Home Boxing History Mexican Warrior Jorge Arce: “I Hate Fighters Who Run”

Mexican Warrior Jorge Arce: “I Hate Fighters Who Run”

“They want to see blood, action and entertainment. That’s why I am here. I hate fighters who run. I am here to fight. I feel sorry for the people who buy a ticket and they have to see guys run around the ring. I am respectful of the fans who pay to see people fight. If my opponent wants to run, let him run a marathon. I am here to fight and not to run. I like fighters. I hate runners”.

Jorge Arce proudly made this statement in an interview with ESPN back in 2006. For him, the thought of not engaging and giving his all was unacceptable. It was this endearing attitude that made him one of the most exciting lighter weight fighters in recent memory. But it was also his diminutive frame that prevented him from gaining the same recognition as fellow pugilistic warmongers Arturo Gatti and Diego Corrales. In recent years, the rise of Roman Gonzalez, Juan Estrada and Naoya Inoue amongst others, has led to greater attention on boxing’s “little guys”, but this wasn’t always the case, with many established fighters being used to pad out pay-per-view cards or fill the lesser popular television slots, especially in the States. Thankfully, Arce did garner attention, and the ride he took fans on would etch itself in to boxing folklore.

Born in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico on 27 July 1979, Arce (Full name Jorge Armand Arce Armenta) was the eldest of two sons (his younger brother Francisco also boxed professionally). His father Oscar never had the chance to chase his dream of becoming a fighter so, aged ten, Arce decided he would live his father’s dream for him by donning the gloves. But just two years later, his father was left fighting for his life after a welding accident at the hospital where he worked had caused a fire. The young Arce went to see his father and was devastated by what he saw.

“Son, I’m very tired”, his father said to him, “I’m going to go. He’s calling me”.

“Who?” Arce heartbreakingly asked.

“My God”, his father answered, “Take care of your Mom”.

“Please don’t go”, Arce pleaded, “I promise I will be the champion of the world. If you fight, I will win the title and you will win it with me. Stay with me”.

“OK”, his father replied, “I promise”.

Arce left the hospital, not knowing if he would ever see his father again. He went to church daily, praying that his father would recover. Approximately six months later, his mother came in one day, a big smile adorned her face.

“Your dad is safe”, she said, “No more therapy”.

The news changed Arce’s world. Highly charged, he shot back to the gym with new found energy and a determination that would drive him throughout his career. He would never give up.

By the age of sixteen, Arce had decided to turn professional. He had amassed an estimated 45 fights as an amateur, losing just twice. But it was losing a disputed decision to future world champion Martin Castillo for a spot on the 1996 Olympic team that had made his mind up. He felt that Castillo had been given the decision as he was already on the team. So on 19 January 1996, ‘El Travieso’ (Mischievous Boy) made his debut with a first round knockout of Adan Aldama.

He won his next three before being stopped in the first round by future WBC light-flyweight champion Omar Romero, then drew over four with Gabriel Munoz, learning curves that can happen with such a young fighter. Undeterred, he won his next ten, picking up the Mexican and WBA Fedecentro titles along the way, before dropping a points decision to future IBF champion Victor Burgos. The loss didn’t slow him down as four straight victories earned him his first shot at major honours, the WBO light-flyweight title held by Argentinian Juan Domingo Cordoba. Cordoba had outpointed two-time titleist Melchor Cob Castro to become champion and had made one defence.

On 4 December 1998, Arce delivered on his promise to his father when he scored a fourth round knockdown en route to taking a wide unanimous decision and capturing his first world title at the tender age of 19. Beforehand, so enthralled with his opportunity, he had booked flights, hotels and food for all of his family. This prompted his promoter Fernando Beltran to bewilderedly ask;

“Are you crazy? The purse is only $10,000!!”.

When Arce explained to him the promise he had made, Beltran began to cry.

“I’m so sorry”, he said, “I will pay for your family”.

Four months later, Arce travelled to Italy, stopping Salvatore Fanni in six rounds in his maiden defence, before securing a big opportunity to meet former four-time champion Michael Carbajal.

Carbajal had been an outstanding fighter, but it was felt that time was now catching him up. Even so, a win over him would propel Arce’s career to the next level. But on 31 July 1999, Arce was brought down to earth with a thud and shown he still had much to learn. Despite taking control of the action, basic mistakes would prove to be his undoing. He was guilty of dropping his left hand after throwing it, and when throwing a left hook to the body, he stood upright and in front of Carbajal, leaning over to try to land it, both actions that left him open for a straight right hand. And a veteran puncher like Carbajal exploited this, dropping and hurting Arce in round six. Arce survived the round, but was stunned again early in round seven. His head gradually cleared as he boxed himself back in to control. He looked like he was on his way to an impressive points win, until the former champion nailed him again with the right in round eleven. This time Arce was unable to recover as the referee stepped in to end matters. His title was gone and it was time to rebuild.

He reeled off nine straight wins, picking up the interim WBC title that took him to a shot at the champion South Korean Yo Sam Choi. Choi had made three defences but had been out of action with an injury. He would find out that returning against a much improved Arce was a decision he would soon regret. On 6 July 2002, Arce travelled to South Korea for his second title opportunity. On the attack from the first bell, Arce zeroed in with his short left hook throughout, the punch finding the target with much regularity. Choi bravely tried to punch with the relentless challenger, who had now started to find a home for his straight right on the lefthand side of Choi’s jaw, but Arce would not be denied. In the sixth round, the referee rescued Choi after he absorbed several head snapping shots. Arce was once again a world champion.

He now started to live up to his early potential. He had corrected his earlier mistakes, carrying his left hand a lot higher than before, and now combined strategic boxing with his hard punching style, breaking down opponents in his rousing manner. He defended the title three times to start 2003, before he took part in the Televisa version of Big Brother, with his engaging personality seeing him finish third.

His burgeoning career was once again on the move as he racked up a further four defences before relinquishing his title in search of further glory at flyweight. He met once beaten Australian Hussein Hussein in an eliminator for the WBC title held by Thailand’s Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. In what ESPN named their Fight of the Year, the pair set a frantic pace, the two-way exchanges typifying an Arce performance. Badly cut on the bridge of the nose, Arce eventually broke Hussein’s resistance in round ten, pounding his opponent to the canvas before his corner called a halt to matters.

However, an opportunity against Wonjongkam was put on ice due to an injury to the champion. So Arce went in with Colombian Angel Antonio Priolo for the vacant WBC “interim” title, duly collecting with a third round stoppage. Keeping active, he rematched Hussein, this time scoring a conclusive second round win, then twice stopped former two weight champion Adonis Rivas in succession (TKO 10, TKO 6). Former three-time titleist and veteran Rosendo Alvarez was Arce’s final foe at the weight, being knocked out in round six.

Unable to secure a “full” title shot, Arce set his sights on further challenges. He stepped up to super-flyweight, stopping former WBO light-flyweight belt holder Masibulele Makepula in four. His popularity had soared after finishing fourth place on TV show Dancing with the Stars, and he entered his next fight against Julio Ler, riding a horse, complete with his traditional black cowboy hat and lollipop, to a rousing ovation. Even with no title on the line, Arce was a “must-watch” fighter. And he put on his usual exciting performance, outpointing Ler over twelve to cement his position as number one contender to countryman and WBC champion Christian Mijares.

Mijares had won the “interim” title by outpointing Japan’s Katsushige Kawashima before being upgraded to “full” champion. He was a slick southpaw but Arce was favoured to emerge victorious. But on 14 April 2007 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, Arce found Mijares just too slick to pin down. Mijares peppered the non-stop pressing Arce with right jabs and straight lefts throughout, as Arce struggled to gain any advantage. The challenger finished a bloody mess, losing a wide, unanimous decision. It was his first defeat in eight years.

He returned five months later, stopping future champion Tomàs Rojas in a six round punch-out, then blasted out former champion Medgeon Singsurat in the opener with a vicious left hook to the body, to see out the year. He then faced once beaten Thai Devid Lookmahanak in an eliminator for the WBC title. Not too much was known about his opponent, but he almost derailed Arce’s path to another chance at championship glory. Once again he struggled against a southpaw opponent. Instead of moving to his left, Arce continually moved to his right and directly in to the path of Lookmahanak’s straight left. He was caught cleanly throughout in a tense battle, but fortunately his workrate had been enough to scrape a majority decision win. He was now the number one contender to Mijares, who by this time had added the WBA title to his WBC one.

However, Mijares had opted to attempt to add the IBF belt to his collection, so Arce was offered a shot at WBA “interim” trinket holder Rafael Concepciòn, with the right to challenge the winner of the unification. Arce forced Concepciòn to retire after nine rounds and defended the belt two months later on the same night as Mijares unification fight. Arce stopped Isidro Garcia in four, but Mijares lost both of his titles to one of boxing’s pound for pound best, getting stopped in nine rounds. That formidable champion would now face Arce in the Mexican’s toughest test to-date.

Armenian Vic Darchinyan had been a destructive force at flyweight, winning and defending the IBF title six times before shockingly getting stopped in five by a then-relatively unknown Nonito Donaire. He rebounded to knockout Dimitri Kirilov in the fifth to win the IBF super-flyweight belt before unifying against Mijares. With 26 KO’s in a 31-1-1 record, Darchinyan had refined his approach, forging him in to a more rounded fighter than before. He would be making the first defence of his newly acquired crowns.

They met on 7 February 2009 at the Honda Center, California. Arce, although the crowd favourite, entered as the underdog. And it didn’t take long to see why. With the southpaw stance once again proving to be an achilles heel for Arce, the challenger once again moved to his right and on to the powerful lefts of the champion. Darchinyan bossed the opening two and half rounds as Arce struggled to find his range, until midway through the third, he stung the Armenian with a left hook right hand combination. Another left hook near the end of the round triggered an exciting exchange as the crowd voiced their approval. Arce looked to have found his rhythm, having success throughout the fourth. But Darchinyan stiffened his legs with a solid left uppercut, delivering the punch for a second time to knock Arce in to the ropes. The pair took turns over the next few rounds testing each others durability, exchanging heavy blows. But it was becoming apparent that Darchinyan was packing the heavier artillery and that he also had another gear that he was preparing to move in to. Creating distance, he started to break Arce down, a short right hook now combining with the left cross/uppercut that was landing cleanly on Arce’s features. In round eleven, Arce absorbed some hefty punches, in the process suffering a nasty looking cut around the right eye. At the end of the round, the ringside doctor halted the action as the dejected challenger accepted his defeat. Full of class, he plotted his next move.

He got back to winning ways four months later with a third round knockout of Fernando Lumacad. Darchinyan then opted to move up in weight in a losing challenge for the IBF bantamweight title. But after refusing to meet number one contender Simphiwe Nongqayi, Darchinyan opted to vacate that organisation’s super-flyweight strap. Arce was pitted against Nongqayi to establish it’s successor.

South African Nongqayi was unbeaten in sixteen fights, predominately in his own country. But, in a strange turn of events, he had outpointed Arce’s younger brother Francisco in an eliminator for the title. Now he would face the more decorated of the siblings. They met on 9 September 2009. Arce was out of sorts this night, struggling to keep up with Nongqayi. He dropped a unanimous decision and many felt that he had the look of an aged fighter, that the wars that had made him such compelling viewing were now showing their effect. But write off a man like Arce at your own peril, for what looked like the beginning of the end was in fact the beginning of the most successful and rewarding period in his career. It was where his legacy was cemented.

He admitted that his career may well have been catching him up but, with a shot at the vacant WBO super-flyweight title on the table, he decided to continue a little longer, although if he lost, he would retire. He hired legendary trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristàin to take care of him. It proved to be an astute decision. He would face little-known Indonesian Angky Angkotta on 30 January 2010 in Mexico City. Arce had his work cut out before a cut eye in round seven took the decision to the scorecards. Arce was declared victor and once again had a world title strapped around his waist.

Nonetheless, he opted to relinquish the belt in order to chase bigger opportunities. And he did indeed mean bigger. Rising two divisions, Arce accepted an offer to fight undefeated WBO super-bantamweight champion Wilfredo Vàsquez Jr. Vàsquez father was one of the finest fighters from Puerto Rico, holding world titles in three divisions. Aside from being the third father-son combination in history to both become champion, they were also the first to do it in the same weight class. Even more remarkable was the fact that Vàzquez Jr had never boxed at amateur level. Now here he was making the third defence of his crown against his most experienced and biggest “name” opponent to date. Arce was a 10-1 underdog and was thought to be an easy stepping stone. It would prove to be a serious error of judgement.

On 7 May 2011 at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, the fight was the chief support to Manny Pacquiao vs Shane Mosley. It ended up stealing the show. Taking the fight to the younger man, Arce whipped in hooks to the body as he took the battle up close. Vàsquez responded with sharp counters, including a left hook that briefly sent Arce skidding to the canvas at the end of the fourth. The war of attrition continued, each fighter giving as good as they got, with absorbing exchanges throughout. Going in to round eleven it was difficult to separate them both on the judges scorecards. Then midway through the round Arce’s body attack gained fruition as Vàsquez started to wilt. Arce put his foot on the gas, piling the pressure on as he eagerly sought a finish. Vàsquez survived the round but Arce was now like a shark with the scent of blood in his nostrils. He came out for the final round energised by the previous rounds turn of events. Even so, he still displayed his class and sportsmanship as hugged Vàsquez to start the round. His arms went into perpetual motion as pummelled the exhausted soon-to-be ex-champion on the ropes. With a minute gone it was over, referee Joe Cortez stepping in to rescue a beaten Vàsquez. Arce had upset the odds and was now a three-weight champion.

His next three fights were against familiar opposition and history was also equalled in one. First up was a defence of his newly won title against former conqueror Nongqayi. Arce looked a different animal on this night, stopping the South African in four. He then chose to relinquish his belt and returned to bantamweight. On 26 November 2011, he once again faced Indonesian hardman Angky Angkotta for the vacant WBO title. Angkotta once again pushed Arce hard, his grit and determination giving Arce some uncomfortable moments, as the pair put on a gruelling battle. It was a close affair, although the scorecards didn’t reflect this, as Arce joined compatriot Eric Morales as a four-weight champion, courtesy of a unanimous decision. It had been a stunning turn of events for Arce, as his achievements now equalled his popularity.

Relinquishing the title without a defence, Arce moved back to super-bantamweight with his eyes firmly set on the division’s leader, pound-for-pound entrant Nonito Donaire. First, he set the record straight against Lorenzo Parra, bettering their previous draw with a fifth round knockout, then followed that with a no-contest with Jesus Rojas and a points win over Mauricio Martinez to earn his opportunity against the formidable Filipino. Donaire, a hugely talented boxer-puncher, was a three-weight world champion with many more years and accomplishments in front of him. He had already captured multiple titles and was arguably at the peak of his powers. The 33-year-old Arce would be a decisive underdog.

On 15 December 2012, the pair met at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. And the oddsmakers were spot on with their prediction on this night. Donaire was dominant from the start. He had an answer for everything Arce threw at him, countering with crisp, sharp punches throughout the opening three minutes. In the second things got worse for the Mexican veteran when he walked on to a right hand that sent down. He rose quickly but the writing was already on the wall. And in the third it was shown to him. A right hand staggered him again before a quick combination reunited him with the canvas for the second time. He once again clambered up, his legs betraying the steely determination that his resolve desperately wanted to display. Donaire exploded with a crushing left hook, the punch driving Arce flat on his back, bloody and beaten. It was a devastating finish with the referee waving the fight over.

In a perverse way, that would have been a fitting finale to this blood and guts warrior’s career, a live by the sword, die by the sword mantra. And Arce did indeed announce his retirement after the fight;

“My careers over. I have my family to take care of and my children, and I promised them that if I lost, I would leave”.

But the fire still burned within him as he sought one more championship. He returned almost a year later, this time up at featherweight, against late-notice substitute Colombian Jose Carmona. If ever a fight was to bring home the harsh and brutal realities of the sport, this was the one. Arce showed his experience against his younger foe, wearing him down before scoring an eighth round knockout. But afterwards, Carmona was rushed to hospital to reduce swelling on his brain. Deeply affected by what had transpired, Arce visited his former opponent, giving his family $10,000 to help pay his medical bills. To this day he still sends a monthly contribution to help with Carmona’s recovery.

Arce returned four months later on 8 March 2014, stopping Aldimar Silva in five, then stopped Jorge Lacierva in eight. These wins sent him into what would turn out to be the final fight of his career, a challenge to countryman and WBC featherweight champion Jhonny Gonzalez. The heavy-handed Gonzalez was in his second reign as champion, having blasted out the previously unbeaten and favoured Abner Mares in the opening round to regain the title. He had also worn the WBO belt down at bantamweight and was making his second defence. For Arce history beckoned as he sought to become a five-division champion.

On 4 October 2014, they squared off in front of their countrymen. But those who had come to witness one more miracle came to a quick realisation that Arce had another opponent facing him that night, one that could never be beaten; Father Time. Gonzalez dominated from the start, busting up and knocking down the ever-determined and courageous Arce three times before the referee rescued him in the eleventh round. After the fight his father pleaded with him;

“Retire. No more fights. You promised one world championship. Now you’re going to kill me because I am afraid for you”.

“Okay”, Arce replied, “I promise I won’t fight anymore”.

He hung up his gloves, his final record: 64 wins, 8 losses, 2 draws, 1 no-contest, 49 by KO.

Happy in retirement, Arce has regularly been a commentator on the Mexican boxing channel Televisa and wisely invested his money into properties. His career achievements saw his name added to the 2021 list of nominations to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Whilst not getting selected this time, it is only a matter of “when” and not “if”.

When looking back on the colourful and, at times, wildly exciting career of Jorge Arce, one explanation from the man himself sums it up more than any;

“When people ask why I don’t surrender, I say “My dad didn’t surrender on his life, so why would I surrender in a fight?”.

And it was that approach that helped illuminate the lighter weights of boxing and gain them the recognition they, and he, so thoroughly deserved.