Back in 1996 Daniel “Zurdo de Tacubaya” Zaragoza was basking in the Green and Golden Autumn of his career, as he successfully defended his WBC super bantamweight belt, with a brilliant performance against Joichiro Tatsuyoshi.
Southpaw Daniel aged thirty six, was a sixteen years veteran in the pro ranks. He had already been a WBC bantamweight champion. While his impetuous young Japanese opponent was in the prime of life aged just twenty five, with a thick thatch of hair, Daniel, a seasoned and well travelled road warrior, was more than happy to oblige, by going all the way to the Arena in Yokohama for this defence. Daniel, who`s hairline was thinning even then, had negated the eleven years age difference, with absolutely superb conditioning, brilliantly supervised by Nacho Beristain of Romanza Gym. Don Nacho was in Daniel`s corner that night, with wise counselling and sage, calm advice every step, every inch and every punch of the way.
The first surprise was that the “Old Man,” didn`t start prudently: “Old Man River style,” by moderately pacing himself. For the first four rounds Daniel hammered the youngster with stiff long range right jabs, followed up by hard looping left hooks, which were regularly finding their mark, stinging the challenger, particularly around the cheeks and the head. In the third, there was a brief time out and with it respite, because Daniel knocked his mouth guard out.
By the fifth Joichiro was warming to his task, beginning to land hard right counters and then on to a two fisted attack, forcing the older man to box on the retreat, of course in a wily fashion. In the sixth, an angry swelling under Daniel`s left eye was becoming more apparent, but he`d cut the Japanese fighter over the left eye. By the seventh, blood was streaming down the face of Joichiro, but Daniel displayed vintage patience. Without getting carried away, he just kept doing what he was doing, particularly with jarring left hooks, hardly pausing to survey his handiwork.
It was building up and adding up , because in the eighth the Referee called the ring doctor in to look at Joichiro`s battered visage. By this time, he`d also acquired a cut over his right eye, and was not surprisingly trying to up the tempo, as the clock and blood were running down. In the next round the swelling under Daniel`s left eye had opened up and was weeping blood, but the leakage was relatively minor.
The Ring Doctor was again summoned in the tenth, and his time scrutinized the Japanese fighter`s slices, with more concern, dapping the wounds and advising the fight could go on…for the time being.
Sensing the end was nigh if he could let fly, at the beginning of the eleventh, Daniel launched a fierce, relentless yet measured attack, landing clusters of sharp, jolting flurries to Joichiro`s crimson face. By now, his originally nice clean, well pressed white shorts were stained pink with the splashes of his own blood, while Daniel`s shamrock green trunks were drenched in sweat.
The Referee had seen enough. Even before the to and fro Doctor could climb back upon the ring apron, he waved his hands wide and stopped it, much to the chagrin and disappointment of Joichiro. Daniel raised both arms in triumph and then was congratulated by his opponent and they sportingly embraced, and chatted. One tough fight, and won masterful performance.
In 1997, they had a rematch, this time in Joichiro`s home town of Osaka. It made little difference. The sturdy veteran gave him yet another comprehensive boxing lesson, winning a UD, again displaying the probing rapier like, accuracy, patience and persistence, in the bloodhound ilk of Lieutenant Colombo.
That same year, Daniel`s reign abruptly came to an end, courtesy of young Erik Morales, who was just twenty years old. Danny Boy no longer. Father Time had caught up with Mr Z! Daniel was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004.
At sixty three, he`s still pencil slim, works out daily and retains pristine shape, having recently briskly sparred with Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez, to raise money for young boxers struggling to earn a crust, during the Pandemic.