In sad news that went largely under the radar, former heavyweight contender Bernardo Mercado passed away a few days ago, on June 11. Mercado was 69, and he reportedly suffered from heart failure.
Best known for his thrilling, up-from-the-floor win over Earnie Shavers, Mercardo also rumbled with big names such as Mike Weaver, Leon Spinks, Randy “Tex” Cobb, and John Tate. And Mercado always gave his all.
A good amateur who boxed as a light-heavyweight, Mercado went pro in November of 1975, having learned plenty whilst serving as Oscar Bonavena’s sparring partner.
Thick-set, physically strong, and possessing raw power and a good chin that, while it often served him well, also let him down on occasion, Mercado enjoyed a bright start to his pro career.
Fighting often at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, Mercado went 20-0 (17) before running into future WBA heavyweight champ John Tate, who stopped Mercado inside a couple of rounds in New York in June of 1978.
Mercaro suffered another loss in his next fight when another future heavyweight champ stopped him in five rounds, this being Mike Weaver. Weaver, to this day, says Mercado was the hardest-hitting opponent he ever faced. Traveling to Canada to face yet another future champ in Trevor Berbick, Mercado picked up his first big win, stopping an undefeated Berbick in just one round in April of 1979.
Then came the amazing war Mercado had with the lethal-punching Earnie Shavers.
Having picked up two decent wins after the Berbick victory, Mercado met Shavers in March of 1980. Shavers was past his best, and he had suffered eye trouble that needed surgery, but he was still wickedly powerful. Mercado found this out in the third round when Shavers sent him shuddering to his knees with a brutal right to the head. Mercado got up, blood pouring from his left eye, and then took one of the worst beatings a man can take over almost three solid minutes and not lose.
How Mercado took what he took from Shavers without being taken out, nobody knows. Shavers hit Mercado so hard, his right glove imploded on impact, the busted mitt having to be changed, this causing a delay between rounds three and four. This rest served Mercado well. Mercado, who looked all done earlier, came back to deck and then halted a fatigued Shavers in the seventh round of a great fight.
Mercado soon faced former heavyweight champ Leon Spinks, in an elimination bout. Another memorable action fight ensued, with Spinks fighting one of the best, most relentless fights of his career. Mercado, who tired early in the fight of October 1980, was hurt badly by a Spinks left hook in the ninth, soon being rescued by the referee.
Mercado was given one last chance.
Fighting the teak-tough “Tex” Cobb in another elimination bout, Mercado went to war with the iron-chinned brawler. Cobb prevailed via grueling ten-round split decision. Mercado did not fight again for a year-and-a-half, and when he did return to bag wins over so-so fighters, Mercado fought one and off. Six wins came, over a five-year period, before a 37-year-old Mercado was blasted out inside a round by a 5-0 Jimmy Thunder in 1989.
Mercado was fun while he was at his best, and the warrior from Monteria sure paid his dues in the ring and deserves to be remembered by fight fans. That incredible win over Shavers alone makes Mercado worth remembering.
Mercado finished with a 33-5(28) record. Our condolences go out to Bernardo’s family and friends.