35 Years Ago Today: The Great Kid Chocolate Died – The Greatest Cuban Boxer Ever?

By James Slater - 08/08/2023 - Comments

Heaven knows, the tiny island of Cuban has produced so, so many boxing greats – masters, technicians, warriors, sluggers, and a combo of all four and more. But it just might be that the finest, the greatest boxer the still-communist island ever gave the world was a man named Kid Chocolate, born Eligio Sardinas Montalvo. Dubbed “The Cuban Bon Bon” during his glamorous prime, this Kid, or “Keed,” was super-special.

Attracted to the noble art at a young age, with few prospects, boxing or otherwise, open to him, a teenage Chocolate would study film of the greats, such as Jack Johnson and Benny Leonard. And he knew. He just knew. He would do what those giants did. Legend has it, Kid compiled an amateur record of 100 wins, no losses, with 86 KO’s. This may be just a legend, but Chocolate soon proved his greatness at world level.

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Going pro in October of 1927, when aged just 17, Chocolate won his first 22 fights. After boxing in Cuba in his initial nine fights, Chocolate went to New York, where he would box almost exclusively, until the very end, when he returned to his homeland to fight.

Slick, masterful, and incredibly stylish in and out of the ring, Chocolate lost in his first attempt at winning the world featherweight title, this when Battling Battalino won a 15 round decision against him in December of 1930, the fight taking place at Madison Square Garden. Before that fight, in fact just a month before, Chocolate lost a decision to Fidel LaBarba.

But then, in July of 1935, when sporting a 61-3-1 record!, Chocolate beat Benny Bass by seventh round KO to become world super featherweight champion. The win took place in Philadelphia. Chocolate, still only 21, would make one retention before losing a 15 round split decision in a fight with the awesome Tony Canzoneri, in a bid for the lightweight crown, this in November of the following year.

Dropping back down to 126 pounds, Chocolate earned big wins over excellent fighters such as: Lew Feldman, Labarba in a return, and Seaman Tommy Watson. Prior to this, Chocolate lost a decision to Jack “Kid” Berg (who is very possibly one of the top-5 greatest British fighters ever, a man who would twice defeat Chocolate), and, in 1933, he lost a rematch with Canzoneri, with him being stopped in just two rounds.

Chocolate lost his featherweight title to Frankie Klick, who stopped him in 7 in December of 1933, and by now Chocolate was a quite astonishing 94-7-1. Having lived it, ‘large,’ as the saying might go today, Chocolate had lived and loved, and he had fought numerous fights whilst battling the effect of syphilis and possibly gonorrhoea.

By the age of 24, Chocolate was nothing like the great fighter he had once been. Fighting on, “The Keed” fought in the US, in Cuba, back in the US, and then, at the end, in Cuba again. His fortune long gone (Chocolate loved expensive suits, fine dining, women and song), Kid wound up living a quiet life in Cuba’s 1950s, this when Fidel Castro came to power.

In his later years, Chocolate was all but forgotten, with only a Ring Magazine assignment to track him down bringing forth the squalor of his latter year existence (“The Horror Of Kid Chocolate,” by Jonathan Rendell, being truly moving stuff). But Kid’s legacy was secure, intact. The one and only Sugar Ray Robinson would study footage of Chocolate’s fights, with the P-4-P best to ever do it remarking how he had never seen anyone box like Kid Chocolate.

Cuba’s finest (arguably) died penniless and forgotten 35 years ago today. But boxing will, in reality, never forget Kid Chocolate. He was truly great. Just ask boxing historian Mike Tyson.

Final record: 136-10-6(51). Kid died age 78, this on August 8, 1988. He was stopped in a fight just twice.

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