As fight fans may have read and may have taken great notice of the news: Cuba – the tiny island that has produced so many superb boxers – has again permitted its citizens to box professionally.
This event, which took place in early April, really was big news; or at least it should have been. The last time a practitioner of The Sweet Science who happened to have been born in Cuba was permitted to box for a living, he had Fidel Castro as his president, while JFK was the US president.
Castro, who would engage in a wholly unsportsmanlike fight with Kennedy, banned his citizens from boxing for a living. The great Teofilo Stevenson – a born fighter/boxing master/untouchable force – never earned a dime from boxing, instead of staying at the amateur level, feeling the love of the Cuban people was worth far more than the Yankee dollar. We cannot argue with Stevenson’s passion for his fellow Cuban.
But now, all these years later, Cubans have the right to fight – for a living, for glory, for a buck. For whatever they want to fight for. And, in May, several Cuban amateur boxers will be free to make their pro debuts (in a show penciled in for Aguascalientes, Mexico in May).
This is great news – not only for the talent-rich boxers that reside in Cuba but for all fight fans. For some years, Cubans have been the best. They have shown it. In defecting from that formerly imprisoned island, superb boxers like Yuriorkis Gamboa, Odlanier Solis, Erislandy Lara, and others have earned the attention and the money their talents so richly deserved.
So, in tribute to these events, here we remember the greatest, the finest, the most exquisite Cuban Bon Bons ever.
Sugar Ramos. Two-time featherweight king who defeated, amongst others, Orlando Castillo, Davey Moore, Floyd Robertson. Worthy of the Sugar nickname. (note: Sugar’s losing battle/war/fight for the ages with Mando Ramos, from 1970, just might be the greatest lower-weight slugfest ever!)
Jose Napoles. Long-reigning, indeed, untouchable welterweight king. Napoles, “Smooth as Butter,” defeated, amongst others, Curtis Cokes, Emile Griffith, Ernie Lopez, Billy Backus, Armando Muniz. So great, he went up to middleweight and challenged the savage Carlos Monzon.
Kid Chocolate. Perhaps deserving of being placed in the Top-15 greatest fighter ever. Chocolate, born Eligio Sardinas Montalvo, was the whole and complete package. Slick? Yes. Tough? No doubt. Clever? Fewer were more so. Fast? Blindingly so. Yeah, this Kid was a conqueror, no doubt. Defeated, amongst others, Benny Bass, Lew Feldman, Fidel LaBarba. Went 136-10-6(51).
Other Cuban greats: Kid Gavilan – some say THE greatest Cuban boxer ever. Luis Rodriguez, Benny “Kid” Paret, Joel Casamayor. And who are YOUR faves?