Famous Fighter of the Week: Ruben Olivares

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By Matthew Baker

It is often said that the problem with being a good sport is that you have to lose in order to show it. Not so with a lethal bantamweight from Mexico, named Ruben Olivares. This 118-pound possessor of a devastating left hook always sang the praises of his worthy adversaries and acknowledged what he learned from them, no matter whose arm was raised at the final bell. When he won his first world title, his first thought was not to gloat or to cheer, but to thank his dethroned opponent for giving him the chance.

Growing up in Mexico City, Olivares was not poor, not stupid, and not a loner. He simply loved to fight. Constantly suspended from school for fighting, his greatest frustration was when his managers made him wait until they felt he was ready to go pro. It was as though being in the ring was living, while everything else was just a rehearsal. But when his career started, it started with a bang. He won his first 24 fights by knockout, finally being taken the distance by Felipe Gonzalez two years after his debut. Five months later, German Bastidas tainted his perfect record,  record, boxing him to a draw. But Olivares would rack up 61 victories before his first professional loss – a shocking knockout at the hands of his 3-time arch rival, Chucho Castillo. But he never lost his sense of chivalry or his delight in battle.

In 1969, Olivares became WBC and WBA Bantamweight Champion of the World, beating the dearly loved Australian pugilist, Lionel Rose in a devastating fifth round knockout. Upon being declared the winner, Olivares embraced his fallen foe and told him, “You gave me the chance and I will never forget that. If you want another fight, you can have it. It would be a pleasure to go into the ring again with a gentleman like you.” His 3-fight rivalry with Castillo began with his offer, “Sure, I’ll give him another chance. I’ll give anybody a chance.” And indeed, his dance card features names like Arguello, Chacon, Pimentel, Lopez, Hafey, Ramirez, Kotey, and Pedroza. Some he beat, some beat him. But always, there was a smile and a congratulations from the Mexican class act until his retirement in 1981. Unable to stay away, Olivares returned to the ring for some ill-advised exhibition bouts and made his final retirement in 1988. He is a 1991 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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