Forgotten Legends: Zahir Raheem

wpid-wp-1434688224897.jpeg

By: Steve Gallegos

Boxing (As many may not refer to) is a team sport. A fighter can have all the talent and abilities in the world, however if that fighter is not handled right by promoters and managers, then that fighter will fall short of greatness. No truer was the case than with former U.S. Olympian and former world title challenger ZahirZ-ManRaheem.

Raheem was a very skillfull boxer/puncher who had very good hand speed and power and was dangerous for everyone he faced in the ring. Raheem was born and raised in the fighting city of Philadelphia, PA and had an outstanding amatuer record of 213-4. He was a member of the last great U.S. Olympic Boxing team that produced future world champions such as Fernando Vargas, David Reid, Eric Morel, Antonio Tarver, David Diaz and the great Floyd Mayweather. The majority of his olympic teammates found success early and often in their professional careers with a few of them winning world titles within 2-3 years of turning pro.

Raheem however didn’t get these same breaks and had to start from the bottom. He turned pro in November of 1996 and would go 24-0 with 14 KO’s over the next 7 1/2 years. It wasn’t an easy road for Raheem to travel as he bounced from one manager and promoter to the next and at times fought at weight classes in which he wasn’t at his natural weight. He would be in line for a title shot in 2004 as he faced Rocky Juarez in a featherweight title eliminator.

They met on 07/17/04 in Juarez’s backyard of Houston, TX. It was an uphill battle for Raheem all night long. He had lost nearly 40 pounds in order to make the featherweight limit. Not only was he fighting an unbeaten fighter in his hometown, he also had to deal with the fact that two of the three judges, as well as the referee were from the state of Texas.

In the fourth round, Raheem took a knee after taking a hard left hook from Juarez. He also had the referee Robert Gonzalez, constantly on his case for holding behind the head in which he was deducted two points. Despite all of this, Raheem boxed smart, using his jab effectively to setup combinations and didn’t let Juarez inside to land his hard shots. The end result would be a unanimous decision loss for Raheem in which many felt was a hometown decision.

Raheem would knockout Jose Quintana in his next fight seven months later and this would set up the biggest fight of his career, a fight with Mexican legend Erik Morales. They met on 09/10/05 in front of a huge pro Morales crowd at Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA. It was the main event on a huge HBO World Championship Boxing doubleheader. Manny Pacquiao had scored a spectacular sixth round TKO in the co-feature and he was anxiously waiting for Morales to score a victory to secure a rematch of their spectacular bout fought earlier in the year.

Morales had elected to move up to the lightweight division for this bout and he appeared to take Raheem lightly, feeling he wasn’t a threat as he looked ahead to a rematch with Pacquiao. Raheem quickly proved that he wasn’t an easy opponent. Raheem boxed smart as he got off first against Morales and he never allowed Morales to get into any type of a rhythm. The end result was a unanimous decision win for Raheem.

image

It was the biggest win of his career and in most cases, the victor would get the spoils, however not in this case. Instead of getting the much deserved shot against Pacquiao, Manny instead elected to give an undeserving rematch to Morales which left Raheem out in the cold. Raheem however would finally get his first shot at a world title as he met former champion Acelino “Popo” Freitas of Brazil.

They met on 04/29/06 at the Foxwood’s Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, CT and it was for the vacant WBO Lightweight Championship. This matchup was the classic boxer vs puncher kind of fight, however the puncher would prevail as Freitas would win a split decision. It was pretty much the end of the road for Zahir Raheem near the top.

He would go 8-2 with one No Contest from 2007-2014. His record as a professional stands at 35-3 with 21 KO’s. His journey to the top was a rough, bumpy road that included many bad breaks. What would his career have been like had he been handled better. Could he have gotten bigger fights, paydays and would he have won multiple world titles? It’s unfortunate that the boxing world didn’t get to experience how great Zahir Raheem could have been.

image

Forgotten Legends: Jose Luis Lopez

wpid-wp-1434152092651.jpeg

By: Steve Gallegos

During the mid to late 1990’s, Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez’ star was beginning to decline. Many up and coming Mexican fighters were eager to fill that void as Mexico’s next great champion. Fighters like Marco Antonio Barerra, Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez were among the fighters of this class, however there was another fighter from Mexico who made a name for himself in his own right and set himself apart from the others. His name was Jose LuisMaestritoLopez.

Lopez wasn’t your typical Mexican fighter. Outside the ring, he was a surfer and motorcycle enthusiast who even rode his motorcycle across Europe. Inside the ring he was an attacker. A straight forward puncher who had the power to turn things around at anytime in any fight. Jose Luis Lopez was born and raised in Durango, Mexico and began boxing at a very young age. His father, Jose Luis Lopez Sr was a former fighter himself and his son followed in his footsteps, turning professional at age 15.

He would go 36-3-1 with 27 KO’s from 1989-1996. He was facing relatively obscure opposition, mostly in his native Mexico. His resume was good enough to land him a world title shot against Irishman Eamonn Loughran. They met on 04/13/96 in Liverpool in the United Kingdom and it was for the WBO Welterweight Championship.

The champion Loughran, hand picked Lopez as an opponent, thinking it would be an easy title defense. He would then find out that Lopez was far being an easy opponent. Lopez showed his tremendous punching power, dropping Loughran three times en route to a first round KO. Jose Luis Lopez was now a world champion and the boxing world began to take notice.

Lopez would make the first defense of his title six months later against hard hitting and future world champion Yory Boy Campas. Campas had only lost one fight in 65 bouts and many thought he would be too stiff of a challenge for Lopez. “Maestrito” broke Campas down with his hard body punching and would score a huge fifth round TKO. Although he had successfully defended his title, Lopez would be stripped of his title after testing positive for Marijuana.

Being stripped of his title didn’t have any negative effect on his career and he was starting to gain some national exposure. 1997 was a big year for Lopez as he started off the year in impressive fashion, making his USA Tuesday Night Fight’s debut with a sixth round TKO over former world champion Jorge Vaca. Three months later he would make his HBO debut, winning a 10 round majority decision over former world champion Aaron Davis, which was an exciting, entertaining bout. These two big wins put Lopez back into another contention for another world title, this time against Ike Quartey.

They met on 10/17/97 at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, CT and it was for the WBA Welterweight Championship. The “Bazooka” Quartey came out using his piston like jab to keep Lopez at bay. In the second round, Lopez landed a big right hand that shook Quartey up and caused his gloves to touch the canvas which was ruled a knockdown. Quartey recoverd and continued to stay on the outside, using his jab to keep Lopez at bay. Lopez had a difficult time throughout the bout as he wasn’t able to get inside on Quartey and his punch output was very low as well.

Lopez, however showed why he should never be counted out as he dropped Quartey again in the 11th round. Quartey was able to get up, however he was hurt and Lopez turned up the pressure, closing the fight in impressive fashion. When the judges scorecards were read, Quartey was awarded a majority decision, however one of the scorecards were added up incorrectly; therefore the decision was changed to a draw.

Jose Luis Lopez‘ stock was at an all time high and he was one of three fighters in line to challenge welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya for a huge payday. Lopez would win his next three bouts, all by KO and it would setup another crack at the WBA Welterweight Championship, this time against James Page.

They met on 12/05/98 at Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, NJ. Page like Lopez was a huge power puncher and he predicted prior to the bout that he would stop Lopez within four rounds. As was the case with many other fighters, Lopez once again proved he was no pushover as he fought a spirited fight for 12 rounds in which he knocked Page down twice and hurt him during many exchanges.

As was the case with Quartey, Lopez wasn’t able to finish his man off when he had him hurt and the end result would be a 12 round unanimous decision win for James Page. It was pretty much the end of the road for Jose Luis Lopez as a serious contender. He wouldn’t fight again for two years and he would go 8-1 with five KO’s as he fought off and on from 2000-2010.

His record as a professional stands at 51-5-2 with 39 KO’s. He was a unique and special kind of fighter that was dangerous the entire time he was in the ring. What would have happened had he been able to finish off his opponents in his two biggest fights? Would he have been able to challenge the likes of Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya. Instead, he was a good fighter who was just a punch or two shy of become great.

image

Forgotten Legends: Jesus Chavez

wpid-wp-1431222141818.jpeg

By: Steve Gallegos

The life of a prize fighter has many up’s and downs. There is the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, as well as the chance that they may not come out of the ring the same as they came in. One fighter who can say they have experienced all of these was former Jr. Lightweight and Lightweight champion JesusEl MatadorChavez.

Chavez was an all action, come forward, aggressive fighter who most of the time was never in a bad fight as he mixed it up with some of the best in his division during the late 90’s and 2000’s. Chavez was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and was later raised in Chicago, IL. At age 16, Chavez decided to take part in an armed robbery and by doing so, he spent four years in prison and was deported back to Mexico. He would then come back to the United States illegally and resided in Austin, TX where he would begin his boxing career.

Chavez turned pro in August of 1994 and would go 22-1 over the next four years and would claim the NABF Jr. Lightweight title in the process. 1997 would be a big year for Chavez as he began to get some national exposure. In August of 1997, He scored an impressive fifth round TKO over Wilfredo Negron on USA’s Tuesday Night Fights and he would follow it up three months later with another impressive TKO win over former world champion Troy Dorsey, on the Lennox Lewis vs Andrew Golota Pay Per View undercard.

He was being handled by Main Events and the future couldn’t have looked more brighter; however he would suffer a huge setback. In late 1997, Chavez was once again deported back to Mexico and it would have a huge effect on his boxing career over the next three years. While living in Mexico, Chavez would continue to fight as he would go 10-0 from 1998-2000. His story and popularity as a fighter encouraged many sports writers and politicians to lobby for Chavez to receive a Visa. One of those politiicans who backed Chavez was then Texas Govenor and future U.S. President George W. Bush.

Finally after being away from the U.S. for three years, Chavez was granted a Visa to work and live in the United States. Upon his return to the U.S., he would go 3-0 and would earn a shot at a world title against super featherweight champion Floyd Mayweather. They met on 11/10/01 in San Francisco for the WBC super featherweight title. Chavez fought a spirited effort and took it to Mayweather for 9 rounds until his corner threw in the towel after the 9th. Despite the disappointing loss, Chavez continued to fight on and after winning his next four bouts, he was back in line for another title shot as he faced the very tough Sirimongkol Singwancha of Thailand.

They met on 08/15/03 at the Convention Center in Austin, TX and it was for the WBC super featherweight title. Chavez didn’t disappoint his hometown fans as he won a convincing 12 round unanimous decision. He was now a world champion. His reign however was a short one as he would lose his title six months later to Mexican legend Erik Morales.

As he did against Mayweather, Chavez fought a spirited fight as he rocked Morales early and looked very close to taking him out. He also showed a lot of heart and guts in this fight as he was dropped twice in the second round and rose to his feet and fought hard. He also suffered both shoulder and knee injuries during the bout and fought most of the bout while injured.

The injuries would sideline Chavez for 15 months and he returned to the ring on 05/28/05 as he fought an entertaining brawl with former champion Carlos Hernandez on the undercard of Julio Cesar Chavez’s farewell bout in Los Angeles, CA. This win would put Chavez back in line for another title shot against lightweight champion Leavander Johnson. They met on 09/17/05 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas for the IBF lightweight title.

The bout was one of three bouts on a big HBO Pay Per View co headlined by Marco Antonio Barerra and Shane Mosley. Chavez came out throwing bombs from the opening bell. Johnson, who was a slick boxer puncher, wasn’t able to weather the onslaught brought by Chavez. “El Matador” pummelled Johnson for 11 rounds before referee Tony Weeks stopped the bout. Many observers at ringside felt that the bout should have been stopped sooner. In either case, Jesus Chavez was once again a world champion, however there was very little to celebrate.

After Leavander Johnson went back to his dressing room, he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital where he had emergency surgery for swelling and bleeding on the brain. After being placed in a coma, Johnson died 5 days later. When a fighter dies inside the ring, it can also leave a huge crushing burden on the other fighter and most times that fighter doesn’t recover mentally. Despite the tragedy, the family of Leavander Johnson encouraged Jesus Chavez to continue fighting.

The tragedy would sideline Chavez for 17 months. He returned to the ring on 02/03/07 when he made his first defense of his title against Julio Diaz. Chavez would go down in the third round from the result of a knee injury and was counted out. He clearly was not the same fighter that he was before. It was pretty much the end of the road at the top for Jesus Chavez. He would go 2-4 from 2008-2010 as he became more of a gatekeeper in the lightweight division.

His record as a professional stands at 44-8 with 30 KO’s. He faced tremendous obstacles in and out of the ring and he was able to overcome most of those obstacles, except for the tragedy of the Leavander Johnson fight. Would his already stellar career have been longer and more successful had that tragedy in Las Vegas not have happened? Like many fighters in the Forgotten Legends” series, we are left with the recurring question “What If?”

image

ContactUs.com