In sad news so early in the new year, it has been reported how former four-time cruiserweight champion Carlos De Leon of Puerto Rico has passed away. According to a statement from The WBC, “Sugar” died yesterday, New Year’s Day, at the age of just 60. Tributes have been coming in since the sad story broke.
A slick, tricky and also tough fighter, De Leon fought the best, helping to make the new cruiserweight division more and more interesting and accepted as he did so. Going pro in August of 1974, De Leon overcame a couple of setbacks (a points loss to Roberto Colon in ’76, and a TKO defeat to Ray Hammond in ’77) before becoming WBC cruiserweight champ in November of 1980, with a close decision win over Marvin Camel which came on the under-card of the infamous “No Mas” fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran.
A repeat win over Camel followed, this time a TKO win, before De Leon was shocked in two rounds by S.T Gordon, who stopped him in June of ’82. But De Leon made a habit of bouncing back from defeat, soon avenging the Gordon loss, in July of ’83, to become a two-time champ. De Leon managed a good defence against Yaqui Lopez before he was upset, via split decision, by Alfonzo Ratliff in June of ’85. Bounce back number-three soon followed, in De Leon’s very next fight, when he decisioned Bernard Benton to become a three-time WBC cruiser ruler.
Three retentions followed, before De Leon met Evander Holyfield in a big three-belt unification clash in April of ’88. Holyfield stopped De Leon, after a tough fight, in the eighth. Still, “Sugar” wasn’t quite out of sweetness just yet.
Holyfield vacated the belts as he searched for heavyweight glory, allowing De Leon to travel to the UK to face Sammy Reeson for the WBC belt in May of ’89. De Leon had too much for Reeson, stopping him in the ninth to become, quite incredibly, a four-time cruiserweight king. Then followed perhaps the most boring 12-round world title fight ever witnessed: remember, UK fans, the simply awful De Leon D12 Johnny Nelson farce, where Nelson scarcely threw a punch!
From there on, De Leon suffered mixed fortunes. He was disqualified against Massimiliano Duran in Italy, De Leon hitting Duran after the bell in round-11, this ending the Puerto Rican’s world title run. Now aged 32, De Leon tried his hand up at heavyweight, reeling off eight wins over so-so opposition. De Leon lost his last two fights by stoppage, when Corrie Sanders and then Brian Nelson proved to be simply too big for him.
De Leon’s final record reads 53-8-1(33). He is survived by his son, Carlos De Leon Jr. who is also a pro boxer. Our condolences go out to De Leon’s family and friends at this time.