LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 15: Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. awaits the fight decision in the corner of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. after the fight against Sergio Martinez for their WBC middleweight title fight at the Thomas & Mack Center on September 15, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)

The Boxer, The Journalist And The Narcos

In a saga worthy of a telenovela, Mexico’s greatest-ever boxer has spent the last week denying allegations that he has laundered money for drug traffickers.

“The boxer Julio Cesar Chavez was friend of, and alleged money launderer for, organised crime groups in Sinaloa,” wrote columnist Ricardo Alemán in El Universal on January 20.

Alemán alleged that Chavez, 53, was a proxy for accused money launderer Rolando Andrade. Andrade’s daughter Yolanda is a close friend of Chavez’s, as well as of Mexican soap actress Kate del Castillo, who introduced Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to Sean Penn before the drug trafficker’s arrest (and Penn’s turgid Rolling Stone article). Del Castillo is herself now facing accusations of money laundering.

In response, Chavez called the accusations “bullshit” and says he intends to sue Alemán for defamation. “I’ve met people from all classes … from the president of Mexico to the poorest … I’ve taken pictures with everyone, I’ve never denied anybody a photo, be they poor, rich or a drug trafficker,” he said.

Alemán later accused Chavez’s supporters of threatening his life, and said that Chavez’s fame doesn’t mean he’s above the law.

Given Chavez rose to prominence during the heyday of the drug trade in Sinaloa, none of this is exactly a surprise. It’s a matter of public record that Chavez was friends with major narcos during his career, including Amado Carrillo Fuentes, “The Lord of the Skies” and Hector “El Guero” Palma, one of the founders of the Sinaloa Cartel. Francisco Arellano Felix, the leader of the Baja Cartel, was arrested at one the boxer’s houses and Chavez was reportedly in the bathroom when a Tijuana Cartel hit man killed his sparring partner Jesus “El Bebe” Gallardo and their dinner companion in 1995.

Whatever the truth, it’s a hell of a story (and we told it in 10,700 fewer words than Sean Penn).