Tepito (Part Three)

By Ted Sares on September 26, 2015
Tepito (Part Three)
The badly crushed Zamora would never be the same going 4-4 in his last eight fights.

These men embodied the nature of Tepito from the ‘50s through the ‘80s. After all, boxing and “El Barrio de Tepito” were synonymous back in the day…

There is no better way to start the third and final part of this series than to visit the hot and steamy Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California, on April 23, 1977, where a Mexican-style shootout of extraordinary importance was about to take place—and it involved a son of Tepito.

Carlos “Caña” Zarate (1970-1988)

The stage was set. The anticipation, intensity, and excitement were palpable. To add to the drama, bad blood existed between the managers of the two fighters.

Two undefeated Mexican bombers extraordinaire and two world champions were about to meet head-on in a shoot out. One, Carlos Zarate, was 46-0 at the time with an astounding 45 KO victories. His opponent, and the slight favorite coming in, was Alfonso Zamora who entered the greatly anticipated showdown with a 28-0 record and 28 consecutive knockouts. Yes, that’s an amazing combined ring record of 74 wins, no losses, and 73 knockout victories. These were two guys who could put their opponents asleep at any time in a fight.

Zamora had chilled such notables as Soo-Hwan Hong (in Seoul no less), the roughhousing Eusebio Pedroza (for the WBA World bantamweight title in 1976), Thanomchit Sukhothai, and Francisco Villegas. “Caña” had knocked out the likes of fellow Tepito native Rodolfo Martinez (for the WBC bantamweight title), Panamanian Orlando Amores, Argentinean Benicio Segundo “Kid Gallito” Sosa, James “El Tigre” Martinez, Australian Paul Ferreri, and rugged Colombian Nestor Carlos “Baba” Jimenez. Indeed, Zarate was somewhat of an equal opportunity chiller. Only limited Mexican Victor Ramirez had taken him the distance and this was back in 1974.

The Fight (Bantamweight Fight of the Century)

Both fighters engaged in dangerous exchanges during the first two rounds giving young referee Richard Steele little to do but watch the kamikaze-type action. Early in the first round, a half-dressed religious zealot interrupted the action before police could remove the weird creature from the ring. In the third round, Zarate picked up the pace and imposed himself on Zamora as he launched a number of crushing left hooks before decking Alfonso toward the end of the round with a short but lethal right. In the fourth, Zarate stalked, stunned and then swarmed his shorter foe and ended matters as he decked Zamora twice in route to a brutal “white towel stoppage.” The first knockdown was the result of a patented Zarate right hand. Still, Alfonso was game hoping to catch Zarate with one of his own counter lefts. The end came when the two engaged in a furious exchange in the far corner. “Cañas” caught Zamora with a savage four-punch combination (right, left, right, left) that put his foe down and out as Zamora’s manager (and father) threw in the towel which landed on top of his prone son. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK8SKePrwDw

The badly crushed Zamora would never be the same going 4-4 in his last eight fights. However, showing that he still had awesome power, he iced tough Alberto “Superfly” Sandoval in 1978. He finished his fine career with a commendable mark of 33-5 and an extremely impressive KO percentage of 84.21. Zarate, on the other hand, continued on to forge a great career, one distinguished in many ways including being the only fighter to put together two streaks of 20 or more KOs wins in a row. The Tepito-born bomber is also on The Ring’s list of 100 greatest punchers at number 21.

With a remarkable mark of 66-4 (63 KOs) and a KO percentage of 90, the tall and lean “Caña” was 50-0 when he lost his first fight to the great Wilfredo Gomez (21-0-1 at the time). However, Carlos had to make four trips to the scales before making weight. Zarate would then lose to another bomber, Lupe Pintor, by SD in 1979, even though Pintor was dominated by Zarate and knocked down in the 4th round. The widely diverging scores were 142-143, 142-143, and 145-133. Many have called this one of the worst decisions ever seen in boxing, though Tiberi-Toney looms large.

Daniel Zaragoza (1908-1997)

Emotionally devastated by the decision, Zarate retired for seven years but came back in 1986 and won 12 straight before losing a TD to Jeff Fenech in Australia. This set up his last fight, another battle of Killer “Z”s, and this time with Daniel “The Mouse” Zaragoza (35-4) with the vacant WBC super bantamweight title at stake. Carlos, well beyond his peak, was stopped in the 10th and never fought again, officially retiring from the ring in 1988. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLEhREk2mxI

It’s noteworthy that three of his four losses came at the hands of future Hall of Fame inductees. As for Zaragoza, he would fight on and retired at the age of 39 with a record of 55-8-3. His last fight was a KO loss at the hands of a young Erik Morales in 1997 as the baton of Mexican boxing greatness was passed on.

Zarate was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994 and the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996. Zaragoza was inducted in 2004.

Rodolfo Martinez (1965-1979)

Also hailing from Tepito, this hombre fought his first 22 bouts in Mexico City, before losing by MD to Rafael Herrera in a bid for the vacant NABF bantamweight title. He then won seven straight and was 35-1-1 when he again fought Herrera in 1973 with the vacant WBC bantamweight title at stake. This time he would be stopped in 12 in a barnburner. Martinez was down four times (twice in 4th and twice in 11th), while Herrera was decked once.

Martinez finally caught up with Herrera in 1974 and TKO’d him in four to capture the WBC bantamweight title, though there was some controversy as to the stoppage. Martinez defended his newly won title four times before losing it to Zarate in 1976. After losing his Mexico bantamweight title against Roberto “Kid” Rubaldino, Rodolfo bounced back with his last great win, a 7th round TKO over undefeated Mike Ayala in Ayala’s home town of San Antonio.

Martinez retired in 1979 with a fine tally of 44-7-1 and an equally impressive KO percentage of 67.32.

Marco Antonio Barrera (1989-2011)

Two other Mexican legends of more recent vintage, Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Martinez (still fighting), were born in Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico. Some claim Barrera as a son of Tepito but others say he was too privileged to be so acclaimed. Thing is, Mexico City proper in not Tepito.

Barrera, a baby-faced assassin and three-weight world champion, had an amateur record of 104-4 and was a five-time Mexican national champion. Before losing his first amateur contest, Barrera had an amazing undefeated record of 56-0.

Marco’s trilogy with Erik Morales contained some of the greatest rounds ever fought in boxing history. Their rivalry—both personal and professional—reached its frenetic peak in the mind-numbing 11th round of their final bout in 2004. Those three fights alone should be enough to get both boxers into the IBHOF, but there was much more, including his much-talked about dismantling of the brash and undefeated Prince Naseem Hamed in 2001 and his later wins over Johnny Tapia, Kevin Kelley, Paulie Ayala, and Rocky Juarez (twice). Hamed, by the way, had been a 3 to 1 betting favorite.

Barrera (67-7-0-1) ended his great career on a high note stopping Jose Aria in February 2011 in Guadalajara, Jalisco. He is ranked #43 on ESPN’S’s list of “50 Greatest Boxers of All-Time.”

Since January 2009, Barrera has been a commentator for ESPN Deportes’ weekly boxing show “Golpe a Golpe” (Blow by Blow) which airs live on Friday nights.

Both Barrera and Marquez will be inducted into the IBHOF when their time comes.

There are many others who were spawned in Tepito, tough Tepiteños like Jesus “Chucho” Hernandez (1953-1968), Lorenzo “Halimi” Gutierrez (1966-1979), and Salvador “El Negro” Torres (1971-1983). But when one thinks of Tepito, the names of “El Raton,” “El Púas,” “Caña,” “Huitlacoche,”  “Famoso,” and “Kid Azteca” overshadow all others. These men embodied the nature of Tepito from the ‘50s through the ‘80s. After all, boxing and “El Barrio de Tepito” were synonymous back in the day.

“Being Mexican is a privilege, but being from Tepito is a gift of God…”

Tepito (Part One)
Tepito (Part Two)
Tepito (Part Three)

Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active power lifters and holds several world and state records. He enjoys writing about boxing.

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  1. dollarbond 06:01am, 09/27/2015

    an amazing combined ring record of 74 wins, no losses and 73 knockout victories wtf

  2. KB 12:30pm, 09/26/2015

    Back then, the Mexicans seemed to have the better of the Puerto Ricans.

  3. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:03am, 09/26/2015

    Karma is a bitch….Gomez spit on Zarate after the first knockdown and hit him when he was down at the end. Salvador Sanchez pounded and pounded and pounded him til he looked like pumpkin head….no spitting that time.

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