When Monaco Was King

luis monaco(Louis Monaco, on right, facing Peter McNeeley in July 1996) 07.06.07 - By Steven Shabo: It was supposed to be an easy fight. They got the opponent they wanted. Everything was set. After all, their man was a celebrity now. Despite being stopped in one round by Mike Tyson, Peter McNeeley had showed the boxing world he had courage.

He showed them he had heart when he charged across the ring and tried to take out the baddest man on the planet. And since then, things had only gotten better. McNeeley had won his last five fights by knockout and had even appeared in a Pizza Hut commercial. As a result, CBS Sports decided to sign the young white heavyweight to a six fight contact with his first boxing bout scheduled for July, 1996, in Denver.

His opponent was to be Louis “The Facelifter” Monaco from Denver, Colorado. Monaco was previously a bodybuilder who started professional boxing in 1995 at the late age of twenty-seven. Possessing a Mr. Universe physique and big heart, Monaco was taken under the wing of longtime Denver veteran trainer and promoter, Jimmy “Smitty” Smith. Monaco started his boxing career off with a split decision victory over the winless Terry Lopez. However, it was Monaco’s second bout which many boxing fans won’t ever forget. His opponent was Eric “Butterbean” Esch and the fight has since appeared on countless boxing highlight reels over the years. In that bout, Monaco suffered a knockdown early in the first round.

Unfortunately, it was to be the beginning of the end as Butterbean quickly connected with a devastating right hand that knocked Monaco out before he even hit the canvas. The referee immediately called a halt to the bout as Monaco lay motionless at the edge of the ring. Many novice boxers might have retired after suffering such a brutal knockout. But for better or worse, Monaco decided to fight on. He fought over the next five months with mixed results. And with a record of 3-3-2, 1 KO, it was no surprise he was chosen to be McNeeley’s sacrificial lamb. To McNeeley supporters, it didn’t matter that their man would be fighting in Monaco’s hometown. They believed Peter McNeeley had the potential to make millions of dollars just like Gerry Cooney did back in the early eighties. And with an impressive boxing record of 40-2, many thought McNeeley could become the next “Great White Hope.”

So what if all his victories were against lousy opponents. If McNeeley could just win this nationally televised bout, fans might start believing in him, the same way they used to believe in Gerry Cooney. And if Cooney got a title shot by beating up over-the-hill greats Jimmy Young, Ron Lyle, and Ken Norton, then maybe McNeeley could do the same.

At the sound of the bell, McNeeley came out fast just as he did against Tyson. He threw a wild barrage of punches, but Monaco withstood all of them and even gave a few back in return. But soon in the bout, something happened. Something McNeeley’s naïve handlers didn’t foresee. And that was the Denver altitude. By the beginning of the fifth round, the fight was on the verge of being over. A badly fatigued McNeeley had nothing left on his punches and his legs were weak. Monaco amazingly started landing every slow power punch he threw. The ending was classic as the referee stopped the bout with Peter McNeeley looking like a drunk stumbling out of a bar at closing time. It was the end of the dream. There wouldn’t be any million dollar payday or any title shot. Peter McNeeley was dead.

But this fight marked the beginning of a new career for Louis Monaco. He went on to fight nearly every contender of the late nineties to the present day. One just needs to look at this journeyman’s record to see a who’s who of the heavyweight division. There were a few highlights in his fifty-five bout career such as defeating former world boxing champ Michael Dokes and stopping a then undefeated prospect Kevin McBride. He also knocked out former world champion Buster Douglas. Unfortunately, the knockout punch landed after the bell and he lost the bout via disqualification. In 2004, Monaco won the Canadian-American-Mexican (CAM) Heavyweight Title by winning a unanimous decision over fellow journeyman Shane Sutcliffe.

But in the end, Monaco has been on losing end of the majority of his fights. But Louis Monaco is not a loser. No one that has the courage to step into that ring is a loser. Monaco is as tough as they come with the heart of a champion. His trainer, Jimmy Smith said after his title victory, “This guy has worked hard for a long time, never turning down a fight, and he deserved this win.”

But it takes more than heart to be a champion in this game. It takes more than guts to win fights. No matter how bad you want it, sometimes it’s just not enough. But despite all that, we all still want to be king. Even if it’s just for a day. Just ask Louis Monaco.

Article posted on 07.06.2007

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