Tough Opponents, Tough Guys

ernie shavers03.06.07 - By Ted Sares: Larry Holmes and Evander Holyfield fought some pretty tough guys at a pretty constant rate. Hell, they even fought each other. Among others, Holmes fought Gerry Cooney, Michael Spinks (twice), Earnie Shavers (twice), Kenny Norton, Mike Weaver (twice), a prime Tim Witherspoon, and Mike Tyson. Evander fought just about everyone including Dwight Muhammad Qawi (twice). Chris Byrd, James Toney, Michael Moorer (twice), Tyson (twice), Holmes, Bowe (thrice), John Ruiz (thrice), Lennox Lewis (twice), Hasim Rahman, and Big George Foreman. Talk about tough.

Light Heavyweight journeyman Etienne “ET” Whitaker is still fighting and his resume is qualatatively impressive. On May 5, 2004, rugged Omar Sheika, 23-6, scored a second round KO over road warrior Whitaker, 31-12-2 coming in. No big deal, except Whitaker had been fighting the very toughest opposition out there.

His opponents included Rico Hoye (for the Vacant WBO NABO Light Heavyweight Title and IBA Continental Light Heavyweight Title), Tito Mendoza, Carlos “Psycho” Bates (twice), and always tough Charles Brewer. He also fought the great Jorge Fernando Castro, 120-8-3 coming in, undefeated Anthony Hanshaw, Sam Calderon, Dana Rucker, rugged Derrick Whitley, undefeated Rudy Markussen (in Denmark), Demetrius Jenkins, Glenn Robinson, and Jose Luis Rivera, 16-2, in just his sixth fight. There had been little padding in Whitaker’s record. For his part, Omar Sheika also has been fighting at the very top level.

Whitaker has fought 14 times since losing to Sheika and has lost 13 (the last 12 in a row). Ten of the defeats have come by way of stoppage. However, his level of opposition has become, if anything, even tougher and his overall record reflects it by now dropping to 32-26- 2 with 21 KO’s. Eight of his opponents, including Allan “Sweetness” Green, Marcus Johnson (for the Texas State Light Heavyweight Title), Troy Ross, Jaidon Codrington, Chris Henry, Karoly Balzsay (in Germany), and Brian Vera (who recently “beat” Samuel Miller), came in undefeated at the time. As well, he duked it out with Tracy Sneed, 21-1, and top Australian contender Paul Briggs, 23-2, who he fought in Germany. His one win came against Anthony Spain who has lost ten in a row.

In his last fight, he lost by KO to Zach “Jungle Boy” Walters, 18-2. The fight was held in, of all places, Superior, Wisconsin. “Jungle Boy” dropped Whitaker twice, finishing him off in the third. “ET” now needs to assess whether continuing is worth the ever-increasing risk. God knows he has nothing to prove about his toughness.

But for fighting everyone and anybody and remaining competitive in the process, I am partial to the great Mexican bantamweights of the 50s and 60s. In particular, I liked warrior Jose “El Huitlacoche” Medel who fought from 1955 to 1974 and finished with an old school record of 69-31-8 with 44 ko's. Fittingly, his last fight was against future Super Bantamweight champion Royal Kobayashi, 9-0, in Tokyo.

Now most boxing fans know of Hall of Famers Ruben Olivares and Carlos Zarate. But only aficionados will quickly recognize the names of Medel, Jose “Toluco” Lopez, Raul “Raton” Macias, Jose Becerra, Jesus Pimentel, Jesus “Chucho” Castillo, Rafael Herrera, Romeo Anaya, Alfonso Zamora and, of course, Lupe Pintor. Two others were Ricardo “Pajarito” Moreno and German Ohm. These Mexican bantams often fought each other and provided great thrills. “Toluco” Lopez, 99-21 -3 with 63 ko's, was immensely popular and a people‘s champion. When Jose Medal upset him, he (Medal) was never quite forgiven by Mexican fans.

Jose Medal’s first big fight came against popular Jose Becerra, 39-3-1, to whom he would lose thrice by decision. He then would win two of three from rugged David Rodriguez and KO Raul Leanos, 30-5-2 coming in. He fought Eduardo Guerrero, 19-2-1, Cuban Miguel Lazu, 22-6, Carlos Cardoso, 29-2, and popular American “Boots” Monroe, 21-1, at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. He then went on a 7-fight win streak which included the great “Toluco' Lopez,” 60-10-1, who he beat for the Mexican Bantamweight Title and Cuban Johnny Sarduy, 29--2-1 at the time. He would lose his bid for the North American Bantamweight Title by SD a few weeks later against Filipino Danny Kid. He would avenge this loss in a later fight with Kid. In between, he fought Eloy Sanchez and Ignacio Pina, both top level fighters at the time.

In 1960, he successfully defended his Mexican Bantamweight Title by avenging his loss to Sanchez. He was then KO’d by the great Eder Jofre, 32-0-3, at the Olympic on August 18, 1960 in a Bantamweight Title Eliminator. By now, Medal had run his record to 43-16-3 in just five years of combat.

Later in 1960, he shockingly iced the same “Toluco” Lopez who was then 80-12-2 coming in. He put together a 10-fight unbeaten streak fighting in Mexico, Japan and America. One of his wins came against Sadao Yaoita, 50-10-2, in Tokyo - no easy task. Another came against Herman Marques, 14-4-1, for the North American Bantamweight Title.

In September 1962, he ventured to Ibiraguera Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil to take on Jofre again, this time for the WBA Bantamweight Title. Jofre KO’d him for the second time. Medal bounced back by knocking out tough Edmunds “Mundo” Esparza and won, lost and drew in three bouts with Manny “Coronado” Barrios, 20-4-2. In between, he shocked the boxing world by stopping future Hall of Famer Fighting Harada in six rounds, and he did it in Tokyo!

After losing to Ray Asis, Jose went on another win streak starching Vicente Garcia, 25-8-2, in 1965, beating Asis in a rematch, stoopping Walter McGowan, 18-2, in Wembley, London and beating the great Jesus “Little Poison” Pimentel at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles. Pimentel was decked twice in the 9th round. Pimentel was 49-1 at the time. He followed up with a TKO win over Rudy Corono, also known as “Trinidad Lopez Amado” who sported a slate of 42-17-1 coming in.

Incredibly, Medal then stepped up the level of his opposition over the next two years fighting and losing to Fighting Harada for the WBC and WBA Bantamweight Titles, Chucho Castillo, Evan Armstrong, 27-4-1, Efren ‘El Alacrán” Torres, 40-4-1, Australian Lionel Rose, 30-2, and the legendary Ruben Olivares, 43-0-1 coming in. He then went to Japan and fought capable Kazuyoshi Kanazawa. His last noteworthy showing was against Japanese Batam Misao Yamane who he KO’d in the Plaza de Torros in Guadalajara in November 1969. Earlier that same year, he had fought to an impressive draw with “Chucho” Castillo in a rematch. He retired in June 1974 after losing to Royal Kobayashi.

“El Huitlacoche” was never a world champion, but he met the best of his era's flyweights and bantamweights. In the tradition of Mexican ring warriors, he never backed down from a tough opponent; he was one rugged customer. So were Holmes and Holyfield.

Article posted on 03.06.2007

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