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that wasn't rosario's last mexican nightmare. Three years later he went head-to-head with julio cesar chavez, then a streaking young champion, but now considered arguably the greatest mexican prizefighter ever. Rosario was never in it. His best bombs never fazed the onrushing chavez, whose chin was already legendary. Chavez walked through everything rosario could give him, and beat him around the ring until it was stopped, finally, in the 11th round.
Rosario wasn't the only puerto rican icon chavez beat down in a big fight. In september 1992 longtime rivals chavez and hector "macho" camacho drew 19,100 fans to the thomas & mack center in las vegas. Chavez was 81-0 and 21-0 in tittle fights. Camacho (who was born in bayamon but fought mostly on the east coast) was 41-1 with his only defeat a close loss to greg haugen, which he avenged in a rematch. The intensity was palpable. Camacho was so confident going into it that he made a 100,000 side bet with chavez on the outcome. To chavez it was a matter of national pride.
"my fans do not want me just to beat him," chavez said beforehand. "they are begging me to give him a bad beating. They do not like camacho. The mexican people will never forgive me if i lose. They will lynch me if i lose. I couldn't return to mexico."
chavez had no trouble going home. He beat camacho like a drum all night on the way to posting a unanimous decision victory by scores of 117-111, 119-110, and 120-107. "i thought i was going to fight a sharper fight," camacho said afterward. "he stayed on me and i couldn't keep him off me." that camacho lasted the distance was a surprise to many.
"i have to give credit to camacho," chavez said. "he was a much better fighter than i anticipated. He's not the (unmanly) fighter i thought he would be. He really took a lot of punches. I tried to knock him out. He had a lot of heart tonight."
earlier in his career, camacho had some success against mexican fighters. In 1983 he'd stopped the tough rafael limon in five rounds to win the junior lightweight title, and two years later won the lightweight title by easily outpointing the very same jose luis ramirez who had given rosario so much trouble.
Wilfred benitez was more camacho than rosario or gomez. Perhaps the most skilled defensive fighter of his era, he delighted in making stronger, older, harder-punching fighters look silly. Though born in the bronx, new york, benitez was a member of one of puerto rico's more famous boxing families - his father gregorio benitez was well known manager and trainer and his brothers, frankie and gregory, were contenders in the 1970s. He probably is best remembered, unfortunately, for losing to ray leonard. But his best career moment may have been against carlos palomino, the tough mexican-american from whom benitez won the welterweight title in 1979.
Benitez had won the junior welterweight title, at 17 years old no less, against the great antonio cervantes, but his reign was uninspiring; he was stripped for failing to defend the title following a car accident, barely survived a fight with bruce curry, and contracted hepatitis. His challenge of palomino, in bithorn stadium in san juan, was his chance to get back on track.
It was vintage benitez. The first half of the fight was close but in the second half benitez countered off the ropes and palomino, who was a sturdy and sound technician, couldn't do a thing with him. Benitez boxed him silly. The decision for benitez - by scores of 148-143, 146-143 and 142-146 - would have been unanimous but for the odd card handed in by zack clayton, who claimed afterward that the sun had affected his vision.
Of all the great matchups featuring puerto rican stars against mexican or mexican-america stars, none was bigger than was felix trinidad's decision win over oscar de la hoya in their welterweight unification fight in september 1999. The mandalay bay hotel & casino swelled to capacity with 11,610 fans. The fight did 1,400,000 pay-per-view buys and generated $71.4 million in pay-per-view revenue. Never mind that the majority of observers had de la hoya winning after he built a commanding early lead by outboxing trinidad and bloodying his nose.
"every time i see it, i give myself another round," de la hoya told the new york post afterward. "i thought it was worse than it was, that he was hitting me with a lot of shots, but after seeing the tape, i saw he never hit me once. Check that; he got me with one solid shot - after the bell."
regardless, de la hoya's strategy of avoiding all contact over the last four rounds - a tactic offered by cornerman gil clancy, who believed he had amassed an insurmountable lead - not only cost him the decision, in the minds of many it disqualified him from getting any real sympathy. In the all-important mexico-puerto rico matchup, he had run away. He had played it safe.
Trinidad, meanwhile, received a hero's welcome on returning home to puerto rico. Tens of thousands of fans greeted him when he arrived at luis munoz international airport and not even the 4,000 police and security officers could control them. The airport came to a standstill and much of the traffic in old san juan came to a grinding halt as trinidad's victory procession wove its way through the streets.
"i had stated before the fight that i was going to dedicate my victory to puerto rico," trinidad told the massive crowd. "my win over de la hoya last saturday was for each and every one on our beautiful island. It is for me an honor to bring this newly acquired crown to all of you. I don't want anyone to leave, because it is fiesta time!"
the fight game is as popular today as ever in puerto rico and mexico. Champions and heroes continue to spring from gyms on every corner. When those champions meet, good things happen.
end of article!