THE SIGHT OF Carlos Zarate, who stood 5-feet 8-inches tall and weighed 118 pounds, did not strike fear into his opponents. But his right hand did.
One of the most prolific punchers of the 1970s, the long and lean Zarate possessed an uncanny power that rendered 58 of his 65 opponents unconscious. He turned pro in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in 1970 and reeled off 18 straight wins by knockout until Victor Ramirez took him the 10-round limit. Immediately after that fight he began another knockout streak that would continue until 1978.
Upholding the tradition of fine Mexican bantamweight champions, Zarate won the WBC 118-pound title in 1976 with a ninth-round knockout of Rodolfo Martinez. Zarate defended the title by scoring knockouts over Paul Ferreri, Waruinge Nakayama and Fernando Cabanela to set up, perhaps, the biggest bantamweight fight in history.
A unification match between Zarate and WBA champ Alfonso Zamora was set for 1977 at the Great Western Forum in Ingelwood, California. It was a fight fan's dream. Zamora was 29-0 with 29 knockouts while Zarate was 40-0 with 39 knockouts. But oddly, the WBC and WBA refused to sanction the bout, meaning that Zarate and Zamora would fight only for bragging rights of Mexico. That was motivation enough for both men.
Zarate kept his long jab busy to offset Zamora's power early in the fight. But by round four, Zarate found a home for his right hand. He dropped Zamora twice and the bout was halted with Zarate claiming the unofficial, undisputed bantamweight crown. The win earned him "Fighter of The Year" honors from The Ring magazine.
He would score five more title-fight knockouts before moving up to the super bantamweight division to challenge WBC champ and future Hall of Famer Wilfredo Gomez. Gomez was too strong for Zarate and scored a fifth-round TKO.
Zarate returned to the bantamweight division and retained his title by knocking out Mensah Kpalongo. But in his next title defense, on June 3, 1979, he lost a controversial split decision to fellow Mexican Lupe Pintor.
A disappointed Zarate retired after the Pintor fight but launched a comeback in 1986. He reeled off 12 consecutive wins before a technical loss to WBC super bantamweight champ Jeff Fenech in Australia. In 1988, he challenged Daniel Zaragoza for the same WBC title but was stopped in the 10th round.
He retired permanently after the Zaragoza fight.