Vicente Saldivar

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Class of 1999
Modern Category
Hall of Fame bio:click

Name: Vicente Saldivar
Alias: El Zurdo de Oro
Birth Name: Vicente Samuel Saldivar Garcia
Hometown: Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Birthplace: Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Died: 1985-07-18 (Age:42)
Stance: Southpaw
Height: 160cm
Reach: 169cm
Pro Boxer: Record
Amateur Boxer: Record

Biography

When it comes to Mexican Featherweight Champions, the first person that usually comes to mind is Salvador Sanchez, and with good reason. Sanchez was only 23 years old when he died in a car accident in 1982, and he had already made 9 defenses of his WBC Featherweight title at that time against fighters that would eventually become champions, and/or HOF-ers, so there's no telling what he could've been. But before Salvador, there was another great Mexican Featherweight Champion. He came from a Mexico City ghetto and bulldozed his way to the top of the Featherweight division. And after he had seemed to call it a day, he came back and made it to the top again. He was known as "El Zurdo de Oro"(The Golden Lefty) and his name was Vicente Saldivar.

Born in one of the barrios on the outskirts of Mexico City, Saldivar at an early age would often get into fights both on the streets and in school, developing a reputation around the area. Fearing that Vicente would head down the wrong path, his father decided to try to guide his energy into the sport where you could get recognition and praise for fighting: Boxing. So he took Vicente into a boxing gym where he would fall in love with the sport and became a successful amateur, winning the Mexican Golden Gloves as a Bantamweight. That victory would grant the 17-year-old Saldivar a spot on the Mexican Olympic team for the 1960 Olympics in Rome(The same Olympics where a young man named Cassius Clay would win a gold medal at Light Heavyweight). His Olympic dream wouldn't last long as he would be eliminated in the first round of the tournament against Ernst Chervet of Switzerland.

After the Olympics, Vicente decided to make a risky decision and the year after the Olympic loss, he turned professional, now as a Featherweight, where he would fight for the majority of his career. At 5'3"(five foot, three inches) and being a southpaw, Saldivar was as a dynamic as a fighter as there could be. He could box with the same beauty and grace as another Featherweight legend Willie Pep or could brawl with the same brutality as 3-weight champ Henry Armstrong. And just like Armstrong, Saldivar has an unusually slow heart-rate, allowing him to have an incredible amount of stamina, which would prove useful as he scored 7 KOs after the 7th round.

In his first few years as a pro, Saldivar built up a record of 16-0 (13 KOs) before he would suffer defeat at the hands of Cuba's Baby Luis via DQ in 1962. The following year he fixed the wrong by knocking out Luis in the 8th round of their rematch. He fought 3 more times that same year before, in 1964 he would get a chance to win the Mexican Featherweight title against Juan Ramirez, knocking him out in 2 rounds. He had defended the title once when he got an opportunity he couldn't refuse, a fight with the #1 ranked Featherweight at the time, Ismael Laguna of Panama, with the winner receiving a shot at the title.

Laguna was from a family of nine and was born in a fishing village near Colon, Panama. Like many other people from these poor areas, Ismael would sell newspapers and shine shoes to make a living. He soon learned that boxing was his thing and after a few amateur fights, he turned pro in 1960 at the age of 17. By the time he faced Vicente, his record was at 34-1 and had won the Panamanian Featherweight title. In the battle of 2 Featherweight prospects, Saldivar would take a 10 round decision. With the victory, Saldivar had received his shot at the world title, and so that same year, he would fight the then WBC and WBA Featherweight Champion, Cuban-Mexican Sugar Ramos.

Born as Ultiminio Ramos Zaquiera in Matanzas, Cuba, Ramos was a natural-born fighter with ring savvy, skills to pay the bills, and a hell of a right hand to boot. He turned pro in 1957 and won the Cuban Featherweight Championship 3 years later. But during this time, the Cuban Revolution was just about wrapping up, and when Fidel Castro came to power, Ramos decided to leave Cuba, fleeing to Mexico City. It was in Mexico that Ramos would build up his historic career. He fought 14 times and build his record up to 38-1-3 (29 KOs), when he was given his shot at the Featherweight crown, at the time being held by Davey Moore. The fight was part of a tripleheader at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, in which Mexico's Battling Torres was knocked out in the first round by Roberto Cruz of The Philippines for the WBA Junior Welterweight Championship, and fellow Cuban Luis Manuel Rodriguez won the Welterweight Championship from Emile Griffith of the Virgin Islands; Ramos vs Moore was sandwiched in between the two. Moore won the first 2 rounds, but after that, the fight turned into a brutal war, and as the fight wore on, Ramos started to take control. Then in the 10th round, Ultiminio hit Davey with a left hook, knocking him on the seat of his pants, his head hitting the bottom rope of the ring. Moore would get up, only to meet an onslaught from the Cuban-Mexican. The bell rang just as Moore was halfway out of the ring. After the round ended, Moore's trainer told the referee that Moore couldn't continue, and with that, Ultiminio "Sugar" Ramos was the new Featherweight Champion of the world

But with the victory came tragedy. After returning to his dressing room and talking to the press for a while, Davey Moore suddenly collapsed. Two days after the fight, he passed away from his injuries. For boxing, it would be the 2nd major ring fatality as the year before Benny (Kid) Paret died from his injuries from his 3rd fight with Emile Griffith. It was also a major hit for Ramos, as it marked the second time an opponent had died after fighting him. 4 years earlier Ramos had knocked out Jose "Tigre" Blanco, who would also die afterward from his injuries. Davey Moore's death was devastating, but Ramos decided to continue on. Over the next two years, Ultiminio fought 6 times, 3 of them being title defenses. Vicente would be defense #4. The fight would be 15 rounds, at El Toreo de Cuatro Caminos in Mexico City. Most experts chose Ramos to win the fight, believing Ultiminio's experience would ultimately win the day over Saldivar's raw aggression and power. However, in an epic and thrilling war between the 2 men fighting out of Mexico City, Saldivar surprised many by taking the initiative and wearing down the Cuban-Mexican with his vicious body attack. It was simply too much for Ramos, and after the 11th round, Ultimino retired on his stool. Vicente Saldivar was now the new WBA and WBC Featherweight Champion.

Strangely following the victory over Ramos, Saldivar's next fight would be a defense of the Mexican Featherweight title which he still held, against Delfino Rosales. Rosales almost scored an upset as he dropped Vicente in the 1st round and had him in trouble for almost the entire fight. But Saldivar persevered and in the 11th round, behind on the scorecards, Vicente caught his man as he stopped him at 2:05 of the 11th. Following that fight, Saldivar vacated the Mexican title and would start his lengthy first reign as world champion. For his first defense, he decided to introduce himself to the American stage as he would fly out to California and take on the undefeated Mexican-American, Raul Rojas.

Born in San Pablo, California, and raised in Watts and East Los Angeles, Raul would be in and out of reform school more times than can be counted. He was part of a family of 12, 2 of his brothers had been sent to San Quentin State Prison. Rojas was known as "Little Roy" and he led a gang appropriately named "Little Roy's Gang." One day, when the gang was hanging around a street corner, a shot was fired, and the boy next to Raul toppled over, dead. There was a chase, a fight, and more shooting. After it was over, Rojas was sent to the California Youth Authority. Upon his release in 1962, the warden told him if he got into any similar trouble again, it would probably mean the gas chamber at San Quentin. So instead, Raul decided to take up boxing, turning pro a year after his release and building up a record of 23-0-1 (16 KOs) before facing Saldivar at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. After a comparatively slow 3 rounds, the action started to pick up until it became a bitterly fought affair, but one in which Vicente had a clear lead, simply having too much for tough, free-swinging Rojas to handle. Upon the 15th and final round, Saldivar came on like a train, battering the Los Angeles-based fighter and knocking him through the ropes when the referee Tommy Hart decided that Raul had had enough and stopped the fight.

Following the win over Rojas, Saldivar's next foe would be the only man in the Featherweight division at the time, who could share the same claim of being the best Featherweight in the world. He was a man who was on such even ground with Vicente, that their trilogy would be the defining highlight of both men's careers. He was known as the Welsh Wizard, and His name was Howard Winstone.

Born in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, Winstone(like Saldivar) was a highly successful amateur, holding a record of 83-3, winning the Amateur Boxing Association Bantamweight title, and a gold medal in 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. During his early amateur days, Howard was more of a brawler, but while working at a toy factory, he would lose the tips of three fingers on his right hand in an accident. He recovered, but the accident would reduce the power of his right hand, so he had to change his style from a double-handed brawler to a beautiful boxer with an ability to move his head at the right moment, his left jab becoming a sword-like weapon that would bruise and bewilder his opponents. He turned pro in 1959 and 2 years later, in 1961 he would beat Terry Spinks for the BBBofC Featherweight Championship. From the victory against Spinks in May of 1961 to June of 1965, Winstone would fight 30 times, going 27-2 (11 KOs), defending the BBBofC title 3 times and unifying it with the EBU Featherweight title. In between defenses, Howard would fight some world-ranked & local European Featherweights, among them, would be former Saldivar opponent, Baby Luis. By the time he had reached the world level, he had become an idol in Wales and many believed he could and would become Featherweight Champion, but there was an obstacle on his way to superstardom, a whirlwind of a man who refused to give what Howard wanted; That man was Saldivar.

The two would fight each other 3 times over 2 years, all following the relatively same pattern: Winstone would out-box Vicente for the first few rounds, Howard would tire out, and then Saldivar would turn up the heat and punish Winstone enough to get a points decision, which was exactly what happened in their first fight at Earls Court Arena in London. This obviously wouldn't be the last time the 2 would meet each other.

In the meantime, Vicente would continue to defend his title. For his next defense, he would have a homecoming fight as he would face Ghana's Floyd Robertson at the Monumental Plaza de Toros in Mexico City. Born in Accra, Robertson was a hardened veteran. Turning pro in 1956, Floyd won the Ghanaian and West African Featherweight titles 2 years later and then became the Commonwealth Featherweight Champion by beating Percy Lewis in November of 1960. He defended the title 2 times before he got his first shot at a world title against Saldivar's predecessor, Sugar Ramos in the comforts of home with the fight being held in Accra. In a brutal war, Ramos would survive a late rally from Robertson and retain the title in a hotly disputed split decision. So disputed in fact, that the Ghanian Commission first ruled the bout a "no-contest," then decided to rule Floyd as the winner and new World Champion. He had fought only once before going into the Saldivar fight. The fight started slow, a pace that suited Floyd, who scored with some good jabs and seemed unfazed by Vicente's aggressive southpaw style. But in the 2nd round, which started at the same leisurely pace, the Mexican firecracker went off as he feinted a jab to Robertson's body & landed a huge left hand that staggered the Ghanaian. Floyd tried to clinch to survive but Saldivar was hellbent on ending it, fighting out of the clinch, he attacked Robertson with both hands. A right hook sent Floyd reeling and onto the canvas at the ropes. After taking the mandatory eight-count, Vicente came out to greet him with a vicious onslaught. Robertson tried to fight back, tried to survive, but Saldivar was simply too much for him and a right shovel hook would drop him again. This time, Floyd wouldn't attempt to beat the count. Vicente had successfully defended his title for the 3rd time.

Howard Winstone may be forever linked as Saldivar's rival, but that doesn't mean he was Vicente's only rival. There was yet another man in the Featherweight division that seemed to match him, if only for a short while: Japan's Mitsunori Seki. A fellow southpaw, Seki had challenged twice for a world title beforehand. The first time had been against Thailand legend Pone Kingpetch in 1961 for the world Flyweight title. he gave as good as he got in that fight, but would ultimately come up short as he would lose by split decision. The 2nd time he would fight for a world title would be 3 years and 2 divisions later at Featherweight against Sugar Ramos, once again coming up short, losing via 6th round TKO(In between his two title attempts, he fought future Flyweight champion, & another legend from Thailand, Chartchai Chionoi, going 1-1 with him, as well as Mexican Bantamweight contender, Jose Medel, losing by 5th round KO. he also won the OPBF Featherweight title). Now he was getting yet another title shot (at El Toreo de Cuatro Caminos in Mexico City, the site where Vicente had won the title), and he was hellbent on winning it this time.

Mitsunori took the lead from the opening bell, scoring with jabs and straight lefts while Saldivar scored to the body trying to slow down Seki. The fight was even throughout the first 3 rounds, despite Vicente being confused by the southpaw style of Mitsunori when suddenly in the 4th, Seki exploded with a vicious left hand, dropping Saldivar to the seat of his pants. He got up quickly, but Vicente was groggy and hurt, knowing this, Mitsunori turned up the heat and unleashed a vicious barrage. For the next 2 rounds, Seki was pressuring Saldivar and was seemingly hurting him at will, on top of that, Vicente's left eye was swollen shut. Despite that, Saldivar persevered and in the 7th, Vicente seemed to regain his strength and tore into Mitsunori, dropping him to his knees. He rose to his feet, but his edge was gone now. Now it was Saldivar trying to knock Seki out, battering him around the ring from pillar to post, rocking him at will with right hooks and left hands. It was a complete role reversal of the 4th round, and just like the 4th, the bell would save the battered Mitsunori. Despite the beating he took, the brave Japanese warrior decided to continue. By the 12th round, Vicente had taken command of the fight, but Seki refused to quit, firing back at Saldivar and standing his ground. By the end of the battle, both men were bruised and battered, Vicente's left eye was completely swollen shut, Mitsunori had cut under his left eye and was covered in bruises. In the end, Saldivar retained the title by unanimous decision.

The fight with Seki was close enough to warrant a rematch, and that's exactly what happened 5 months later at the same site as the 1st one. This time around, Vicente knew he had a point to prove to his critics from the previous encounter with Mitsunori, so in the rematch, Saldivar went after Seki guns blazing. Using his punishing body attack and several left hands, Vicente refused to let Mitsunori do what he did in the first fight and battered him mercilessly. The end came in the 7th round when Saldivar caught Seki with a right hook, hurting him. Vicente went after Mitsunori, firing off a flurry that sent the Japanese challenger reeling into the ropes, then a right hook that dropped him to the canvas. Just like the first fight, he bravely rose and carried on, but the Mexican champion was simply too much for him now and the referee Marty Denkin stopped the fight. Saldivar had beaten Seki for the 2nd time and had successfully defended the title for the 5th time.

Following the two fights with Mitsunori Seki, Vicente would cap off his first reign as Featherweight Champion with the last 2 fights with Howard Winstone. In between the first fight and second fight with Saldivar, Winstone had fought 6 times, winning all 6, 4 by knockout, 2 being defenses of the EBU title, and 1 being a unified EBU & BBBofC title defense. Now he would get his second shot at the world title, and it would be in the comforts of home with the fight being held at Ninian Park in his backyard of Cardiff, Wales. 30,000 spectators came out to watch the fight, almost all of them Winstone supporters. But while they greeted Howard with a thunderous roar, they also sportingly cheered for Vicente. As they knew they were in the presence of a true champion who had beaten all the men who had stood before him. And so with 30,000 looking on, the rematch between the 24-year old Mexican bull & the 28-year old Welsh matador had begun.

But in the beginning, it was the matador who would be charging. Winstone carried the fight to Saldivar, much like how Mitsunori Seki had, with countless jabs finding Vicente's face & right straights reddening his nose. Frustrated, the Mexican tried to retaliate with hooks to the body, but even those seemed to be ineffective as Howard glided out of the way of them with his almost balletic footwork. But Saldivar like always persevered, landing some punches which were good, crisp, & menacing. Winstone was still being aggressive, at times forcing Vicente to the ropes, but Saldivar always fired back, continuing to fire back body shots which were, slowly but surely, wearing down the Welshman.

And yet Howard's pace didn't seem to slow down, he even upped the tempo in the 8th, still firing off jabs that accurately landed on Vicente's face, but by this point and in the fight, both men were starting to show the damage they've sustained from their war. Finally, in the 9th round, Winstone began to slow, allowing Saldivar to bull forward and slam punches to the body. As the fight went into the last few rounds, Vicente began to catch Howard much more frequently, yet each time Winstone seemed to fade, he would rally back gloriously. But the tide of the battle was slowly but surely turning towards Saldivar, the 11th round being the prime example. In that round, Vicente caught Howard with two left hands, backing up Winstone to the ropes where Saldivar unleashed a vicious onslaught. Howard managed to dodge some blows with beautiful head movement, but didn't retaliate with anything of note and got caught with another left hand, backing him up again to the ropes. He got off the ropes much quicker but kept getting hit with Vicente's left hands until the end of the round. The next two rounds were simply torturing for Winstone and his supporters as Saldivar turned up the heat, pounding away at Howard viciously and firing several left hands, most of them hitting the mark. The crowd still cheered for the Welsh Wizard, chanting his name in the 13th, and cheering whenever he fought back, but fighting back was simply not something you could do with Vicente.

Then in 14th, Saldivar finally caught his man. Knowing that Winstone was almost completely exhausted, Vicente once again picked up the tempo, unleashing a vicious assault of right hooks and left hands at Howard. Winstone desperately attempted to fight back, trying to get Saldivar off of him much like how Floyd Robertson had tried before him. But also just Floyd, the punishment was simply too much for Howard and he slumped to a knee against the ropes. He bravely got up and beat the count but the onslaught that had started continued as Vicente went after him and continued to fire away at Winstone almost mercilessly, sending him halfway out of the ring. Any other man would've been out by then, but Howard's heart was as big as a whale that night and he once again attempted to fight back, there was no way he would quit in front of his hometown supporters, and, in the end, it paid off as he made it out of the round. The world title was no longer within his grasp, but he still refused to quit as he came out for the 15th and final round. Saldivar and Winstone touched gloves as a sign of respect and the last round began. Howard began boxing as he had at the beginning of the fight but it was clear what he had then was gone as Vicente went after him firing shots with almost no hesitation. Both men were battered, beaten, and exhausted, but they continued to fire shots. Winstone with his battering ram jabs & straight rights, Saldivar with body shots & hard left hands. And then, it was all over. Howard's supporters all hoped and prayed that he had pulled it off and beaten Vicente for the crown, but in the end, Saldivar's hand was raised, he had beaten his rival again and had retained the Featherweight Championship for the 6th time.

Normally, if you beat an opponent twice, that's more than enough to claim superiority against him. But the two fights between Vicente and Howard were so close & so evenly matched, that a 3rd fight was not out of the question. And so, 4 months after the 2nd fight, Saldivar would fight Winstone yet again. This time it would be Vicente's turn to have the hometown advantage as the fight would be held in Mexico City at the recently opened Azteca Stadium. 90,000 spectators came to see the fight, making it the fourth-largest crowd for a boxing match. Around this time Howard was having domestic troubles. Those troubles may have followed him into the ring in the Estadio Azteca that night. The fight started as the previous encounter; with Winstone taking the initiative with jabs and straight rights. But unlike their previous encounter, Saldivar found Howard quite frequently with his straight left hand. It was clear that the high altitude and heat of Mexico City was taking a toll on Howard, who up to that point had only boxed in almost exclusively in Great Britain & twice in Italy. This exclusivity worked in favor of Vicente as he worked the body and wore down Winstone. The combined efforts of the high altitude, intense heat, & Saldivar tired out the Welshmen much quicker than in previous encounters and in the middle half, Vicente began to batter Howard.

The end finally came in the 12th round when Saldivar turned up the heat as he always did in the last half and hit Winstone with body shots, right hooks, and left straights. The culmination of punishment was once again too much for Howard as he slumped to the canvas. He took the mandatory eight-count, got up, and faced an onslaught of punches from the Mexican Champion. This time the bell was not there to save Winstone, and the towel was thrown into the ring. Vicente Saldivar had finally stopped his eternal rival & had successfully defended his Featherweight Championship for the 7th time, bringing his record to a near-perfect 34-1 with 26 KOs. After the bout ended, Vicente took the microphone from the ring announcer & announced his retirement to the audience. It was a perfect ending to Saldivar's career.

Or was it the end?

Upon Vicente's retirement, the WBA & WBC declared the Featherweight Championship vacant and ordered their top contenders to fight for their respective titles. For the WBA, the top 2 contenders were Saldivar's former opponent Raul Rojas, & Enrique Higgins of Colombia. In the beginning, Rojas took the lead against Higgins with bulling, lunging tactics that broke the guard of the Colombian multiple times. But in the middle rounds, Enrique came back and started to put on a boxing clinic on Raul. By the 12th round, Rojas had multiple welts and mouses around his eyes and bleeding heavily by the nose. But just like Vicente, Raul persevered and in the 12th, he caught Higgins with a right hand, followed by a left and another right, and with that Enrique hit the canvas. he rose to his feet at the count of 8, came back out, and went toe-to-toe for the remainder of the round. For the next two rounds, Higgins attempted to regain what he had in the middle rounds, but it was gone and Rojas continued to batter him for the remainder of the fight. When the end came, it was almost too close to call, but in the end, it was a unanimous decision for Raul. And with that Raul Rojas was the new WBA Featherweight Champion...If only for a little while. A few months after he won the title, he would lose it in his first defense against Japan's Shozo Saijo. From then on, the WBA Featherweight title would transition to multiple legends such as Ernesto Marcel of Panama, Ruben Olivares, Nicaguragan Legend Alexis Arguello, Panama's Eusebio Pedroza & Barry McGuigan of Ireland.

Meanwhile, for the WBC, the top 2 contenders were none other than Saldivar's toughest opponents; Howard Winstone & Mitsunori Seki. For both men, it was their 4th attempt at trying to capture the Featherweight title, for Seki, it was his 5th attempt for a world title overall, and for Winstone, it was his first attempt at the title without Vicente there to defend it. With Saldivar watching among the crowd at the Royal Albert Hall in London, the Welshmen & the Japanese battled for the vacant WBC title. Both men put forth a gutsy effort, but Winstone was overall the better fighter, and he managed to cut Seki over his right eye. Upon being cut, the referee called a halt to bout to have look at the eye, which he decided was too dangerous to continue, and just like that, Howard Winstone was finally the Featherweight Champion of The World...But just like Raul Rojas, his reign wouldn't last long. After a non-title fight against BBBofC Super Featherweight Champion Jimmy Anderson, Howard would defend the title for the first time against a former opponent: Cuban-Spaniard, Jose Legra.

Known as "Pocket Cassius Clay" for having an uncanny resemblance to Ali, both physically and in his fighting style, and born in Baracoa, Cuba, Legra turned pro in 1960 and spent his first four years fighting in Cuba, Mexico, & Miami, Florida. When Fidel Castro slapped on the ban on professional boxing, Jose found himself in the same predicament that Sugar Ramos, Jose Napoles, and many other Cuban boxers found themselves in. But unlike other Cuban boxers who escaped to either Mexico or the U.S, Legra decided to go to Spain instead. That's where he went and that's where he stayed, gaining Spanish citizenship in 1966. from 1963 to 1965, Jose fought 27 times, winning 25 and drawing 2. That unbeaten streak was broken by none other than Howard Winstone, before his first fight with Saldivar. After the loss to Winstone, Legra would bounce back and go on a four year, 50 fight winning streak, winning the vacant EBU Featherweight title in the process. Then in 1968, he finally got his shot at the Featherweight title, as well as a chance at revenge as the WBC title was in the hands of Winstone. The effects of the fights with Vicente finally came out for Howard, as Jose knocked him down 2 times in the 1st round with looping overhand rights which also caused Winstone's left eye to swell quickly. For the next 4 rounds, Legra batter Howard from pillar to post, landing punches almost at will, and most of them hitting the swollen left eye. Then finally in the 5th round, with Jose landing multiple rights & Winstone almost completely helpless, referee Harry Gibbs decided enough was enough and mercifully stopped the fight. For Howard, it would be his last fight as he retired afterward, leaving a record of 61-6(27 KOs), and Legra, he was now the new WBC Featherweight Champion.

But it seemed as if the Featherweight Championship had some kind of curse on it. After two non-title fights in Spain & Paris, France, Jose decided to make his first defense of the title. For his 1st defense, he would head into neutral territory as he would take on a fighter he was fairly similar to him in terms of style and backstory; French-Australian, Johnny Famechon. Born as Jean-Pierre Famechon in Paris, France, Johnny was a highly skilled boxer whose greatest strength was his defense. He came from a prestigious boxing family. His father Andre Famechon was French Lightweight Champion, while his uncle Ray Famechon was French and EBU Featherweight Champion, and even challenged Willie Pep for the world Featherweight title in 1950, losing by unanimous decision. In 1948 Famechon's father and uncle Ray were offered to move to Australia and fight out of there. Andre took the offer and 2 years later brought the rest of his family over including Johnny. Once again, that's where he went & that's where he stayed. In 1961, with no amateur experience, Famechon decided to follow in his father and uncle's footsteps and made his professional debut, with his first bout ending up a draw. from 1961 to 1969, Johnny would build up a record of 47-4-6 (18 KOs), winning the Australian-Victorian State Featherweight title, the Australian Featherweight title, & the Commonwealth Featherweight title before getting his shot against Legra for the WBC title. In the battle between the talented dual nationality boxers, Famechon's defense carried him to victory as Jose couldn't find his range & got outboxed by the French-Australian.

With all the activity happening within the Featherweight division, Saldivar must've grown restless. Even though he had retired as Featherweight Champion, and with an almost perfect record, that wasn't enough for him. He wanted more, he was a born fighter and born fighters can he hear every second of every day tick by as they search for purpose again. Within the 2 years the Featherweight division lapsed into chaos, Saldivar assessed whether or not he still had the drive, the ability, and the hunger to still compete at the highest level of the sport. And in end, he concluded that he still had those things. And so on July 18th, 1969, Vicente returned to the ring. For his first comeback fight, Vicente decided to take a risk and face Jose Legra at the Inglewood Forum in Los Angeles, California.

At first, it seemed that the comeback would be a failure as Legra continuously tagged Saldivar with multiple right hands early rounds, and it seemed that it was all but confirmed when Jose floored him in the 3rd round with a right to the chin. But like always, Vicente persevered, he got up and in the 4th round, Saldivar returned to his old ways as he began hitting Legra's body with his ferocious body attack. It would prove to be the difference as Jose tired and Vicente grew stronger and sharper, tagging the Cuban-Spaniard with multiple left hands and staggering him in the 9th and 10th rounds. When the scorecards were read, it was a unanimous decision for the Mexican. It was official: Vicente Saldivar was back. Two weeks after Vicente's comeback win, Johnny Famechon made his first defense of the WBC Featherweight title. For his first defense, Johnny decided to have a homecoming bout as he would return to Australia against Fighting Harada of Japan.

Born as Masahiko Harada in Tokyo, Japan, Harada began his career as a Flyweight in 1960 and amassed a record of 26-1 with 10 KOs(Among his first opponents would be respected Japanese official Ken Morita & future Flyweight Champion Hiroyuki Ebihara) before receiving his first title shot in 1962 against Thailand legend Pone Kingpetch, knocking him out in the 11th round. His reign as Flyweight king wouldn't last long as Kingpetch would regain the title a year later, beating Masahiko by majority decision. Harada would then move up in weight, and in 1965 would become Bantamweight Champion, making 4 successful defenses before losing that title to another Australian, Lionel Rose. Masahiko decided to move up in weight again and go after the Featherweight title, the only thing standing between him and the championship was Famechon.

Their fight would be an intense one as Harada floored Johnny in rounds 2, 11, & 14, while Famechon would score his own down in round 4. At the end of the fight, Willie Pep, the referee and the only judge, initially declared the fight a draw, much to the dismay of Johnny's hometown crowd. It was then that Pep changed his scorecard, awarding Famechon the fight & allowing him to retain the title. Following a non-title victory over future Bantamweight Champion, Arnold Taylor, Famechon decided to give Masahiko another shot, going into Harada's hometown. This time Johnny would leave no doubts as he outboxed Masahiko, and in the 14th, knocked him out. It would be Harada's last fight as he would retire afterwards with a record of 55-7 (22 KOs).

With the threat of Fighting Harada gone, the stage was now set for Famechon vs Saldivar. The fight would in neutral territory as it would take place at the Palazzetto dello Sport in Roma, Italy. Vicente started strong, throwing his left hands and pounding away at Johnny's body while Famechon boxed from the outside and kept his jab constant. As the fight wore on, Saldivar started having trouble with Famechon who'd decided to pick up the pace, making Vicente miss with his defensive tactics and coming back with his own punches which caused Saldivar's right eye to swell, it was as if Vicente had entered the ring with Howard Winstone for the 4th time. In the 10th, Johnny turned up the tempo of his attack, targeting Saldivar's already swollen right eye. But Vicente, like he always had, persevered and in the 13th, he finally caught his man as Johnny's foot got tangled with Saldivar's, Vicente used the opportunity to land a left hook and with those combined forces, Famechon fell to the canvas. He took the mandatory-eight count, got up, & continued on. Once the referee waved him back in, Saldivar went straight at Johnny and fired away with shots, Famechon refused to back down and fired some of his own shots until the end of the round. The last two rounds mostly followed the same pattern; Vicente pressuring Johnny and firing away with body shots and left hands, while Famechon boxed from the outside throwing jabs to ward off Saldivar. With Vicente's early lead, Johnny's late rally, & the knockdown in the 13th, the fight was almost too close to call, but ultimately, the two judges, & the referee decided that Saldivar had done to warrant him the decision. With that, history was made in Italy when Vicente Saldivar became once again, the Featherweight Champion of the World. It would also be Johnny Famechon's last fight at he would retire afterwards at the age of only 25 with a record of 56-5-6(20 KOs)

But unlike last time, his reign wouldn't be long as 7 months later, he would make his first defense of his newly reclaimed title at the Auditorio Municipal in Tijuana against a relatively unknown Japanese fighter by the name of Kuniaki Shibata. Born in Hitachi, Japan, Shibata had turned pro in 1965 and built up a record of 23-1-1(15 KOs) before fighting for his first championship, the OPBF Featherweight title, against Hubert Kang of South Korea, losing by 6th-round KO. Kuniaki rebounded from the loss and won 6 fights before claiming the vacant Japanese Featherweight title against Yasuo Sakurai. He immediately vacated that title to pursue the world title, getting his first shot against Vicente. Shibata seized the opportunity for as soon as the bell rang to begin the fight, he came out of the corner, touched gloves with Saldivar, and went guns blazing, pitting Vicente in the neutral corner and firing away at his head and body. Saldivar got out of the corner and started box Kuniaki, firing jabs and his signature left hand, attempting to ward off the young, aggressive Japanese challenger. This was the pattern the first half of the fight followed; Shibata applying the pressure much like how Vicente used to while Saldivar himself used his boxing skills from the outside, and for a while, that pattern worked in Vicente's favor. But even though he had the lead, Kuniaki would not bend like Saldivar's previous opponents & Shibata gradually took control of the fight in the mid rounds, causing a cut on Saldivar's right cheek and punishing him heavily in the 10th. To Vicente's credit, he managed to come back and rally in the 11th, but even then, Shibata was still landing with jabs, right hands, & left hooks. Then in the 12th, Saldivar got caught with a straight right counter that hurt him. He managed to stay on his feet and finish the round, but it was clear that Vicente, cut underneath the right eye and also bleeding from the nose, was a beaten man, he was just not the same fighter he was back when he rallied to win against Howard Winstone or Mitsunori Seki; the only thing he had at this point was the heart and guts as he wanted to continue, but his trainer Adolfo Peres (Who had worked with former Bantamweight Champion, Raul Macias) wouldn't allow him to gain further punishment and didn't let him go out for 13th round. For the first time since Baby Luis all those years ago, and for the first time in a championship fight, Vicente Saldivar had lost, and now Kuniaki Shibata was the new WBC Featherweight Champion.

After the loss to Shibata, Saldivar stayed out of the ring for seven months, before returning in July of 1971 against contender and former world title challenger "Irish" Frankie Crawford. Born in Los Angeles (Other sources say Cleveland, Ohio), Crawford turned pro in 1965 and rose up the Featherweight rankings quickly, becoming a fan favorite in the city of angels where he fought often. He'd built up a record of 21-5-1 with 11 KOs before catching his big break when he was matched with up and coming Mexican-American Mando Ramos. Despite being outweighed by seven pounds(Frankie was just above the Featherweight limit at 127 lbs while Mando was just underneath the Lightweight limit at 134 lbs), Crawford put fourth a tremendous performance, opening up a cut over Ramos' left eye and keeping it a bloody mess en route a competitive majority decision victory. The two would have a rematch four months later, only this time Mando would have complete control of the fight, keeping Frankie at bay with his long jab and consistently landing with his right hand, winning the fight via unanimous decision.

Following the bouts with Ramos, Crawford would 15 times in 2 years (going 9-3-3 and winning the USA California State Featherweight title) before receiving another major break: A title shot against then WBA Featherweight Champion, Shozo Saijo. Initially, it looked as if Frankie would finally achieve his dream of becoming champion as he managed to drop Shozo with a left hook in the first round. To his credit, Saijo would get up and managed to stagger Crawford in the 9th and 10th rounds, the latter opening up a cut nearing Frankie's left ear. By the final round, both fighters were exhausted and clinched frequently. Crawford put fourth a tremendous effort, but in the end it was majority decision in favor of Shozo. Like with Mando Ramos, the two would have a rematch a year later. In a fight that was even closer than their first one, Saijo once again retained his title via unanimous decision. The bouts with Shozo would be the only time Crawford would fight for a world title. By the time Frankie faced Vicente at the Olympic Auditorium, he was on a 3 fight winning streak. In the beginning of the fight, Saldivar piled up an early lead by doing what had neglected to do against Kuniaki Shibata: Close the distance, cut off the ring, and bang the body of Frankie. The strategy worked well for the first 3 rounds and into the 4th round. Then seemingly out of nowhere, Crawford managed to get Vicente in the corner, and unleashed the same left hook that dropped Shozo Saijo. It didn't drop him, but the punch badly staggered Saldivar. Frankie, sensing an opportunity, slightly hesitated, then went in for the kill. But Saldivar, like he always had, preserved. Using all his experience, he managed to avoid the knockout blow and made it to the end of the round. Vicente regained his senses in between rounds, and in the 5th, he regained control of the fight,keeping it for the rest of the bout. When the bell rang to end the fight in the 10th round, Saldivar danced to his corner knowing he had scored a victory, and indeed he had, winning by unanimous decision.

The fight with Frankie Crawford, in all likelihood, should've been the final curtain call for Vicente and initially, it was as he retired again soon after. He had nothing left to prove or do in the sport of boxing; he had won the Featherweight title twice, he had beaten all the top names, and he had all but cemented his legacy as one of the best Featherweights of all time... But despite everything, he still craved to fight as he had almost his whole life; It was all he knew. So, three years after his last fight, he stepped into the ring once again for another shot at the world title.

In between his fight with Crawford and his second return to the ring, the Featherweight division was once again seeing frequent changes. Kuniaki Shibata, the man that beat Saldivar for the title, had made 2 defenses of the WBC crown (including a draw against future champion, Ernesto Marcel) before losing it to another Mexican named Clemente Sanchez by 3rd round knockout. After being stripped of the title for not making weight, Sanchez would lose to former champion Jose Legra, getting knocked down 11 times en route to a 10th round TKO, and making Legra a two-time champion. But just like his last reign, Jose's time at the top would be brief as he would lose the title to another former champion in the form of Brazil's Eder Jofre.

Born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, *Work in Progress*

Career Factoids

Achievements

Named The Ring magazine Progress of the Year fighter for 1964.

Olympic games results

1960 (as a featherweight)


Preceded by:
Sugar Ramos
WBA Featherweight Champion
1964 Sep 26 – 1967 Oct
Retired
Succeeded by:
Raul Rojas
Preceded by:
Sugar Ramos
WBC Featherweight Champion
1964 Sep 26 – 1967 Oct
Retired
Succeeded by:
Howard Winstone
Preceded by:
Johnny Famechon
WBC Featherweight Champion
1970 May 9 – 1970 Dec 11
Succeeded by:
Kuniaki Shibata