Where Are They Now: Armando Muniz

01.10.08 - By Shawn M. Murphy: Recently I spoke with former Welterweight Armando "The Man" Muniz. Born in Mexico, Muniz eventually moved to the United States and had an excellent amateur career. He fought for the United States in the 1968 Olympics and won two AAU National Championships. Muniz beat Clyde Gray in 1971 for the NABF Welterweight title. During his professional career he would fight for a world title four times, twice against both Jose Napoles and Carlos Palomino. Although he would lose all four fights, the March 1975 Napoles fight is considered a "robbery" by many who feel that the title should have been rightfully his. Muniz has been inducted into both the World Boxing Hall of Fame and the California Boxing Hall of Fame. He retired in 1978 with a record of 44-14-1 with 30 KO'S..

(SM) Mr. Muniz, when did you first start boxing?

(AM) I got a like for the game as a kid, watching TV and becoming very excited by it. I was kind of a chicken as a kid. I did it really for myself, to prove that I wasn't a chicken. I just decided to sign up for the Golden Gloves. I didnít do much training, just a little running at school and some shadowboxing at home. I made a bag out of a gunnysack and stuffed it with old clothes. My dad took me to the Golden Gloves and I just fell in love with the game. I lost my first fight though. I was just shy, about two or three months, from the proper age to get in. My mother signed some documents, that I kind of lied about. She didnít know what they were. That's how I got in. I let my hair grow so I would look older too. Even though I lost that first fight I knew that's what I wanted to do.

(SM) So what kind of amateur career did you have?

(AM) I won the AAU National Championship twice in 1969 and 1970. I was in

the Army each time I did it. I lost in the quarterfinals of the 1968 Mexico Olympics. That decision could have gone either way. It wasn't a robbery or anything, that's just the way it was. In boxing that's just the way it goes. I thought I landed the more solid blows and was more of the aggressor. It depended in those days a lot also on which country the judges were from.

(SM) Your first loss as a pro was to Emile Griffith, too great a step up in competition?

(AM) It was the first time that I fought a guy of that caliber. Oscar Albarado and Clyde Gray were both world ranked when I fought them. They didnít have the history or the maturity of an Emile Griffith though. It was the first and last time I stepped in the ring with a guy that was older than thirty-three or thirty-four. He was in tremendous condition and it was difficult to hurt him.

(SM) Tell me about your NABF title win over Clyde Gray, the proudest moment?

(AM) It was one of the most exciting for sure. It was one of those things that I got cut under my eye and I found out that Grays glove was cut. His corner was suspended for awhile for that too. At the end of the eighth round they changed gloves. In the ninth I just went after him. I caught him with a good hook and a right and boom, he went down. (SM) You lost that title to Eddie Perkins in 1973 and then lost to him again in 1974. What's your view of those two decisions?

(AM) Eddie Perkins was a superb fighter. I knew he was good because he had beat Hedgemon Lewis. He was the kind of guy that could box and get away with the old tricks like a thumb to the eye. I might have lost to him in Denver in the first fight but I know for a fact that I beat him in Tucson. Eddie's manager had mob connections I had heard. So I wasn't going to try and make a big stink about it, but I know I won.

(SM) Tell me about the first Napoles fight and the controversy?

(AM) I was beating him pretty badly I think. Look at the last half of the tenth round, that's when all the damage occurred. In the eleventh round I go after him and he starts throwing low blows. I knew the referee was looking for an excuse. The referee said I was head butting and I knew I wasn't. The doctor stopped the fight because Napoles was bleeding so badly and gave it to him because of supposed head butts. If you watch the fight today you'll see different. We came together one time and it was never intentional. Jose Sulaimon told me later before the Palomino fight that they had to do it, they had to protect Napoles.

(SM) What about the rematch four months later?

(AM) It was fair; I'm not going to scream about that one.

(SM) In the first Palomino fight was weight an issue for you?

(AM) Oh yea, it was unbelievable. It was an issue, really was. I was having a lot of trouble taking it off. I'm not saying that as an excuse. The fight just symbolizes what luck I had. I was ahead on two cards going into the last round.

(SM) What about the second Palomino fight?

(AM) By the sixth round it was just awful. I was fighting myself to stay in it. Trying to fight at welterweight was killing me, just killing me.

(SM) How did you prepare for Sugar Ray Leonard?

(AM) He was the kind of guy that ran all the time; it's hard to prepare for that. I could have probably just prepared by doing roadwork. I had a bad problem with tendonitis in my elbow for about a year prior to that. It was either get an operation or take a long rest and I was just too old to do that. Everything just collapsed on me; I was trying to be real bold about my chances. But when your too old and the body starts to go, you just donít have it. My manager started to say that I was hurting my family. He said they see you losing and with a bad hand, and that I was being selfish. But I wanted to make my mark in boxing. You know it's just like rolling the dice, what happens just happens. My day came, March 30, 1975 against Naploes and Jose Sulaimon took that from me.

(SM) Were you prepared for life after boxing?

(AM) I thought I was going to be filthy rich but it didn't pan out. I had a college degree though. During the last five years of my career I was on retainer with Schlitz Brewing Company. When I wasn't training I worked with them and the Hispanic community. I continued to work with them after I retired as well. I wanted to show my dad that all his work paid off for me. I never thought I would end up being a teacher because they made so much less than when I was fighting. Anyway Schlitz sold itself to Stroh's, Schlitz just killed themselves. One thing led to another and they offered me a job in Reno Nevada. They told me to take it or I was done. Knowing the market in Reno, I just walked away. I had a family and I wanted something with benefits. My wife was sick at that time and I needed benefits bad. So I got my credentials in order and started teaching at the age of thirty-nine. I just retired this year. I got into bail bonds too but there is a lot of competition out there. I'm competing with a lot of guys that are spending five grand a month on advertising. Tony "The Tiger" Lopez is the one who convinced me to do it. He said to use my name to benefit myself.

(SM) Who was your toughest opponent?

(AM) Napoles in the second fight. I didnít fight him the way I should have and he was just in my face all night long. I was tired out by the eighth round, not because of condition, but the altitude. I also fought Espada in Puerto Rico. That was one tough fight. I went after him for ten rounds and lost a split decision.

(SM) What honors have you received in boxing?

(AM) The World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993, the California Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Legends of Boxing Museum in 2008. (SM) Do you still follow boxing today?

(AM) In a way, but I'm not the most informed boxing person. But I follow the big name guys out there.

(SM) Do fighters today compare to fighters in your era?

(AM) No, I hate to say it. I'm not saying because I fought back then. I just remember the guys in my era. I think other guys in my time would say the same thing. We had one or two titles to fight for, now there's four or five.

(SM) Any regrets looking back on your career?

(AM) I think only that I would be a little taller, that would have helped. (laughing) (SM) Anything else you want to mention Mr. Muniz?

(AM) I'm just glad that God gave me the opportunity and that I got my education. I lived out my dream as a fighter. There is no animosity or prejudice among fight fans. Boxing is so incredible and I was glad to be a part of it.

Article posted on 01.10.2008

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