Baby Arizmendi: Aztec Warrior

By Clarence George on October 21, 2014
Baby Arizmendi: Aztec Warrior
He was, is, and almost certainly will remain the youngest boxer to ever lace on the gloves.

In “one of the most courageous exhibitions in Mexican ring history,” Baby outpointed Henry Armstrong, despite suffering a broken left wrist…

“You gotta love livin’, baby, ‘cause dyin’ is a pain in the ass.”—Frank Sinatra

Born in Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico, on March 17, 1914 (birthplace 66 years later of Mexican middleweight Marco Antonio Rubio, who just got his clock cleaned by Gennady Golovkin), featherweight Baby Arizmendi turned pro on August 25, 1927, stopping Ray Ortiz by first-round KO in what would prove to be Ray’s one and only bout. Despite claims that Baby began his fight career at age seven, he was actually 13, at least according to the official record. Either way, he was, is, and almost certainly will remain the youngest boxer to ever lace on the gloves.

Arizmendi fought 135 times before retiring from the ring in 1942, winning 90, 19 by knockout, losing 27, four by knockout, and drawing 17 (his bout with Joe Montana in 1928 resulted in a no contest).

Baby won Mexico’s bantamweight title on November 14, 1931, beating Kid Pancho on points. He then outpointed former flyweight champ Fidel LaBarba on January 1, 1932, before winning California’s version of the featherweight championship by outpointing Newsboy Brown in LA on October 18, 1932. “Displaying all the speed and agility of his Aztec ancestry, the brown idol of Old Mexico and Little Mexico alike, decisively whipped his Los Angeles Jewish opponent,” reported AP with a heaping helping of tribalism. He lost the title on February 28, 1933, as well as his shot at the NBA championship, outpointed by Freddie Miller, but won the NYSAC featherweight crown on August 30, 1934, outpointing Mike Belloise. It was between those two bouts, on May 14, 1933, that Arizmendi snuck in a third-round stoppage of Mickey Cohen, an event no doubt instrumental in persuading the future gangster that it would be far more pleasurable to instead wrestle with Candy Barr.

It was on November 4, 1934, that Baby had the fight of his career, outpointing the great Henry Armstrong, despite suffering a broken left wrist in the second round, in “one of the most courageous exhibitions in Mexican ring history,” according to UPI.

Arizmendi again beat Armstrong on January 1, 1935, winning the California-Mexico featherweight title. He then stopped Chalky Wright by fourth-round KO on February 2, 1935, but was outpointed by Lou Ambers on February 7, 1936. He lost the California-Mexico title to Armstrong on August 4, 1936. Though he outpointed Wright on October 5, 1937, he again lost to Armstrong on points on March 15, 1938, thus ending Armstrong’s streak of 27 consecutive wins by knockout. Arizmendi fought “Homicide Hank” for the fifth and final time on January 10, 1939. At stake was the Welterweight Championship of the World, Baby losing on points. 

The four men who had the honor of stopping the tough little Mexican are Diego Acuna by seventh-round TKO in San Antonio in ‘28, Lou Ambers by 11th-round TKO at MSG in ‘39, California Jackie Wilson by eighth-round TKO at Wrigley Field in ‘41, when they fought for the Golden State’s welterweight title, and Earl Turner by sixth-round TKO in Oakland in ‘42, in what was Baby’s penultimate bout.

Arizmendi served in the U.S. Navy during World War II before becoming a restaurateur. He died as the result of complications from diabetes on December 31, 1963. He was 49. Baby was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004.

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Henry Armstrong vs Baby Arizmendi IV

Henry Armstrong vs Baby Arizmendi (V)

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  1. Bill Griego 02:33pm, 02/04/2016

    Solly Smith

  2. nicolas 10:16am, 10/22/2014

    CH: I’m sure i wasn’t about Ranton,, because that boxer was still fighting then. this guy appeared to be much older, and I believe the film might have been made before that. Thanks for your efforts.

  3. Eric 06:18am, 10/22/2014

    Irish…Pops trowed dat punk a beating. haha. And he was wearing a Bill Cosby sweater while doing it. Those were some thudding punches that Pops was winging. Got a good laugh out of that. Made me think back to when the Epic Beard Man all of 67 years of age, had to trow some punk a beating on an Oakland bus.  Maybe Junior will learn to respect his elders now.

  4. Clarence George 03:06am, 10/22/2014

    Yesterday, Matt brought up (perfectly legitimately, by the way) Henry Armstrong’s claim that he threw his first two fights with Baby Arizmendi.  I found in my files what Armstrong had to say about Arizmendi much earlier, in ‘38:  “I fought him four times, and the best I could do was stagger him.  The Baby’s tough to hurt.”  In the same interview, Armstrong relates that his three-year-old daughter asked him to return home, to LA, even though he had just arrived in NY after a long train trip.  He promised he would, to which she said, “You are two-facing me.”  Hmmm. 

    I’m not looking to blacken Armstrong’s name.  The guy’s aces with me—greatest welterweight of all time and one of the greatest pound-for-pounders.  But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t capable of bullshitting on occasion, if he thought it might make him look better (kinda like the rest of us), as even his young daughter recognized.

  5. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:34pm, 10/21/2014

    Eric-If you want a yuk just type in ‘‘Old man knocks down boxer’ on Youtube….this old codger has got to be a ringer because he flat kicked that young whippersnapper’s ass….the way he moved and the shots he was throwing with bad intentions makes me think that he was the only boxer in that ring..

  6. Eric 05:55pm, 10/21/2014

    @Kid Blast…Never heard of her till today. Pretty interesting life she led, and a pretty hard life too. Running away as a young teen, prostitution, drugs, prison, etc. The perfect girl for goons like Cohen and Jack Ruby to prey upon. On the Wiki article it stated back in ‘88 that Ryan O’Neal was interested in making a biopic of Candy Barr’s life starring his wife, Farrah Fawcett. Pity it wasn’t made, it would have been an ineresting piece of film. Probably going to check out Amazon for some books or other sources about Barr’s life. Very interesting life, although quite sad. Always find those sort of characters interesting for some reason. Somehow, I think, I might be thinking of Ms. Candy Barr, every time I bite into a Snickers, from here on out.

  7. Clarence George 05:50pm, 10/21/2014

    Thanks, Eric.  Love Bettie Page.  I used to go to Movie Star News (which no longer exists) all the time.  That’s where she got her start.

  8. Kid Blast 05:35pm, 10/21/2014

    Eric, you never heard of Ms. Candy Barr. Geez man, where have you been?

  9. Eric 04:15pm, 10/21/2014

    Clarence, Nice articles. I’m thinking maybe you might need to put up a parental advisory warning for explicit content for those two articles. teehee. I’ve heard of Bette Paige & Blaze Starr. Always thought Bette Paige was indeed a real hottie. She was a real healthy specimen without a doubt.

  10. Clarence George 03:21pm, 10/21/2014

    Eric:  You should read my articles, “The Christian Life” and “The Circle of Life,” if I may be so bold to recommend.

  11. Eric 03:11pm, 10/21/2014

    Tempest Storm reportedly stripped until 1995 before she hung up her G-string at the age of 67. Whoa daddy. She is now a proud member of something called the Exotic World Burlesque Museum Hall of Fame located in Helendale, California. One of Ms. Storm’s G-strings hangs proudly on display at the Burlesque Museum Hall of Fame.

  12. Clarence George 02:15pm, 10/21/2014

    Ha!  My pleasure, Eric.  Candy Barr is my favorite of the burlesque queens, with Lili St. Cyr a close second.

  13. Eric 02:03pm, 10/21/2014

    Never heard of Ms. Candy Barr. Checked her out, seems Mr. Cohen liked strippers, he had a fling with Ms. Beverly Hills & Tempest. Learning a lot about dem mob guys lately. Tempest alledgedly bedded Cohen & Elvis. She probably is the only dame dat can make dat claim. Tanks for the 411 on the underworld.

  14. Clarence George 01:31pm, 10/21/2014

    Thank you kindly, Irish, and I was delighted to be able to give a shout-out, as it were, to the dandy Miss Candy.

  15. ch. 11:30am, 10/21/2014

    Nicolas, in 1957 a popular film called “El Raton” about NBA world bantam champ, Raul “Raton” Macias was released. Macias, himself, played the lead role…..........I believe I have seen at least one other about a Mexican boxer portraying himself. I’ll rummage around.

  16. ch. 10:41am, 10/21/2014

    nicolas, I vaguely recall a movie like that. I’ll look around and see if I can help.

  17. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:25am, 10/21/2014

    Clarence George-You have a nifty KO streak going here yourself….kinda’ like Hammerin’ Henry’s…..the segue to Candy Barr was a very nice touch indeed and really got my synapses firing this morning!

  18. nicolas 10:24am, 10/21/2014

    CH: was curious if you would know this fighter. I was once looking at a movie on a Spanish station some 11 or 12 years ago. It was about a Mexican boxer, made in the early 50’s, and started that Mexican fighter playing himself. He may have also beaten an American fighter for some Pacific Coast title, do you know what that fighter might be that I am referring to? Or does anyone else know?

  19. Eric 08:50am, 10/21/2014

    Can’t leave out Wilfred Benitez who turned pro at 15. Benitez wasn’t Mexican but still the youngest champ ever. That is probably one of the few sports records that will never be broken.

  20. ch. 08:39am, 10/21/2014

    I love Mexican and Mexican-am. boxing history. I know many have started their careers in their early teens. Zurdo Galvan and Pajarito Moreno come to mind. Some other “youngsters” were Ralph Dupas (14), Willie Pastrano (15). And Jimmy Leto was being paid as a professional at the age of 12. (according to boxrec).

  21. Eric 07:46am, 10/21/2014

    Can’t imagine a 12-14 year old kid boxing with physically mature men. Talk about child abuse. Would take a real exceptional kid to pull that one off. Wonder if Baby or Pipino were actually fighting grown men or other teenagers.

  22. Clarence George 07:24am, 10/21/2014

    Eric:  It’s also possible that Kid Azteca turned pro when he was 12, but the documentation just doesn’t seem to be there.  He did, however, fight from the late ‘20s to the early ‘60s (from around 16 to 48), which is really quite extraordinary.  I mean, 32 years in the ring!

    By the way, here’s a link to the Riggs print I mentioned earlier.  It’s titled “Little Brown Brother.”

  23. Eric 07:00am, 10/21/2014

    Tony Ayala and Jerry Quarry might have “Baby” beat. There are claims both boxers started boxing at age 5. Pipino Cuevas turned pro at 14. According to legend, Tony Ayala at age 14, held his own in a sparring session with then champ Cuevas.

  24. Matt McGrain 06:53am, 10/21/2014

    Yeah, I agree.  You can’t go crazy taking the word of fighters that they tanked.  This one is no different.  I do think it’s interesting that he went from losing to outclassing Arizmendi though.
    Then again, Armstrong was improving apace, and it’s not uncommon to see something like this occur in a long series.

  25. Clarence George 06:42am, 10/21/2014

    Matt:  No disrespect to Armstrong, but we only have his word that he threw the first two fights with Arizmendi.  He also claims (with even less credibility) that, in his fight with Barney Ross for the Welterweight Championship of the World, “I carried him the last four rounds.  I was asked to do it, and he thanked me.”  Was Armstrong trying to muddy the waters because of his own questionable association with George Raft?  I’ll say this, though—I’m convinced referee George Blake robbed him of his win when he fought Ceferino Garcia for the Middleweight Championship of the World (at least as recognized by California), declaring the fight a draw.  That was the last fight Blake reffed.  Maybe he could afford to retire; maybe he found Dutch Schultz’s pot of gold.

  26. Matt McGrain 06:15am, 10/21/2014

    Armstrong claims a business arrangement for the first two fights with BA, although who knows really.  Hank certainly gives out the good stuff in the above films.

  27. Clarence George 05:30am, 10/21/2014

    By the way, I’m a big fan of phone booths, so the footage here is a real treat; especially enjoy the way Armstrong uses his shoulder.

  28. Clarence George 05:19am, 10/21/2014

    Pete:  Wonderful post, thank you.  “Gems of the Gyms”—I like that, a lot.

    Can you imagine fighting the likes of Armstrong with a broken wrist?  You couldn’t get me into the ring with “Hammerin’ Hank” unless accompanied by a platoon of Marines.  But Arizmendi was no end tough—I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he started fighting at seven.  He’s my favorite Mexican fighter (with Kid Azteca a close second).  Hell, one of my faves, period.

    There’s a Robert Riggs print where one of the boxers looks like Baby—a bit beyond my wallet’s capacity, unfortunately.

    I haven’t read it yet, but there’s a book out you might enjoy:  “Mexican American Boxing in Los Angeles,” by Gene Aguilera.  Your friend Rolando (RIP) would have devoured it.

  29. Pete The Sneak 04:43am, 10/21/2014

    CG, another winner on what I like to call your ‘Gems of The Gym’s’ series..This truly strikes an emotional chord with me….I had an old gentleman friend of mine who was from Mexico (RIP Rolando, a truly wonderful, caring man) who had migrated to the Bronx many moons ago. He used to tell me some amazing stories about Mexican fighters and lo and behold, Baby Arizmendi was one of his favorites. He used to tell me that Arizmendi Nacio Con Guantes Puestos’ (was born with gloves laced on), so who knows, he may have very well fought at the age of seven…lol…Great stuff, man. Rolando would have loved this article…Peace.

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