NO. 1 RUBEN OLIVARES
Record:88-13-3 (77 KOs)
Background: Mexico’s greatest bantamweight is also its most popular. Olivares was more than a champion and an attraction. He was a hero to the Mexican people and absolutely thrived on their adulation.
He also delivered excitement every time he stepped between the ropes. Olivares began his career with 23 consecutive knockouts. He scored 54 stoppages in his first 57 bouts. That incredible streak includes his fifth-round KO of Lionel Rose for the world bantamweight title in August of 1969, as well as victories over top-10 contenders Castillo (UD 15), Takao Sakurai (KO 6), Alan Rudkin (KO 2), Kazuyoshi Kanazawa (TKO 2), Octavio Gomez (KO 5) and Salvatore Burruni (TKO 3).
Olivares held a 60-0-1 (56) record at the time of his fist defeat to Castillo, but like all great champions he regained his title against the fighter who beat him. Olivares second title reign included a rematch stoppage of Kanazawa and an impressive 11th-round stoppage of fellow banger Pimentel in 1971.
Following his two losses to Herrera, Olivares moved up to the featherweight division where he lost to the great Alexis Arguello but also won two titles, once of which was taken via second-round knockout of popular Bobby Chacon in 1975.
“He was the best, hardest punching bantamweight I ever seen,” Caplan said of Olivares. “I worked a bunch of his fights, including the Lionel Rose fight at the Forum. He was such a wonderful guy that he bridged the language barrier. He was so charismatic.
“'Rock-a-Bye Ruben' is what everyone called him, and boy, he could put ‘em to sleep, but he was complete fighter, too.”
Rivera rates Olivares as Mexico’s best bantamweight because his prime was during the late 1960s and early ‘70s when the bantamweight division was extremely competitive.
“He fought at a time when there was gang of good bantamweights from around the world,” Rivera said. “He fought when everyone rated at 118 pounds could really fight, and he mowed through that division.”
Olivares retired in 1981. He was inducted into the hall of fame in 1991.
Honorable mention: Zaragoza, Romeo Anaya, Raul Perez, and of course, Pimentel (even though he never won a world title).
Doug Fischer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org