LAS VEGAS – MARCH 13,1993: Michael Carbajal lands a punch against Humberto Gonzalez during the fight at Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Michael Carbajal won WBC light flyweight title and IBF light flyweight title by a KO 7. (Photo by: The Ring Magazine/Getty Images)
It is rare to see two stars in their prime coinciding in the same weight class, and even rarer to see them willing to face each other in a winner-takes-all clash.
Even rarer is to have that fight live up to the lofty expectations placed on it, and this was one of such cases.
Michael “Little Hands of Stone” Carbajal was 27-0 with a couple of dozen knockouts to his credit back in the early ‘90s, and had accumulated six defenses of the IBF junior flyweight title that he had taken from Muangchai Kittikasem in 1990. Gonzalez was already a proven warrior with a few more fights than Carbajal, and no less than a dozen wins defending his WBC belt in the same division. They were both considered among the finest fighters in the world, regardless of weight.
The fight was a throwback to the best eras of boxing, those in which the best fought the best, routinely, without excuses.
They met in Las Vegas on March 13, in what would become the first fight in junior flyweight history in which both fighters made one million dollars or more, and it was also the first mega-bout at that weight to be televised on pay-per-view. Both of their titles were at play, as was the promise of a spot in the world’s top 5 pound-for-pound lists for the winner.
With the underlying drama of the True Mexican vs. Mexican-American rivalry bad blood feud setting the mood, both men understood that there was more at stake than just two belts, and went to work accordingly.
Carbajal took the early lead with his smoother boxing skills and his numbing punching power, but just as he was getting comfortable he took one on the nose and went down on the seat of his pants, to the roaring delight of the crowd at the Hilton. It was go-time from then on, as they both went for the knockout with every punch they threw after that moment.
Recovering quickly, the younger Carbajal was getting his rhythm back, landing at will at the iron-chinned “Chiquita” and finding his groove in the fight. A toe-to-toe phone-booth affair it was in the third round, and it was just the beginning.
The fifth round started with a long, twelve-punch combination by Gonzalez capped by a monstrous right hook from his southpaw stance that sent Carbajal down in a heap, holding on to the top rope for dear life. He beat the count, but a different fight had just begun.
Fighting on animalistic survival instinct from then on, both fighters went looking for the stoppage with renewed interest, both throwing bombs from all angles and dominating every aspect of the game in a beautiful display of pure boxing skills.
And then, on the seventh round, with Gonzalez up by two points and the fight really starting to heat up, Carbajal landed a right hand that sent “Chiquita” staggering backwards towards the ropes, and it was do-or-die for both men from then on.
A minute later, and with only 12 seconds to go in the round, Carbajal finally tags Gonzalez with a demolishing left hook as he has him pinned against the ropes, and it’s the highlight-reel, one-punch knockout blow that puts an end to a fantastic fight.
The Ring’s Fight of the Year award was almost a formality after that, and Carbajal was also named Fighter of the Year for 1993.
They would meet in a rematch one year later. But Carbajal’s extracurricular problems had already taken its toll, and he lost both that fight and the rubber match in late 1994.
The memory of their first fight, however, was more than enough to turn both men into legends. On both sides of the Rio Grande, and beyond.
Fittingly, they were both inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame on the same year in 2006.
Diego M. Morilla writes for The Ring since 2013. He has also written for HBO.com, ESPN.com and many other magazines, websites, newspapers and outlets since 1993. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has won two first-place awards in the BWAA’s annual writing contest, and he is the moderator of The Ring’s Women’s Ratings Panel. He served as copy editor for the second era of The Ring en Español (2018-2020) and is currently a writer and editor for RingTV.com.