Name: Ruben Olivares
Alias: El Púas
Birthplace: Mexico City, DF, Mexico
Hometown: Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Height: 5′ 5½″
Ruben Olivares was born on 14 January1947in an area of Mexico City called Colonia Bondojo, a tough district where street fighting was commonplace. His father, Salomon Olivares, and mother, Esperanza Avila, had 12 children, but only six survived – Felipe, Emma, Margarita, Raul, Ruben and David. While Ruben was still a toddler, his father left to work on a construction site in Oregon. When he eventually returned to Mexico City, having mastered the building business, he invested his earnings in some land on which he built houses. 'He's not rich, but I wouldn't call him poor', Olivares said of him in later life. Father and son would eventually form a partnership building apartments.
It did not take the young Olivares long to find that his talents were fistic rather than academic and, consequently, he took 10 years to finish elementary school due to losing so much time through suspensions for fighting. The headmaster told him: 'Better go home and come back at the end of the courses – we'll give you the diploma anyway. Just keep yourself far away from here.'
Olivares took up boxing at 15. with his fathers approval while still at junior high school. Football had previously been his first love – he captained a local side called Santander – but his interest in boxing was sparked by his friendship with two local fighters who were regular performers at the famous Arena Coliseo, in Mexico City.
`We didn't have a TV set at home,' said Olivares. 'So I remember paying a lady 25 centavos to allow me to watch one of my friends, Dumbo Perez, fight Chucho Hernandez. Dumbo was winning until Hernandez knocked him out with a left hook in the last round, and that decided me on becoming a pro fighter.'
The following day, Olivares went to the Jordan Gym in downtown Mexico City, where the trainer was Manuel `Chilero' Carillo, an old man with vast experience of the game. 'He was a shy, bashful boy', recalled Carillo, who told Olivares that if he took the business seriously he could become Golden Gloves champion. Six months later, he would fulfill that prophecy.
After early losses to Fernando Blanco, in the final of the Olympic trials, and Octavio Tamoso' Gomez, Olivares pestered his newly-recruited manager Arturo Hernandez to let him turn pro. Hernandez was suitably cautious. 'Go pro now and they'll make chopped meat of you,' he warned the youngster. 'It's tough, and you're not ready yet. Maybe in a year.
Olivares was therefore forced to spend a further 10 months in the amateurs, during which time he fulfilled Carillo's prediction, winning the Golden Gloves title after sustaining a broken jaw in the semi-final, against Rafael Resindez. It was the only knockdown Olivares suffered in his amateur career. 'I was beating him easy until he caught me with a right to the chin,' Olivares remembered. 'It was the second round, and I knew immediately the jaw was broken. I didn't tell my corner until after the fight, and Hernandez took me to a dentist before the final to have a special gumshield made. The dentist warned me: "Whatever you do, don't open your mouth once the fight starts." I won the title on a second-round knockout.'
That painfully-won success meant that it was time to turn pro, which Olivares did with a first-round knockout of Isidro Sotelo, at Gomez Palacio, in January 1965. The shrewd Hernandez, recognizing the special relationship between fighter and trainer, hired Carillo to look after the youngster and the team stayed together throughout the glory years, even though Olivares's relationship with Hernandez was often strained. The flyweight with the heavyweight punch was an instant sensation, ripping through 23 knockouts before being taken the distance for the first time, by Felipe Gonzalez, a hard man of whom Olivares said: 'I must have hit him a thousand times, but he wouldn't go down.
He restored his reputation in his next fight, a fourth-round knockout of local rival Julio Guerrero, who had also been making a name for himself as a knockout artist. Unusually for the left-hooking Olivares, the winning blow this time was a right to the body which left Guerrero gasping for breath on the canvas. By now, weight was becoming a problem for the growing 20-year-old, and a move up to bantamweight was inevitable.
In July 1967, German Bastidas fought back from two knockdowns to earn a 10-round draw to spoil Olivares's one hundred per cent record. However, six months later, Bastidas was knocked out in a rematch as the fierce-hitting Mexican continued his drive towards a title shot. His list of victims included an amateur conqueror, Octavio Gomez, the ex-flyweight king Salvatore Burruni of Italy, and Jose Medel, one of a generation of great Mexican bantams. It wasn't all plain sailing, however, as Olivares had to come off the floor to win against both Ernie De La Cruz and Takao Sakurai, the 1964 Olympic champion.
`OLIVARES WAS THE BEST FIGHTER I EVER FOUGHT.
HE WAS A COMPLETE FIGHTER, VERY SMART
FEATHER AND SUPER-FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPION ALEXIS ARGUELLO
Olivares was already a comparatively wealthy young man who boasted of owning two houses, four vacant lots, two trucks, two cars and a furniture workshop'. But he knew the real money would come with the world title, then in the keeping of Australia's Lionel Rose, a pipe-smoking Aborigine who had taken the crown from the great Fighting Harada of Japan.
Rose had been a fine champion who was always willing to travel to risk his title, retaining it in Japan and Los Angeles, and beating off the challenge of Britain's Alan Rudkin in Melbourne. He put his title on the line against Olivares, at the Inglewood Forum. Los Angeles, in August 1969, but the Mexican proved too strong and won easily in five rounds, as featured in Video Action.
Immediately after the contest. Olivares belied his aggressive ring image with the classand sensitive way in which he treated the beaten champion. Hugging the loser in the dressing room afterwards. he 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. My home in Mexico City is yours. Come whenever you want – you will always be my special guest.'
Olivares later told the press: 'I want to say that Lionel was a great champion. He had guts and he didn't quit, even when he was hurt. He shook me a couple of times but I knew I could take his punch and keep coming. I just overpowered him. He's the best boxer I ever met. Lucky for me he doesn't punch very hard, otherwise I would have been in trouble.
The new bantamweight champion's first challenger was Alan Rudkin, a Liverpudlian who had fought well in losing 15-rounders for the title against Fighting Harada and Rose, each time on the champion's home ground. The match was made by Los Angeles promoter George Parnassus, who signed contracts with the English camp when Rudkin was boxing a routine non-title fight in Shoreditch Town Hall, London's most famous small-hall boxing venue. The British challenger would earn around £8,000, pushed to £12,000 with ancillary rights, which was good money for a bantamweight contender at the time.
The fight took place at the Forum, in December 1969,and Rudkin was butchered in five minutes 30 seconds in front of a crowd of 15,000, paying $175,000. There were also television links to Britain, Mexico and Australia – where both men were respected for their battles with Rose. A left hook dropped the challenger after two minutes, and, although he counter-attacked gamely, the fight was effectively over from that point. He missed with a wild left early in the second and Olivares used his own left to bring the second knockdown. The Englishman got up quickly to take the mandatory eight. and was then led to his corner to have his gumshield rinsed before being waved back into action. When a precise right and two hooks put him down for a third time, referee John Thomas had seen enough.
Olivares had certainly looked the part against Rudkin and most observers agreed that the little Mexican had the ability to be champion for a long time.
'He's the greatest, there's nobody to compare with him', Rudkin acknowledged after their fight. 'I tried boxing him, but that was no good. He feints and picks punches. Every time he hits, he numbs. I didn't even feel the punches that put me on the floor, and those are the ones that really hurt.'
With Rudkin out of the way, Olivares was now set for an even stiffer test, against Jesus Castillo, in April 1970 The showdown between Olivares and his Mexican rival Jesus `Chucho' Castillo was a huge attraction. Castillo's points defeat by Lionel Rose in his previous title bid, in December 1968, had set off a chair-throwing riot which wrecked the Inglewood Forum, but promoter George Parnassus decided to risk staging the fight there again. The gamble paid off, with 18,762 fans paying a Californian record of $281,840 which, with closed circuit TV revenue, boosted the overall take to $458,240.
After a quiet start, the fight burst into life in the third round when Castillo clipped the champion with a perfect right-hand counter which caught him coming in and dropped him to his knees momentarily. Olivares was up before referee George Latka could start a count, but the damage had been done. Castillo stayed on top for the next few rounds until Olivares forced his way back in the seventh and then pinned the challenger against the ropes for most of the eighth round. Castillo rallied again, but the edge was with Olivares and he controlled the final third of an action-packed fight to run out a clear points winner with scores of 10-5, 9-4-2 and 7-6-2. 'Sure, I'll give him another chance', Olivares said. 'I'll give anybody a chance. I'm a fighting champion.'
He kept his word and the pair met again at the Forum in October. It was another blockbuster for promoter Parnassus, with 16,007 paying a gross $215,902. The fight was not quite as thrilling as the first, with the champion massively handicapped by a horrible cut over the left eye which appeared in the first round. He claimed he'd been butted, but Castillo denied the allegation and said an overhand right had done the damage.
Either way, the wound was too bad to allow Olivares to complete the full 15 rounds. Referee Dick Young gave him every chance to salvage the fight before, acting on the advice of the ringside doctor, he called a halt after two minutes 27 seconds of the 14th. Olivares's title was gone, and with it his proud unbeaten record. It was his first loss in 61 fights, of which he had won 56 inside the distance.
Naturally, there had to be a third and deciding fight, and this took place at the Forum in April 1971. It was not quite edge-of-the-seat entertainment, but the crowd of 18,141 still got full value for their money as Olivares dominated for long periods. He was nailed by a long left hook in the sixth which dumped him on the seat of his pants, but, once referee John Thomas had completed the mandatory eight count, Olivares made sure that Castillo couldn't get close enough to follow up.
Olivares opened a cut on the champion's right eye and his footwork made Castillo miss repeatedly. There was no dispute about the outcome, Olivares winning by wide margins of 9-4-2, 12-3 and 10-3-2. The fight drew a gate of $254,155, meaning that the three-fight series had grossed over a million dollars, a remarkable tribute to the popularity of the two Mexicans.
Olivares's next defence saw him go over old ground when he stopped Kazuyoshi Kanazawa, in 14 rounds, at the Forum, in October 1971.
Olivares had stopped the Japanese fighter in two rounds in 1969, but Kanazawa had improved enormously in the interim and this time gave the champion all he could handle. Twice, in the eighth and again in the 13th, he had the Mexican tottering on the edge of a knockdown, but somehow Olivares kept going and, in the 14th, summoned one last effort which finally broke the challenger. Kanazawa was down three times for an automatic stoppage after two minutes of the round, and both winner and loser finished exhausted. Olivares sustained damage around the left eye, which later required corrective surgery.
A long rest might have been sensible after such a gruelling contest, but instead Olivares was back in the ring in December, defending against Mexican rival Jesus Pimentel, a tough contender who was unbeaten in his previous 15 fights. A fierce attack in the sixth sent the challenger through the ropes and onto the ring apron and Pimentel took steady punishment thereafter. At the end of the 11th round Pimentel's manager, Harry Kabakoff, waved his fighter to the corner and said to Olivares: 'Ruben, you're the winner.' Pimentel, a 31-year-old veteran of 85 pro fights (78 wins), immediately announced his retirement. `Five years ago he'd have beaten Olivares, but now it's too late', said Kabakoff. The fight is featured in Video Action.
It was an open secret that the champion was struggling to make the bantamweight limit by this time, and the chances were that even if he had been successful in his defence against compatriot Rafael Herrera, in Mexico City, in March 1972, he would have relinquished the crown and moved up to featherweight. As it turned out, Herrera saved Olivares the decision, snatching the title on an eighth-round knockout which stunned the boxing world.
Herrera won easily, outboxing the sluggish champion in the first six rounds and cutting him on the right cheek before despatching him with a clinical right to the jaw after 85 seconds of the eighth round. It was a measure of his superiority that not one of the three officials gave Olivares a single round: the cards showed 70-65, 70-66 and 70-67 at the finish.
Curiously, Herrera was in tears in the dressing room afterwards while Olivares laughed and joked with the press, presumably relieved that he would never again have to endure the rigours of boiling down to 1181b.
Olivares took a five-month break from the ring before returning to outscore world-class Chilean featherweight Godfrey Stevens. He then lost a 10-round rematch to Herrera, who had himself moved up a division after being dethroned by Enrique Pinder. It appeared that Olivares was having trouble settling in the new division, and the power which had carried him to so many bantamweight victories was not so evident against the heavier men.
He began 1973 with an easy win over Walter Seeley, of New York, and then found himself cast as the 'test piece' for Bobby Chacon, the explosive Californian who had replaced him as the darling of the crowds at the Inglewood Forum. Chacon had won all 19 of his fights, 17 by knockout, but the step up came too quickly for him and Olivares gave him a boxing lesson, stopping him in nine rounds to win the vacant North American Boxing Federation title. The victory put Olivares in line for a featherweight world title shot, but he neglected his training and was surprisingly stopped in five rounds by Art Hafey, a rugged Canadian, in his next outing.
With his career on the line, Olivares got himself into shape for the rematch and won a hard-fought split decision which gave him a shot at the vacant WBA version of the world title, against Zensuke Utagawa, of Japan, at the Forum, in July 1974. It proved an easy night's work for the Mexican, who floored Utagawa three times for a seventh-round knockout.after a couple of non-title wins, Olivares risked his belt against the power-punching Alexis Arguello. Relations with manager Arturo Hernandez were sour, which may have been why Hernandez told reporters before the fight that Olivares seemed to lack the desire he once had.
The match, like all Olivares's appearances, was a big draw and a crowd of 14,313 at the Forum paid $186,000 to see him build a wide points lead...until Arguello found the punch to knock him out after 30 seconds of the 13th round. `He hurt me in the eighth, ninth and 10th rounds,' the new champion acknowledged. 'I thought I was going down. I knew I was behind on points and had to knock him out to win.
LAST GREAT SHOW
The irrepressible Olivares bounced back immediately, taking the WBC crown from Bobby Chacon, at the Forum in June 1975. The champion had a run of seven straight knockouts behind him and his confidence was high, but he was wiped out in two rounds as Olivares gave the last truly devastating performance of his career. Three months later, he was an ex-champ again after David Kotey, a lanky puncher from Ghana, outpointed him over 15 rounds.
In his next outing he was knocked out in seven rounds by future WBC champ Danny Lopez, and that was effectively the end of him as a serious performer. He fought on for a few more years and his victims included future WBC lightweight champion Jose Luis Ramirez, but the defeats accumulated. He had one last shot at glory when Eusebio Pedroza gave him a crack at the WBA title, in Houston, in July 1979, but he was stopped in 12 rounds.
After losing to Margarito Marquez in 1981, Olivares announced his retirement, but he returned to the ring in 1986 and again in 1988 for a pair of four-rounders which were little more than exhibitions. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991, and continues to take an interest in the game.