Boxer light in weight but packed heavy punch

2011-07-28T00:00:00Z 2011-07-30T20:29:44Z Boxer light in weight but packed heavy punch Arizona Daily Star
July 28, 2011 12:00 am

In celebration of Arizona's centennial, the Star will feature our picks for the 100 best athletes, moments and teams.

Throughout the summer, we will showcase our list - with the first 90 in no particular order. In August, Greg Hansen will choose his top 10, with a column on each.

Michael Carbajal

Achievement

You could say Michael Carbajal went out the way boxers are supposed to go out.

Fighting in 1999 after having already won three world championships, the then-31-year-old flyweight was beaten and bloodied when he unleashed a blow that put Jorge Arce down, leading to a stoppage and giving Carbajal his fourth world championship.

Then he retired. For good.

But unfortunately for the Phoenix boxer, who rose to prominence by winning a silver medal at 106 pounds in the 1988 Olympics, the story did not end there. Tragedy, betrayal controversy and alcohol issues followed him, the way they often do with boxers.

Carbajal, now 43, dealt with the murder of his younger brother, Angel, and with an older brother, Danny, who was imprisoned for stealing his money. Carbajal earned at least $7 million in his career but told the Phoenix New Times in 2008 that he was broke and financially dependent on his girlfriend.

It was Danny who was there early, serving as trainer when Michael transitioned from the Olympics to a professional career in 1989. Michael Carbajal did not lose for nearly five years, picking up the IBF light flyweight title in 1990 and picking up a WBC belt in a memorable 1993 bout against Humberto "Chiquita" Gonzalez, in a fight when Gonzalez had knocked him down twice before Carbajal stopped him in the seventh round.

Carbajal defended the WBC title twice before losing a rematch with Gonzalez, and he rode a roller coaster in the late 1990s before ending his career with the victory over Arce.

Carbajal was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006. While his personal life has taken over the headlines in the past decade, Carbajal will always be remembered for redefining the way Americans think about flyweight fighters.

Hometown; current age

Phoenix; 43

He said it

"I was always there to fight. That's how I hope I'm remembered. When people think of me, I want them to think of a warrior.'' - Carbajal, to 15rounds.com, in 2009

Bruce Pascoe

On StarNet: See the archive of Sports Centennial articles at: azstarnet .com/sportscentennial

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