Middleweight Great Carlos Monzon Remembered - On His Birthday

By James Slater: Some people call Argentina's former middleweight world champion Carlos Monzon the best 160-pounder in history. Monzon himself said he was a better fighter at middleweight than was the legendary "Sugar" Ray Robinson. A debatable argument for another day, but what is sure is the fact that Monzon at one time held the division record for most world title defences - 14 in all. During this time, from November of 1970 to his final fight in July of 1977, "Escopeta" took on all comers - beating them all.

Today, August 7th, is Monzon's birthday. Had he been alive to celebrate it, the man who retired with a superb 87-3-9(59) record, would have been 66-years-old . But unfortunately, as fight fans know, Monzon was something of a wild man outside of the ring, and he was sent to prison for allegedly pushing his common law wife off a balcony in the late 1980s - an act of violence that resulted in his second wife, Alicia Muniz', death.

Sentenced to eleven years in prison, Monzon then met his own death via a 1995 car crash that occurred as he was driving back to prison. The ex-fighter had been given a temporary spell of freedom upon which to visit his family. Crashing his car near the prison, Monzon was killed instantly. He was apparently due for permanent release in the year 2001.

But enough of Monzon's out-of-the-ring exploits, as sordidly interesting as they may be. As a prize fighter, the man who turned pro back in February of 1963 was one of the best of all-time. Tough, clever, willing to face the best and a natural middleweight, Monzon stamped his authority on one of boxing's classic weight divisions.

Carlos lost three points verdicts early on in his career, and also picked up no less than nine draws. But after the 9th of these ties came in early 1969, Monzon would win every single fight he ever had. By the year 1970, the 28-year-old was ready to challenge for the world title. Going in with the great Italian, Nino Benvenuti in a fight held in the defending champ's home country, Monzon made the most of his big chance. Ripping the WBC and WBA titles from the 32-year-old via a TKO in the 12th round, the Argentine was the new 160-pound king of boxing. The fight was so good, Ring magazine called it the fight of the year for 1970.

A most impressive fourteen successful retentions followed. Starting with a rematch with Benvenuti in May of 1971 (W TKO 3), Monzon went on to take care of every single worthwhile challenger that was out there. Such top class fighters as Emile Griffith (twice), "Bad" Bennie Brisco, Jose Napoles and Rodrigo Valdez (twice) were beaten, and Monzon defended his titles in countries such as France, Denmark, Monaco, America and his native Argentina. A true world champion in every sense, it was an aggrieved Monzon who found himself stripped of his WBC belt in 1974 for fighting Napoles and not Valdez. This threat to his superiority (Valdez boxed Brisco for the vacant belt that same year, wining by 7th round TKO) would soon be taken care of!

After three defences of his WBA belt, Monzon met Colombia's Valdez. Proving beyond any doubt that he was the real middleweight king, "Escopeta" beat Valdez twice - both times by unanimous decision. Still, Valdez proved to be a tough cookie, even flooring Monzon in the second fight. Just shy of his 35th birthday, Monzon wisely hung up his gloves while still being on top. After a career total of an even 100 fights (one no-contest), and after having made a long lasting world record number of defences, the all-time great had done enough.

His retirement announced in August of 1977, one month after the second Valdez fight, Monzon would make no comeback. Carlos lived a relatively low key life in his retirement years, before the tragic turn of events that served to imprison him occurred. There were rumours that the car crash that killed Monzon was a suicide attempt, but this claim never has, and never will be, substantiated.

In 1990, five years before his death, Monzon was inducted into The Hall of Fame.

Article posted on 08.08.2008

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