It is somewhat of a shame 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. Others may say Ruben Olivares. These three are truly legendary fighters. To me one other outstanding boxer from Mexico is Carlos Zarate.
Zarate began his career in 1970 and won his first fifty-two fights. Fifty-one by knockout. Amazing!!! A lot of Zarate’s early opposition may have been, in the words of Greg Haugen when he questioned Chavez’s fine record were over a bunch of Mexican taxi drivers. Well I don’t know if I’d go that far but Carlos beefed up his record but he was also learning his trade and learning it well.
By 1974 Zarate was moving up in the ratings. He stopped a tough fighter from Odessa, Texas named James Martinez. He halted unbeaten Joe Guevara. He stopped Orlando Amores, Benicio Sosa and Nestor Jimenez.
In May of 1976 Carlos halted the talented Rodolfo Martinez in nine rounds to win the WBC bantamweight title. That would lead to a run of seven title defenses. In 1977 Carlos would meet WBA champion Alfonso Zamora in a non-title match. Zarate won the ” Battle Of The Z Bombers ” with a convincing fourth round kayo. In 1978 Carlos would turn back the challenge of future champion Alberto Davila.
Carlos 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 Carlos down and the fight was stopped in the fifth round with Gomez retaining his title.
Zarate would drop back to 118 pounds. He would defend his WBC title one more time and then meet 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, Carlos would walk away from the game for nearly seven years.
Carlos 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 Carlos met Daniel Zaragoza for the vacant WBC 122 pound title. The rugged Zaragoza stopped Carlos in the tenth round. It would be Zarate’s last fight.
In all Carlos had 70 fights. He won 66 of them. Sixty-three were by the KO route. 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.