Rodrigo Valdez: He Was Badder Than Bennie Briscoe

27.03.05 - By Jim Amato: With all the recent hoopla for the respected Bernard Hopkins and his adding to the legacy of great Philly fighters... Well, here goes. The great city of Philadelphia has produced an array of world class middleweights over the years. Hopkins has brought great pride to the long line of Philly middlewights who came before him.. Tough guys like Stanley "Kitten" Hayward, Eugene "Cyclone" Hart, Bobby "Boogaloo" Watts, Willie "The Worm" Monroe and possibly he toughest of them all, "Bad" Bennie Briscoe.

When people talk of Bernard Hopkins, now, they compare him to Stanley Ketchel, Harry Greb, Sugar Ray Robinson and his more recent contemporaries, Carlos Monzon and Marvin Hagler. However, many people often forget a classy and fine middleweight named Rodrigo Valdez (63-8, 43 KO's).

Valdez was a world class fighter who suffered from the "De Jesus" syndrome. That is, like the outstanding Estaban DeJesus, he was overshadowed in his career by the skill of Roberto Duran. So too was Rodrigo Valdez overshadowed by Carlos Monzon (87-3-9, 59 KO's). However, if you take Duran And Monzon out of the picture, then DeJesus and Valdez probably would be in the Boxing Hall Of Fame.

Born in Columbia in 1946, Rodrigo Valdez turned pro in 1963. He racked up an impressive record in his homeland and then invaded the US in 1969. In 1970, he dropped decisions to fringe contenders Pete Toro and Ralph Palladin.

In 1971, Valdez moved into the big time by stopping the rugged Bobby Cassidy in seven rounds. In 1972, he scored a big win over the clever boxer, Carlos Marks.

In 1973, Valdez outscored the always tough Jose Gonzalez. Later in the year, Valdez took on the dangerous Bennie Briscoe (66-24-5, 53 KO's). Valdez won an upset twelve round verdict and entered the elite of the middleweight division.

In 1974, the WBC decided to no longer recognize Carlos Monzon as the middleweight titleholder. Instead, they paired Valdez and Briscoe in a match for the vacant title. In a shocker, Valdez scored a one punch seventh round KO over the usually unstoppable Briscoe. He may not have been the real champion (Carlos Monzon was considered to be the real Middleweight champion) but this victory, and how he achieved it, established Rodrigo as Monzon's number one threat.

Valdez would defend his version of the crown four times, turning back Gratien Tonna, Ramon Mendez, Rudy Robles and Max Cohen. Finally, on June 26, 1976, Valdez stepped into the ring in Monte Carlo to meet the great Carlos Monzon.

In this well contested battle, Monzon proved to be just a little too much, as he won a close decision to unify the title. Still, Valdez's showing was so good that the two would meet again thirteen months later. This bout produced a classic between the two best middleweights in the world at that time. "King" Carlos Monzon picked himself off the floor in the second round and rallied to pull out a very close decision to retain his title.

After two wars with Valdez and the effects of Father Time, Carlos Monzon decided to retire. Again, Valdez was matched with the aging but still potent Briscoe for the vacant title. Once again, Valdez would prove to be Briscoe's master by taking a hard earned points call and the championship.

It has been said over the years that a fighter can get old overnight, even the great ones. This seemed to happen to Valdez. Maybe after the two wars with Monzon and a trilogy with Bennie Briscoe, the wear and tear began to set in. Anyway, a slick boxer from Argentina, named Hugo Corro, outspeeded and outboxed Valdez to win the title. Their rematch seven months later saw that youth was again served as Corro outscored a very old looking Valdez.

How can I not have the utmost respect for Rodrigo Valdez? This man took Carlos Monzon to hell and back not once but twice. Bennie Briscoe was one of my all time favorite fighters but Valdez owned him. As far as I'm concerned, Valdez has not received the recognition that is due to him.

Bernard Hopkins has made a believer out of me. We'll never know if he could have defeated Greb, Zale or Monzon. I'll say this, win or lose he would have had his hands full with a boxer named Rodrigo Valdez.

Article posted on 27.03.2005

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