On the Mark: Juan Manuel Márquez, Mexican Boxing Legend

Juan Manuel Márquez celebrates after knocking out Manny Pacquiao. Photo: Google

(Note: This originally came out on June 27, 2022, in PNM.)

by Mark Lorenzana

On Monday, June 13, Mexican boxing legend Juan Manuel “Dinamita” Márquez was finally inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, after more than two decades of dedicating his life to the sweet science and eight years since he fought — and won — his last fight against Mexican-American contender Mike Alvarado in 2014.

Joining Márquez in the Boxing Hall of fame are Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Andre Ward, Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko and the first female fighters — Christy Martin, Laila Ali, Lucia Rijker, Regina Halmich and Holly Holm — to be enshrined in Canastota.

Best known for his four fights against fellow boxing great Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao, Márquez knocked out Pacquiao in their final fight in December 2012 after settling for two losses and a draw against the Filipino in their first three fights. But Márquez actually made a name for himself first in the lower weights before moving up and figuring in big-money fights against Pacquiao, Mayweather and Timothy Bradley.

Born in Mexico City on Aug. 23, 1973, Márquez grew up in an impoverished area of Iztacalco in the central-eastern area of the capital, one of its smallest boroughs. While many of Márquez’s friends succumbed to gang violence and died young, he chose to box, accumulating an amateur boxing record of 82 wins and four losses, with 72 wins coming by knockout. His younger brother, Rafael, is a former world champion in the bantamweight and super bantamweight divisions, and is one of the most exciting boxers to ever come out of Mexico. The brothers both trained under legendary boxing coach Ignacio Beristáin, and at one time Juan Manuel and Rafael were both listed in Ring Magazine’s top 10 pound-for-pound list.

Márquez also went to school while boxing on the side, becoming an accountant after graduating from university, and ended up worked for several government agencies in Mexico City. He eventually gave up his accounting work and focused entirely on his budding professional boxing career.

Making his professional debut on May 29, 1993, in Mexico City, Márquez actually lost his first fight via disqualification. He then proceeded to rack up 29 straight wins — picking up several regional boxing titles along the way — before losing again, this time in his first attempt at a world title, in 1999, against American featherweight world champion Freddie Norwood.

Perhaps believing that he needed more time to improve his skills before competing for a world title again, Márquez decided to go back fighting for regional belts and won the WBO–NABO featherweight title. After four years, he again tried his luck in 2003 and finally won his first world championship at the age of 30, knocking out fellow countryman Manuel Medina for the vacant International Boxing Federation (WBF) featherweight belt.

Known for his cerebral boxing style and counterpunching prowess, Márquez figured in countless wars against the Who’s Who of lower-weight greats: Derrick Gainer, Pacquiao, Orlando Salido, Marco Antonio Barrera, Rocky Juarez, Joel Casamayor and Juan Díaz. He is also known for his toughness, which he regularly displayed against bigger opponents, especially the ability to bounce back from knockouts, cuts and a broken nose. Márquez is also one of the best in-fight strategists in boxing, owing to his superb ring IQ, excellent timing and unparalleled defensive skills.

“When I started my career, I wanted to be a world champion, and I did it seven times and in four different divisions,” Márquez said at his Boxing Hall of Fame induction ceremony. “That dream was fulfilled. I am excited to be here with the elite of boxing. This is especially for the fans, my family and for Mexico.”

Indeed, Mexico should be proud that one of its boxing legends has again reached the pinnacle of the sport.

On the Mark: Bigger Is Not Always Better

(Note: This originally came out on June 3, 2022, in PNM.)

by Mark Lorenzana

For a time, the heavyweight division was the darling of boxing aficionados. With Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and even Roy Jones Jr. plying their trade in this division and mixing it up with the big boys, heavyweight has always been one of the most exciting weight divisions in boxing. And this is perfectly understandable because, while boxing is also commonly known as the sweet science (hit and don’t get hit, à la Floyd Mayweather Jr.), it’s also known as the hurt business — the bigger they are, the harder they punch (and fall).

There was a time as well when boxing fans would give their opinions — and believe me, boxing aficionados are some of the most opinionated fans in any sport, this columnist included — and list heavyweight boxers as some of the greatest to have ever laced up gloves.

They’d blurt out Rocky Marciano, the undefeated heavyweight champion of the mid-1940s and late 1950s as the greatest. Some would say Ali — heck, Ali said so himself, with the supreme confidence that marked his entire boxing career: “I am the greatest!” A few Iron Mike die-hards would say Tyson was the greatest — to the obvious chagrin of self-labeled boxing purists, who never appreciated Tyson’s raw violence in and out of the ring, and who were put off by his antics. A lot of British boxing fans would say it’s Lennox Lewis, the British-Canadian former heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist — stopping Vitali Klitschko in six rounds, knocking out Tyson in eight and racking up wins against Hasim Rachman, David Tua and Holyfield will definitely put you in the conversation.

For me, though, bigger is not always better — that’s why the lower-weight categories in boxing have always been a treat for me.

A few years ago, if you were an aspiring boxer and wanted to earn millions, building up your boxing skills wouldn’t be enough — you had to be at least 6 feet tall (Tyson and Tua, shorter heavyweights, both stand 5 feet 10 soaking wet, but make up for their height deficiency with devastating one-punch knockout power) and weigh more than 200 pounds.

Five-feet-5 Manny Pacquiao, who started his career at 108 pounds as a junior flyweight, and 5-feet-7 Mayweather Jr., who won bronze at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta as a featherweight at 126 pounds, changed the game: Over his career, Pacquiao has earned $500 million, both from his fight purses and endorsement deals. Mayweather has doubled this, earning as much as $1.022 billion.

Pacquiao, one of the most exciting boxers at any weight, before he climbed up several divisions and earned the big bucks, made a name for himself first by fighting at the lower weights, figuring in bloody wars with some of the best Mexican boxers of their generation: Marco Antonio Barrera, Érik Morales and Juan Manuel Márquez.

Mayweather Jr., arguably one of the greatest fighters of all time — retiring undefeated after 50 fights — has two sides to him: At his best, he’s so fast that he toys with his opponent effortlessly and goes 12 rounds virtually untouched (at one time his moniker was “Pretty Boy,” which he later replaced with “Money”); at his worst he rarely engages and stinks up the joint. For me, though, his best fights — when he still had the killer instinct to actually finish off opponents — happened when he was still campaigning at the lower weights: against Diego “Chico” Corrales, Jesus Chavez, Jose Luis Castillo, Arturo Gatti and Zab Judah.

Pacquiao and Mayweather carried boxing for a time during their respective reigns, but before them it was a Mexican-American with a charming smile and a killer left hook — one Oscar De La Hoya, who won the Olympic gold medal for the United States in 1992, picked up 10 world championships in six weight divisions, and parlayed his boxing popularity and earnings into his own promotional company, Golden Boy Promotions.

Before De La Hoya? The pride of Obregón, Sonora, Mexico, of course — El Gran Campeón Mexicano, Julio Cesar Chavez. I’d list all of his accomplishments here, but I’d run out of column space. I haven’t even talked about Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez, who started his career at 140 pounds.

I could go on and on and gush about why I love the smaller fighters, but I’ll just end this column with an invitation: Please don’t miss the rematch on June 7 between Japanese fighter Naoya Inoue — who is defending his WBA (Super), IBF and The Ring bantamweight titles — and Filipino WBC bantamweight titlist Nonito Donaire. Inoue won the first fight via unanimous decision, but suffered a pair of fractures around his right eye courtesy of the hard-punching Donaire.

I expect the rematch between these two 122-pounders will be a real barn burner, similar to their first fight. Like I said earlier, bigger is not always better — that’s why the lower-weight categories in boxing have always been a treat for me.

On the Mark: A Fighter’s Diet Shouldn’t Define Him

by Mark Lorenzana

Several days ago, British former world champion boxer and Olympic silver medalist Amir Khan announced his retirement. Khan is an exciting fighter who has dynamite in his fists but, unfortunately, a glass jaw — while he regularly lit up his opponents, knocking out 21 of them, five of his own six losses came by brutal stoppage.

I still give Khan props, though, for fighting Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez in 2016, even if Canelo was several weight classes heavier than him and that fight — predictably — ended up with Khan glassy eyed and supine on the canvas courtesy of a Canelo sledgehammer of a right that connected to the Briton’s brittle jaw in the sixth round. You can question Khan’s ability to take a punch, sure, but you can’t question his heart.

You can question some of his recent statements as well, though, like I’m doing here in this column. Khan, who has strong family roots in Pakistan, recently said that a poor diet tends to hold back Asian fighters.

“Look, us Asians are not really meant to be fighters,” he said. “We’re not supposed to be good sportsmen and women. Our diet is appalling. It’s curries. It’s not the right diet to be a champion. If you put us against a lot of English fighters, their diet is a lot better. They’re stronger than us.”

I find this statement a bit odd because an English fighter who immediately came to my mind when Khan mentioned “a better diet” was former IBO and The Ring light-welterweight champion Ricky Hatton, who was known to put on massive amounts of weight in between fights. His natural fighting weight was 140 pounds, but he’d balloon up to 185 pounds or more when not training, thanks in large part to his penchant for fatty foods and regular trips to the pub to imbibe vast quantities of his favorite Guinness beer. And his favorite pre-fight meal? A full English breakfast, colloquially known in England as a fry-up: fried bacon, eggs and sausages with fried tomato, mushrooms, fried onion, toast, marmalade and fried black pudding — a type of blood sausage. How’s that for “a better diet”?

“Poor diet” notwithstanding, the Englishman still ended his career with an impressive record of 45 wins with 32 knockouts, against only three losses, with a couple of those losses coming against two of the greatest fighters to have ever laced up boxing gloves, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.

We can argue that perhaps Hatton’s knockout losses to Mayweather and Pacquiao can be attributed to his poor diet (there’s really no evidence for this, though). But any fighter who faced Mayweather and Pacquiao at their peaks, which was what Ricky Hatton did, God bless him — no matter how good he is or how good of a diet he has — will eventually succumb to those two generational talents, which was Hatton’s misfortune.

And speaking of Mayweather and Pacquiao, they aren’t really saints when it comes to their eating habits either. Mayweather, according to his personal chef Quiana Jeffries, in an interview with New York Magazine a few years ago, disclosed that her client’s favorite foods include fried hot dogs in barbecue sauce, Top Ramen and Twizzlers. Pacquiao, for his part, loves to eat chicken soup and beef stew when he trains, and these are relatively healthy dishes, but you have to see the amount of white rice he eats per meal — mounds and mounds of it. I mean, that can’t be healthy, right? I know whereof I speak because like Pacquiao, I’m Filipino, and I know how important white rice is to us in our daily meals. We have a joke in the Philippines: What is the best way to torture a Filipino and watch him suffer? Lock him up in a room with a spread of the most delectable dishes you can imagine, but without rice. It might be funny to others, but if I do find myself in this predicament, for me it’s no laughing matter. White rice, to us Filipinos, is what tortillas are to Mexicans.

Speaking of Mexicans: Of course this column wouldn’t be complete without talking about the eating habits of Mexican boxers or, at the very least, fighters of Mexican descent.

In 2008, Cristóbal “Chris” Arreola — after stopping American heavyweight contender and 2003 National Golden Gloves champion Travis Walker in round three and retaining his WBC Continental Americas heavyweight title, in addition to picking up the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) heavyweight title — thanked his countrymen: “Muchas gracias a toda la gente que está aquí, a toda mi gente mexicana, aquí hay un campeonato. Vamos a traer más.” (“Thank you very much to all the people who are here, to all my Mexican people, here is a championship. We are going to bring more.”)

That came at the tail end of his post-fight interview. The most interesting part of that interview, however, was what came in the middle of it — when boxing commentator Max Kellerman asked if Arreola, who held regional boxing titles, would be ready to fight either of the Klitschko brothers. (The Klitschko brothers — Ukrainians Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, who at that time both held a slew of world heavyweight championship belts. The older Vitali, by the way, also serves as mayor of Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine; he’s a former professional boxer turned rousing wartime leader: “My priority as mayor of my hometown: save the lives of citizens of our city,” he said in an interview with the Washington Post, talking about his decision to stay and fight amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. To stay put in the capital was not so much a decision, Klitschko said, but fulfillment of a “mission.” He added, “I am present right now, everywhere.”)

Kellerman, alluding to Arreola’s plump and flabby physique (ignoring that, although Arreola took a knee in the first round that was scored a legitimate knockdown owing to his opponent’s power, the Mexican-American proceeded to showcase power of his own by beating up and eventually knocking out the more muscular Walker with vicious body blows and a final devastating left hook to the face), said, “Maybe next time you will be concerned about the weight and go to war. Are you going to have to be concerned about the weight against the Klitschko brothers?”

Arreola answered, “I’m already concerned. As soon as the fight is over, I was already thinking about the Klitschkos already.” He added, “I’m gonna come ready. But tomorrow, I’ll go party, eat some menudo or something, and then come Monday back in the gym and hit the roadwork, man.”

For Arreola it’s menudo; for Andy Ruiz, the first male boxer of Mexican heritage to become a world heavyweight champion after defeating Anthony Joshua to win the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO titles in 2019, it’s tacos.

To be clear, I’m not dismissing the importance of a good nutrition plan that boxers need to follow when preparing for a fight. I just think that blaming a supposedly “poor diet” for a fighter’s inability to succeed, especially if that diet is part of a boxer’s culture and traditions — curry to Pakistanis, tacos and menudo to Mexicans, white rice to Filipinos, soul food to African-Americans, an English fry-up to the British, etc. — is incredibly simplistic.

Perhaps Amir Khan, when he criticized the diets of Asian boxers or boxers of Asian descent like him, wanted to make a point, a point that still — as much as I try to wrap my head around it — continues to elude me to this day. What I do know — or believe — is that a fighter’s diet, regardless of his nationality, shouldn’t really define his legacy inside the ring.

On the Mark: Bivol Brings Canelo Back Down to Earth

(Note: This originally came out on May 9, 2022, in PNM.)

by Mark Lorenzana

The last time I saw Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez really hurt and in serious trouble inside the boxing ring was against José Miguel Cotto, the older and less-accomplished brother of multiple-time world champion and recent International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Miguel Angel Cotto.

In that fight, the shorter Cotto stormed out of the gate swinging, determined to hunt down Álvarez and take the fight to him. But Canelo, who opted to play the calculating matador to the aggressive and onrushing Puerto Rican bull, was having success early on at taming Cotto’s rushes. After all, Álvarez was younger, taller and rangier, and this left Cotto mostly punching air and hitting Canelo’s gloves.

Until the 1:26 mark of the opening round, that is.

Álvarez threw a left straight, right cross and left uppercut combo that mostly missed and then backed up near the corner to try to stymie another Cotto assault, when the Puerto Rican connected flush with a short left hook to the Mexican’s uncovered face. This immediately wobbled Álvarez, who bounced against the ropes and continued to absorb punches from the emboldened Cotto. Álvarez staggered around the ring for the remainder of the first round, obviously hurt, with Cotto in hot pursuit, but failing to capitalize and, ultimately, let Canelo off the hook.

This proved to be Cotto’s undoing as Canelo found his range and capitalized on his height and reach to win the fight by technical knockout in the ninth round.

That fight was for the lightly regarded North American Boxing Federation (NABF) Welterweight Championship.

What’s amazing, at least to me, was that it happened in 2010, when Álvarez was just two months shy of his twentieth birthday.

That was — as far as I remember, and I may be wrong — the last time I saw Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez really hurt and in serious trouble inside the boxing ring.

What makes this feat even more incredible is the fact that Álvarez, thereafter, eventually proceeded to go up in weight multiple times to face harder punchers and better boxers than — and no offense to him — José Miguel Cotto: Carlos Baldomir, Alfredo Angulo, Erislandy Lara, Kermit Cintron, Shane Mosley, Floyd Mayweather Jr., the younger Cotto, Gennady Golovkin (twice) and Sergey Kovalev. That ledger is impressive; that list includes current, former and future boxing hall of famers and perpetual contenders.

After that hard-earned fight with José Miguel Cotto, Canelo went on a tear: winning 25 fights, drawing one (against Golovkin) and dropping another (a decision loss to Mayweather, one of the all-time greats, a loss that something any fighter worth his salt would be loathe to be ashamed about). In that span, Álvarez picked up titles at middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight, along with a second junior middleweight title reign after losing to Mayweather.

Indeed, before the fight with Dmitry Bivol for the Russian champion’s World Boxing Association (WBO) light heavyweight belt last Saturday night, May 7, Canelo Álvarez has looked virtually unbeatable.

That air of invincibility, however, would come crashing down.

Coming into the fight, oddsmakers had installed Álvarez as the five-to-one favorite over Bivol, but the Russian had other things in mind.

(An aside: Bivol might have been the underdog, but he was still the bigger man; after all, it was Canelo who was coming up in weight to challenge him. In other words, the Russian was a live underdog in that fight. Not as big of a long shot compared to Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, the horse that won a stunning upset — also last Saturday — despite being an 80-1 underdog. Rich Strike wasn’t even in the field until last Friday, May 6, when another colt was scratched from the race, but the thoroughbred came from behind to win America’s greatest horse race, pulling off one of the biggest shocks in Kentucky Derby history. That’s another story, though — or perhaps another column? What can I say? I love rooting for the underdog.)

In the opening round, Canelo started off fast, with guns blazing. He stalked Bivol and was the aggressor, coming forward and landing power shots both to the head and body of the taller Russian. Álvarez continued his assault in the second and third rounds, and looked to cruise to another comfortable decision victory. But then Bivol started to assert himself.

In the fourth round onward, Bivol began to use his superb boxing skills to frustrate Álvarez; the Russian has good hand speed for his size, and when he started stringing combinations together, the Mexican started to buckle a bit under the onslaught.

“I did feel his power,” Álvarez admitted in a post-fight interview.

In the middle rounds, Álvarez also seemed to run out of steam. His body language was telling: leaning on the ropes and letting Bivol unload on him, throwing nothing in return as the Russian fired off punch after punch, and also dropping his guard for most of the rounds, especially the latter minutes of the rounds — a sign of a gassed fighter trying to catch his breath.

Álvarez tried to rally in the later rounds, but it wasn’t enough. In the end, all three judges scored the fight 115-113 for Bivol.

“No excuses,” Álvarez said. “I think that’s what happens in the sport of boxing — you win or lose. That’s the sport, and that’s what happened. He’s a very good fighter.”

A very good, bigger fighter. There’s an old adage in boxing: A good big man always beats a good little man. At least on that night, this old adage rang true. As much as fighters want to flout weight classes in their quest for greatness — think not only Canelo and Mayweather as the guilty parties, but also Manny Pacquiao and Henry Armstrong — these weight classes exist, after all, for a reason.

Álvarez must have felt what José Miguel Cotto felt those many years ago, but this time with the situation reversed.

“I’m glad I proved myself. I’m the best in my division and I get to keep this belt,” said Bivol. “He’s a great champion, I respect him and all his team.”

The Mexican, however, is looking to bounce back as soon as he can. “Of course I do,” Álvarez answered when asked if he wanted a rematch. “It can’t end like this.”

Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez had been on cloud nine for the past several fights now, owing to his dominance in climbing several weight divisions and leaving bigger opponents bloodied and beaten in his wake. It took a skilled champion, the bigger and equally talented Dmitry Bivol, who was also a five-to-one underdog, to bring the Mexican sensation down to Earth — at least for now.

Valdez Drops WBC Title in Lopsided Bout against Stevenson

(Note: This originally came out on May 2, 2022, in PNM.)

by Mark Lorenzana

“I want to be one of the greatest Mexican fighters of all time.”

This was the confident answer of Óscar Valdez Jr. — a two-time Olympian who represented Mexico in Beijing 2008 and again in London in 2012 — when asked at a pre-fight interview before his scheduled bout against World Boxing Organization (WBO) super featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson what he wanted his legacy to be in boxing. And he certainly looked the part when Valdez met fellow Mexican Miguel “Alacran” Berchelt in the ring on Feb. 20, 2021, to challenge Berchelt for his World Boxing Council (WBC) super featherweight title.

In that fight, Valdez — originally from Nogales in the northern Mexican state of Sonora,but now fighting out of Tucson, Arizona — flattened Berchelt, the odds-on favorite. With a minute and 10 seconds remaining in the ninth round, Valdez landed a hybrid right overhand-uppercut followed by a left hook that dropped Berchelt, who recovered well after the knockdown to keep on fighting.

The end, though, came a round later when an aggressive and desperate Berchelt, trying to score a knockout, lunged and left himself wide open, absorbing a crushing left hook from Valdez that deposited him to the canvas. There would be no recovering for Berchelt, after that devastating shot; Valdez was crowned the WBC super featherweight champion that night.

Valdez, however, wasn’t expected to duplicate that feat against Stevenson, who himself picked up his super featherweight strap in impressive fashion by dominating erstwhile WBO champion Jamel Herring in October of last year en route to a 10th-round technical-knockout victory. Berchelt, like Valdez, has dynamite in his fists, but he doesn’t quite possess the ring savvy of a Stevenson — an Olympian in his own right, who represented the United States at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Río de Janeiro.

On the one hand, Berchelt is a jackhammer who keeps on coming, overwhelming opponents through sheer blunt-force trauma. But Berchelt’s come-forward style can also be his undoing, as evidenced by that well-placed counterpunch that Valdez used to knock Alacran out in their fight. Stevenson fights at his own pace — and forces you to fight at his own pace. Pure pressure fighters — in the mold of the aforementioned Berchelt, as well as, to an extent, Valdez — like to keep their opponents on the defensive end all night long, while fighters like Stevenson with a high ring IQ can adjust to an opponents’ fighting style and make you fight their fight.

Which was exactly what unfolded when Shakur Stevenson finally traded leather with Óscar Valdez Jr. on the night of Saturday, April 30, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas for their unification bout, with both fighters’ titles on the line, in addition to the Ring Magazine super featherweight belt.

It was evident at the outset who would control the fight. The 31-year-old Valdez came out at the opening bell eager — too eager, perhaps — as the Newark, New Jersey–native Stevenson, seven years younger, made him miss and miss badly. (One of those bad misses caused Valdez to slip and stumble and fall to the canvas in the first round.) While Valdez appeared overeager, sometimes lost, Stevenson controlled the distance with a crisp and effective jab.

It was also evident who the bigger fighter was. At the weigh-in the day before, it didn’t really matter as both fighters — like any other boxer well-versed in the art of making weight — did their darn best to dehydrate to make the 130-pound limit, with Valdez weighing a shade below at 129 pounds and Stevenson just making it. On fight night, however, the five-foot-five-inch Valdez looked every inch like a 130-pound super featherweight soaking wet, while the five-foot-seven-inch Stevenson, completely rehydrated, seemed like he had the frame of a full-fledged welterweight. It didn’t help that Stevenson also had a two-inch reach advantage.

This reach advantage Stevenson utilized to the hilt, as he smartly pumped his jab and confused Valdez all night. The bigger Stevenson also had more pop in his shots, as he repeatedly peppered Valdez with power punches: An accurate straight left, and powerful hooks and uppercuts that the American unleashed while on the inside but also, impressively, while backpedaling whenever the Mexican tried to put on the pressure — which lasted the entire 12 rounds, a testament to Valdez’s stamina. The problem for Valdez: It wasn’t effective aggression.

Stevenson punctuated his power advantage in the sixth round when he sent Valdez sprawling to the canvas with a left uppercut to the head. By the championship rounds, Valdez had a mouse under his left eye, a cut below his right eye, and redness and swelling on his forehead; Stevenson was mostly untouched.

In the end, Valdez simply had no answer for Stevenson. Two of the ringside judges scored it 118-109 in favor of Stevenson, while a third saw it 117-110 for the American.

“He is a tough champion, but I was prepared to beat him,” Stevenson said in an interview after the fight. “This victory means everything to me,” he added. “I told you what I would do, and I did it. Valdez is tough, rugged and has power. But I’m ready for anyone, I want all the belts.”

Valdez, for his part, acknowledged that he was bested by Stevenson, at least on that night.

“He has a very great boxing quality, and today he was the best in the ring,” Valdez said. “He moves very well. He’s a champion. He has speed. He’s a great boxer.”

Valdez also apologized to his countrymen.

“I tried to bring the belts to Mexico. I’m sorry, we tried,” he said.

Let’s be clear: A champion who gave all he could against a younger, taller, bigger, stronger and faster opponent has nothing to be ashamed of, or to apologize for.

But being one of the greatest Mexican fighters of all time?

That, unfortunately, would have to wait.