The Legend of Pajarito Moreno

By Ted Sares on March 4, 2014
The Legend of Pajarito Moreno
Parajito, which means Little Bird in Spanish, won 19 of his first 20 fights, all by knockout.

His final record was an astounding 60-12-1 with 59 kayos (undoubtedly the single most telling factor in defining Ricardo’s legendary status)…

“For me the Mexican bantamweight revolution started in the fifties with Raul (Raton) Macias, Jose (Toluco) Lopez, Ricardo (Pajarito) Moreno, German Ohm and Jose Becerra. Macias, Lopez, Moreno and Becerra were national idols. The little known Ohm’s popularity was a rung below the other three, but he still had his moments.”—Dan Cuoco, President of IBRO

Early Years (1954-1956)

Ricardo “Pajarito” Moreno Escamilla was a Mexican professional boxer in the super featherweight division who never fought as an amateur and turned professional at age 17. After moving to Mexico City, he worked as a parking lot attendant before becoming a boxer. He toiled in the sport from June 1954 until August 1967. Those familiar with the California and Mexican boxing landscape in particular knew who he was. But as his fame grew, fans everywhere would soon learn that he was one of the all-time great punchers. In fact, he eventually would be ranked number 76 on the Ring’s’s list of 100 All time Greatest Punchers.

Style-wise, he was a smaller version of Pipino Cuevas and was a wide open hooker with bricks in either hand, and like Cuevas he had little regard for defense. Though not as tough as Pipino, he was equally enjoyable to watch because when Pajarito fought, fireworks were always in the offing. Taking it one step further, a comparison to heavyweight bomber Bob Satterfield would not be far off the mark, though Bob did have a bit more regard for defense.

Parajito (which means Little Bird) won 19 of his first 20 fights as a pro and all of his wins came by kayo. His only loss was in his fifth pro bout in which a supposedly more experienced Nacho Escalante outpointed him in six rounds, but little information could be found about Escalante until I discovered that this was his debut outing. In reality, Moreno was the more experienced boxer. Nacho finished his career with a 33-33-2 record.

One of Moreno’s early knockouts one stood out as it came against Americo Rivera (3-7-1) who would pull off a gigantic upset against Jose “Toluco” Lopez in 1955. Toluco was another fighter of legendary stature. Rivera would also KO Otilio Galvan (93-34-4) in 1955 and then outpoint Luis Castillo (91-67-12) and Humberto Carrillo (64-15-8) so his record was misleading to say the least.

The First Test (1956)

On January 22, 1956 Pajarito was matched with another rock solid prospect, 21-year-old Memo Diez, the then-Mexican and North American Flyweight Champion. Diez had won the titles by knocking out another Memo—Memo Sanchez in 10 rounds. He also won the North American Bantamweight Title by knocking out and retiring the well-known Keeny “El Sereno” Teran in three rounds. The ranked Memo was no slouch and this fight would show just how good Moreno was; it was a test of sorts.

As a huge crowd at the El Toreo de Cuatro Caminos in Mexico City roared its approval, Diez beat the less experienced Moreno over 10 action-packed rounds although Moreno hurt Diez on several occasions but could not finish him

First Big Win (1956)

After winning two more fights, Moreno was ready for his next big test against—this time against the highly ranked Cuban national flyweight champion Oscar Suarez (45-3-3), who himself had beaten Memo Sanchez and Memo Diez, among others. Moreno delighted his Mexico City fans as he sedated Suarez in two destructive rounds. Curiously, shortly after this blowout loss, Suarez gave the great flyweight champion Pascual Perez all he could handle before succumbing in the 11th round of their title fight in 1966. Pajarito then ran off another string of kayos with the most impressive being a third round destruction of Henry “Pappy” Gault (66-18-2).

Mexican fighters now dominated The Ring’s bantamweight ratings. According to Dan Cuoco who had done a significant amount of research on the subject, the Mexican bantamweight revolution was clearly in full force. As Dan relates, “By October 18, 1956 Mexican fighters dominated five of the top ten spots in The Ring’s bantamweight ratings. Raul Macias was ranked number one, Moreno number six, Jose (Toluco) Lopez, number seven, German Ohm, number nine and Fili Nava, number ten.”

The United States

On January 29, 1957, in El Paso, Texas, Pajarito knocked out Jessie Mongia (32-8-1) in two rounds in what would be his first fight in the United States. Then on February 12, he sedated one Tommy Bain in three rounds in Hollywood; on April 1, he did the same to Tunisian bantamweight Gaetano Annaloro in San Francisco. He also had become the ninth ranked featherweight with a record of 29-2-0, with 28 kayo wins.

On May 28, 1957, another massive and enthusiastic crowd came to see the ultra-exciting 20-year-old Moreno take on 23-year-old Jose Luis Cotero (33-13-5) at Gilmore Field in Los Angeles. The atmosphere vibed electricity when both combatants entered the ring. The fight promised to be a thriller and did not disappoint. Pajarito got first blood as Cotero suffered a deep gash over his right eye and later under his chin. Referee Mushy Callahan looked to stop the fight but reluctantly, though unfortunately for the Little Bird, let it continue. This put Cotero in desperation mode and he responded by going all out with vicious volleys and finally caught Moreno with a flush shot upstairs that ended the seven rounds of extreme but thrilling violence.

Moreno bounced back six months later with a sixth round bloody stoppage of rugged and well-known Ike Chestnut at the fabled Olympic Auditorium. In still another demonstration that traditional logic does not apply to boxing, Ike’s most recent victim had been against none other than Pajarito conqueror Jose Luis Cotero. With this win, Ricardo earned a number six ranking and a title shot at the newly crowned featherweight champion Hogan “Kid” Bassey on April 1, 1958.

Bassey Fight (1958)

Moreno met the great Bassey before still another monster crowd in Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field. As soon as the bell rang a wild brawl ensued, instigated by the Kid’s bull rush. Moreno quickly rattled, hurt and cut Bassey, but the slick Nigerian who possessed superb foot movement survived and quickly changed tactics, fighting more circumspectly. Soon he was controlling matters and began battering Pajarito seemingly at will with long and well-leveraged rights; one potshot after another. Finally a hard right hand caught the dazed Moreno flush on the chin and that was that. Though Moreno struggled in vain to get up, referee Tommy Hart finished the count with two seconds left in the round but he could have counted to 100. Bassey’s first title defense had been a violent one that featured non-stop aggression against a pressing and always dangerous opponent.

Later in 1958 and after two quick KO victories, Ricardo fought future champion Davey Moore in Los Angeles and was waxed in the first round, and that brutal loss essentially ended Moreno’s run as a serious title contender.

The End (1967)

In 1961, Moreno won a DQ against unknown Teddy Rand and then ran off 21 straight KO wins with the DQ being his only career victory that wasn’t a knockout. He fought on until 1967, but every time he moved up in competition, he was knocked out. It seemed his chin had a susceptibility that was in inverse proportion to the crunching power in his fists. He was KOd by Claudio Adams (44-7-6) in 1961 and finally, after suffering four out of five defeats to solid opposition including two consecutive KOs at the hands of Raul Rojas in 1967 and a KO to Silverio Ortiz in his last fight on August 13, 1967, the 30-year-old Ricardo “Pajarito” Moreno Escamilla retired.

His final record was an astounding 60-12-1 with 59 kayos (undoubtedly the single most telling factor in defining Ricardo’s legendary status), but he himself was stopped nine times. As a chill-or-be-chilled type, he was one of the most exciting fighters to ever enter a boxing ring and that too contributed to the legend. However, many of his rabid, almost cult-like fans overlook the fact that on balance, Moreno’s level of opposition was not particularly compelling. Many of his early opponents were making their debut and it appears the first one with a pulse was Jorge Herrera (20-19-4) whom Moreno iced in two in 1954. Jorge’s final mark was an old-school 45-48-6.

Fall from Grace

Later, Moreno starred in two films and supposedly had a relationship with Miss Universe contestant and actress Ana Bertha Lepe and others. Reportedly, he had an unhealthy yen for alcohol and women, was duped by “movie star weasels” (are there any other kind?), and whatever wealth he had was stolen during his days with the Mexican jet set while cocaine and alcohol played a role as well. This article titled “Ricardo Pajarito Moreno, otro ídolo del boxeo que terminó en desgracia” (from LaJornada, June 26, 2008, by Carlos Hernandez and Jorge Sepulveda) details in Spanish the Little Bird’s fall from grace:

For many years it was reported that he had died in 1978 at the age of 41. But further research revealed that he was driving a cab in Mexico City and eventually died of effects brought on by alcoholism and depression at the age of 71 at a rehabilitation center in Durango. He is buried in his home town of Chalchihuites in El Panteón Dolores. This confusion in dates also added to his legendary status among aficionados. But again, it could be asked if his fans were so rabid, why did it take them so long to determine when he passed away?

These videos (in Spanish) talk to the Little Bird’s stature as a Mexican boxing icon:

And one that is not quite so flattering:

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Davey Moore vs Ricardo Moreno

Hogan Bassey KO3 Ricardo Moreno

Ricardo "El Pajarito" Moreno


Rodolfo ''Chango'' Casanova y Ricardo ''Pajarito'' Moreno

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  1. Ted 04:28am, 03/09/2014

    Thanks Bikermike

  2. bikermike 04:51pm, 03/08/2014

    I wept when I caught the Hearns Cuevez match on the radio…..on the lake fishing…

    Warrior coming into the fifty caliber weapons…..

    Hearns was king…Cuevez went out on his shield

  3. bikermike 04:44pm, 03/08/2014

    Most brilliant professional Boxers/Fighters ...anyway….are from some amateur background..with exposure to many opponents and good coaching….

    Problem is…unlike Baseball…Hockey..Football…Basketball…...Track and Field….good athletes are always saying goodbye to coaches…

    ...amateur Boxing has not developed the infrastructure…as ..amateur Boxing has always declared war on Professional Boxing….at least officially

  4. bikermike 04:35pm, 03/08/2014

    College programs have put a buffer for retired athletes..due to age or injury…Baseball was the last one…then next was Basketball…and of course ..Football….  You’d have to go back to between WWI…and WWII.and a few years….when Boxing was a University…or common amateur Sport…as was Baseball…Basketball,. or Football….

    Due to the many public relation problems with Pro Boxing…..Boxing has no longer the audience it had in the seventies and eighies..

    ...continues to lose credibility with diva Champions and half weight divisions….Lake of exposure…..

    ‘tuff man contests ’ are the only venue many fight fans can see on a regular schedule

  5. bikermike 04:26pm, 03/08/2014

    Jeff Chandler

  6. bikermike 04:25pm, 03/08/2014

    Moreno earned his place…

    only a guy like Duran could match his magic…even though he was much heavier..

    ...Who was that brilliant USA Bantam weight…...remember him….eighties…bradley maybe…

    ...North America has not usually embrassed lighter weight fighters ...‘from out of town’....‘cept guys like Arguello and Duran..and Sanchez(God rest his soul).....before them….I’ll bet there will be a good write up soon…..

    ‘Jem’ Carney was just one ....who came ...‘from afar’...and won the hearts of the locals…....Kid Gavilan…did it too….even ‘Enry Cooper had a NORTH AMERICAN FOLLOWING…..after his first match with CLAY/ALI

    George Chuvalo had a following ....tuffest thing in Boxing since boiled whale shit…took a HW TITLE FIGHT on seventeen days notice….and put the Champ in the hospital…..check it out

  7. bikermike 04:08pm, 03/08/2014

    prize fighting has always been a .....somewhat ‘greay’ industy…

    Had a gradfather…CAMPBELL…ROY…..who did rodeo and prize fighting…sometimes he got paid..and sometimes he didn’t…
    I have to believe Tim Wotherspoon..who’d just been knocked out…..he saw Don King stepping over him to welcome the NEW HEAVY WEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WOLD….Terrible Tim got thirth thousand dollars after DOn Kings’ accounting firm got finished

    Boxing needs a Commission…before it’s too late

  8. bikermike 04:00pm, 03/08/2014

    Hey TED….noticed that Juan Manuel Marquez lost a points match wiht TImothy Bradley…..

    That makes two out of the top two…that Bradley has beaten….in front of God and everybody….

    I see that Pacquaio has matched Bradley on April 12…......better be a KO….by ‘Manny’....ot that’s it

  9. Ted 08:06am, 03/08/2014

    “there is no such thing as an unhealthy interest in booze and the ladies”

    Correction noted and points taken. My bad.

  10. bikermike 07:46pm, 03/07/2014

    This warrior was in the last of the era of live gates….got some tv..but that was as straight as the letter S..

    FIfties was the last of the gangster days….and it moved on to the fair ...compassionate ...kind and considerate era of

  11. bikermike 07:41pm, 03/07/2014

    when there was six…count ‘em ..six televison broadcasts a week…(in some places)...a guy would be lucky enough to catch a match or two with Ricardo ‘Pajarito’ Moreno….

    He was exciting…and television gave him the respect he deserved..

    Too bad then…as now….lighter weights don’t get their due

  12. bikermike 07:34pm, 03/07/2014

    Great read Ted….thanks again
    ...btw…there is no such thing as an unhealthy interest in booze and the ladies..OK !!!

  13. Ted 10:01am, 03/06/2014

    Thanks Peter. Yes, chasing the buzz is part of it for certain. Al kinds of celebrities do it. They remain legends in their own minds.

    The bantamweights of this era were especially rich in talent and in high drama.

  14. Peter Silkov 08:42am, 03/06/2014

    Great stuff as always Ted!... I’m always fascinated to read about these Mexican warriors of the past.  I knew a little about Moreno, now I feel I know a lot more!.  There seems to be a bit of a tragic trend for little warriors to fall under the spell of drink and other hard substances, maybe chasing the buzz that is missing in normal life after the boxing days come to an end?.

  15. Ted 05:50pm, 03/05/2014

    John, I would need to think that one over before I even ventured a guess, but my first reaction is that a sense of invulnerability may be the answer,

    Kind of like, “Hey I’m a great star so nothing bad can happen to me.”

  16. Ted 05:48pm, 03/05/2014

    Yes, That’s Chico

  17. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 05:41pm, 03/05/2014

    Ted Sares-Looks like Chico Vejar in the photo above with Little Bird…..Chico came to California to fight Kid Gavilan and Art Aragon among others….is there anyone that Chico wouldn’t fight?

  18. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 05:30pm, 03/05/2014

    Ted Sares-Great research…even better report…which reminds me…..he went back home to Old Mexico in ‘64 to get better….twelve straight KOs over cab drivers and street vendors….must have really had a sweet spot somewhere on his chin because I never saw Raul Rojas as dynamite fisted.

  19. John 01:57pm, 03/05/2014

    “But further research revealed that he was driving a cab in Mexico City and eventually died of effects brought on by alcoholism and depression at the age of 71 at a rehabilitation center in Durango.”  Question, Ted: What’s your opinion as to why so many fighters live such tragic lives? It happens to rock stars, actors, and other sports figures, but percentage wise boxing has got to be the tops in tragic endings. By-the-way, an interesting and well researched story.

  20. Ted 12:47pm, 03/05/2014

    Always nice to hear from my regular posters. thanks, mates.

  21. kid vegas 11:24am, 03/05/2014

    “movie star weasels” (are there any other kind?),” Best sentence in the article.

  22. Big Walter 10:26am, 03/05/2014

    Thanks for the history lesson on this one. I never really knew about this bomber. All but one of his fights ended by stoppage. Incredible.

  23. dollarbond 10:25am, 03/05/2014

    Hmm.  Seems as if he had too much charisma for his own good.  A min-Monzon?

  24. Tex Hassler 09:09am, 03/05/2014

    I was not familiar with Moreno. Thanks for bringing him up. He was a great fighter.

  25. Tyler Adams 08:41am, 03/05/2014

    Yes, that was me Ted.

  26. FightClubWriter 08:30am, 03/05/2014

    Really enjoyed learning about these bantamweight power plants. Thanks for the knowledge Ted!

  27. Dan Cuoco 07:42am, 03/05/2014

    Ted, thanks for remembering one of my favorites from the 1950s. As a kid I remembered being fascinated by these hard-punching Mexican bantams. Jose Medel was also coming into prominence as a flyweight contender. I just emailed you a photo of Moreno decking referee Frankie Van (The Ring magazine, May 1957).

  28. Pete The Sneak 06:01am, 03/05/2014

    LOL…OK Toro, I guess that would explain it…Still, keep em coming…Peace.

  29. Ted 05:58am, 03/05/2014

    Ha. Last night it was 10 below and today it’s snowing. The snow is a-hole deep to Valuev plus there is more ice than in the North Pole. So between Walking Dead, True Detectives, Powerlifting, and staying cozy with my wife, what else can I do?

  30. Pete The Sneak 05:54am, 03/05/2014

    Toro, an absolute wonderful read on a boxer whom I was never really familiar with…Stories like this on fighters like ‘pajarito’ are the reason why has become the elite of internet boxing sites…By the by Toro, did you lose your Golf club memebership or something? You keep churning out these articles like mass produced bags of fried Tostones (plantain chips)...Totally loving it, but what gives?...Peace.

  31. Ted 05:31am, 03/05/2014

    My good buddy Frank Baltazar on the West Coast just sent me this interesting email:

    In the Tommy Bain fight; (my wife and I were ringside} I don’t remember what round it was, but Moreno threw one of his wild left hooks and Bain slipped the punch and Moreno hit referee Frankie Van with it, knocking him down, the sold out Hollywood legion crowd went wild….Keeny Teran was NOT known in LA as “El Sereno” don’t know where BoxRec got that from….Keeny was a good friend of mine.

    That had to be one for the memory bank.

  32. Ted 04:50am, 03/05/2014

    Tyler, a friend of mine in LA moved a while back and one of the workers noticed he had a heavy bag in his garage so he started to work it with combos and hooks. My friend said “wtf, who are you, man?” He replied I am Chucho Castillo. My friend then sent me his photo working the bag. Was that you? Yes, Chucho is alive and quite well.

  33. Tyler Adams 04:43am, 03/05/2014

    Great read Ted.  Mexico has produced many of the great warriors from the lower weight classes.  Lets not forget my buddy Chucho Castillo who gave the 59-0-1 Ruben Olivares his first loss.  While the internet shows him as passing in 2011, he is alive and surviving.

  34. Mike Casey 04:27am, 03/05/2014

    Moreno had a terrific brawl with Raul Rojas at the Olympic Auditorium in 1966 before being stopped on cuts in the third round. Pimentel was great as Mike says here and another of my favourites was Jose (Joe) Medel.

  35. G.E. Simons 01:32am, 03/05/2014

    Great piece. Am ashamed to say I wasn’t aware of this fighter before I read this, so thanks!

  36. Mike Silver 10:12pm, 03/04/2014

    I was a great fan of Ricardo “Pajarito” Moreno even though I never saw him fight. Same with Jesus “Little Poison” Pimental- 77-7 with 69 KOs! No other country churned out these little bantam monster punchers like Mexico. Then came Becerra, Zarate, Zamora and of course the great Reuben Olivares. And let’s not forget the great Jose Medel. His KO of Fighting Harada and two wars with Eder Jofre puts him right up there.

  37. Clarence George 08:57pm, 03/04/2014

    An “unhealthy” interest in booze and the ladies, is it?

    By the way, Ana Bertha Lepe died just a few months ago.