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Ricardo Mayorga-El Matador


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One of those guys that were pretty much born to fight and had few other options in life, boxing meant the way out of poverty for Ricardo Mayorga, who was one of the most vicious, ferocious, foulmouthed and exciting boxers of his time and ever. Born into poverty in Nicaragua, he fought his way out of the slums and into the bright and big lights of Las Vegas. Never a true world class boxer in terms of technical skill and IQ, by way of sheer ferocity and physical strength, Mayorga managed to score a couple big upsets in his best days as a boxer. The biggest one was knocking out Vernon Forrest in only 3 rounds back in 2003 and taking his zero and a second world title. He also beat Fernando Vargas in what turned out to be the latter's last fight and knocked out Andrew Lewis to win his first world title. He has also won a world title at a second weight class, 154, but didn't hold it too long. Mayorga was an all-out brawler who threw wide, looping shots from weird angles. He had power to knock out most guys at 147 and could also take a lot of punishment. He was a formidable beast, in other words. Here is the story of the since fallen matador from Managua-Ricardo Mayorga.


He was born in Granada, a mid-size town in Nicaragua, situated on the banks of the huge lake of the same name as the country. It was on 3 October 1973 that Ricardo Antonio Mayorga Perez came to life, the future multiple world champion. He was one of four kids in a working class family of mixed heritage (Indigenous, Spanish and possibly African) and he grew up in Managua, the capital of the country, which also lies on a big lake that is named after it. Or the other way around. They all lived in a single cinderblock room and slept on the floor. He was beaten by his father, but he says he is grateful to him for making him tougher. He spent six of his teenage years in a gang and once got his head split open by a lead pipe. He started boxing inspired by his brother Jaime and took advantage of the fact that high ability sportsmen could fulfill their obligatory army stint by competing in tournaments. It was while boxing for the army that he met Rosendo Alvarez, later a WBA minimum and light flyweight champion. The two would form a friendship that still lasts. He grew into a strong 5'9 light welter and turned pro 20 July 1993, 2 months before turning 20. He lost 3 fights early on, first a fifth round corner retirement against Humberto Aranda in his third fight, and then he lost two decisions back to back to Roger Benito Flores and Henry Castillo, both in 1998. He actually didn't box between 1996 and 1998 and he returned as a welter. In November 1999, he fought the future world champion Diosbelys Hurtado, but the fight ended prematurely after an accidental headbutt and the result was a technical draw in 2 rounds. For a while, Mayorga became a super welter and won the WBA Fedelatin title there by stopping undefeated Marco Antonio Avendano by TKO2, March 2000. He made 5 defenses of it, all by ko, but then vacated it because he decided to fight as a welter.


He suddenly got a chance to win the WBA title against Andrew "Six Heads" Lewis and they fought on 28 July 2001 at Staples Center, but again, like against Hurtado, the fight was stopped after 2 rounds after an accidental headbutt cut Lewis over the eye. The result was turned into a no-contest. They had a rematch 30 March next year, this time at Sovereign Center in Reading, when Mayorga produced his first upset by flooring the undefeated champion in round 5 with a left hook and two right hands. Lewis got up at six but was in no position to continue and the referee stopped the fight. It was an amazing achievement for this former gang member from Managua, but an even bigger one would come soon. He faced the WBC-champion Vernon Forrest in a title unification fight, on 25 January 2003 at Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, CA. Forrest was a 6-1 favorite and came into the ring looking very confident, all smiles and boldness. Mayorga however started taking control of the fight from the first round and his weird punching angles created problems for Forrest, an "old school" boxer. On the other hand, Mayorga absorbed everything Forrest landed and even offered his chin to him for a free shot, which he liked to do, showing his reckless bravado. Forrest was down in the first round and then in round 3 Mayorga landed one of his right hooks which put Forrest down again. He got up in time but looked in bad condition, so the referee stopped the fight at 2:03. Somewhat prematurely perhaps, but there was no argument that Forrest was headed towards a stoppage loss anyhow. Before this fight, Mayorga had signed with Don King and was now on top of the world, holding the WBC, WBA and The Ring titles. As Forrest had a 6-fight deal with HBO, he signed for a rematch with Mayorga and they fought again 12 July that year, this time in Las Vegas. This time, Forrest did a lot better, but still not good enough. He was still a too easy target for Mayorga's wild looping punches and was unable to really hurt Mayorga or get him iin trouble. In the end, Mayorga retained his titles with the scores of 115-114, 116-112 and 114-114. He then attempted to become undisputed champion by taking on the IBF-champion Cory Spinks, who was technically superior but had no power to speak of. They fought at Boardwalk Hall in AC on 13 December and Spinks frustrated Mayorga by jabbing to the body and head and moving out of range. Mayorga on his part threw hooks from all angles as usual but had problems connecting against the defensively superior Spinks. He also got 2 points deducted for holding and hitting and in the end lost surprisingly by a majority decision, 114-114, 117-110 and 114-112. Thus, undisputed wasn't meant to be for him.


He decided to move up to middleweight after his disappointment and beat Eric Mitchell by UD10 in his first fight there, before signing for another megafight against Felix Trinidad, who was returning from a 2-year absence. It was 2 October 2004 at MSG when the two engaged in a great war. Mayorga scored a knockdown in round 3 after landing a punch which caused Trinidad to touch the canvas with one glove. Trinidad took control in round 5 and hurt Mayorga with many clean, hard shots. Mayorga tried to come back but in round 8 was put down three times with punches to head and body and stopped. 3 days later, he announced his retirement from boxing. That proved to last until 13 August next year, when he came back at 154 to fight for the WBC title against Michele Piccirillo. He put the Italian down twice in round 2 and once in round 4 but Piccirillo came back into the fight after that and lasted the distance. Mayorga won by clear scores, one judge even giving him all 12 rounds.


This victory made Mayorga very confident and he then agreed to face Oscar de la Hoya in his very first defense. De La Hoya hadn't fought since September 2004, when he was knocked out brutally by Bernard Hopkins. It was to be El Matador's greatest event ever, it was a pay per view and generated 875 K buys and 43.8 million in revenue for HBO. Mayorga's purse was 2 mill while Golden Boy earned 20 mill altogether, because he was guaranteed a share of the PPV revenue. The intense dislike between the two was shown clearly at the prefight press conferences and Mayorga insulted DLH severely and even slapped him once. The fight took place at MGM Grand, on 6 May 2006. De La Hoya sent Mayorga down with a perfectly timed right hand and left hook in round one. Mayorga was hurt but made the count and made it out of the round. In the third round, Mayorga landed his best punch in the fight-a left hook that snapped Golden Boy's head back, but elsewhere, most of his punches were blocked or avoided. Mayorga was warned for rabbit punching in round five and in round six he was again down from a left hook. As he rose, he was jumped and hit with at least 20 shots before the referee jumped in to save Mayorga from more punishment. Afterward, Mayorga and his conqueror embraced in the ring and Mayorga appologized for his trash talk before the fight. Next year came his last big victory, as he faced Fernando "El Feroz" Vargas, another brawler who was known for his wars with De La Hoya and Trinidad.


Both guys hadn't fought for over a year (and both were stopped in 6 rounds in their respective last fight) when they faced off on 23 November 2007 at Staples Center in LA. Also this time there was misbehaving and notable incidents before the fight; at one press conference, Mayorga insulted Vargas by calling him "gordo", meaning fatty, and tried to slap him but missed while Vargas landed a punch on him before security and entourage broke them up. A glass screen was placed between them during weigh-in. The fight was at 168 pounds and the title at stake was WBC Continental Americas one. Vargas was down already in the first round from a hard combination, but came back to win several rounds and made the fight close. He was however again down from a right hand in the final seconds of round 11 and subsequently that proved to be the difference, as he lost the fight with the scores of 112-114, 113-113 and 111-115. Without the two knockdowns, the result would be a draw. Mayorga had already before this fight stated he plans to go back to 147 and that he did, fighting Shane Mosley in his next fight on 27 September 2008 at Home Depot Center in Carson, Arizona. Mayorga was better in the first three rounds while Mosley took the next three. As the bell sounded for round 12, the scorecards were mixed, as two judges had each guy up by a point and the third had Mosley clearly up by five points. Near the end of the round, Mosley connected with a big right that put Mayorga down on his hands and knees. As he rose unsteadily, Mosley flew at him and hit him with a short lead left hook which put Mayorga down and out-just a second before the end of the fight.


Mayorga retired or had a layoff after this debacle and he came back in 2010 fighting as a middleweight and beating Michael Walker by a TKO9. He then went down to 154 to fight Miguel Cotto for his WBA belt, 12 March 2011 at MGM Grand. He put up a good fight and got 3 rounds from all judges, but he was again stopped in the 12th and last round after Cotto nailed him with a perfect left hook early in the round. Mayorga's purse was a measly 50 K, the result of him no longer being Don King's man. He stated at the post fight interview that he would retire, but once again came back in 2014. After winning 2 easier fights by stoppage, at light heavyweight (!), he again faced Mosley on 29 August 2015, this time at Forum in Inglewood. Mayorga was badly faded in comparison to the last time they fought however, and was easily dealt with by Mosley, who again knocked him out in the last second of round 6. Mayorga again had a layoff of 2 years before returning for the last time in 2017. He was just a shadow of himself by then and had started doing drugs. After winning one fight by TKO3, he was stopped by Andrey Sirotkin in his first and only fight in Russia, by TKO9, fighting for the WBA Inter-Continental super middle title. After being stopped in his next two fights, by unknown fighters, he finally retired in 2019. His record is 32 wins, with 26 ko's, 12 losses and 1 draw.


His friendship with Rosendo Alvarez proved to be his salvation, because it was Alvarez that talked Mayorga into entering rehab, following several incidents, including one where he was beaten up with a club and bloodied after an argument over the gas pump at a gas station in December 2016. He was also badly beaten up in January 2020 by unknown assailants in Managua. It was this beating that ended his chances of ever coming back to the ring, as it resulted in severe facial fractures. In September that year, thanks to Rosendo Alvarez's intervention, Mayorga checked in to a rehabilitation center. He is still fighting to become sober and clean but seems to be on the right path, finally. El Matador is slaying the bull called drug addiction.

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