A half-century ago (November 7, 1970) a then unheard of (outside of his native Argentina) Carlos Monzon made the trip to Rome, Italy, to challenge world middleweight ruler and Italian superstar Nino Benvenuti. Monzon was a hefty underdog, with Italian boxing fans who had never seen the 28-year-old fight being under the impression that he was “clumsy,” “awkward” and absolutely no match for their hero.
Monzon may have been “awkward,” at least compared to the slick boxing masters, yet the unrelenting warrior known as “Escopeta,” was as effective, as tough, as strong and as unstoppable as perhaps any middleweight in history. And glamorous playboy Benvenuti, who was making the fifth defence of his second reign as middleweight champ, found this out the hard way. The fight of 50 years ago this very day was a one-sided one, shockingly so.
Monzon, 67-3-9, used his long reach, his punishing left jab, his brutal right hand, along with his rough tactics, these used to most damaging efficiency when the two were locked in a clinch, and he drained the energy out of the defending champion. Then, in round 12, Monzon deposited the classy, soon to be ex-champ in an undignified heap, his senses obliterated. To his credit, Benvenuti somehow beat the count but he was soon finished off.
Monzon, the unknown brawler from Santa Fe, Argentina, was the new king. An amazing 14 title defences followed – included here a quick KO win over Benvenuti in a rematch – before Monzon, no doubt the greatest Argentinian fighter of all, retired on top. Nobody ever managed to take his belts. Monzon finished off with an incredible 87-3-9(59) record. From June of 1969 until his final fight in July of 1977, Monzon went a perfect 31-0.
So where does Monzon rank amongst the greatest ever middleweights? Just what made Monzon so darn good in the ring? To his critics, Monzon was guilty of being crude, of being less than pretty to watch. Yet what Monzon did with his physical gifts – his height and reach, his sheer physical strength and, perhaps his finest asset, limitless stamina and a complete refusal to take no for an answer – was indeed hugely impressive. Look at any Top-10 greatest middleweights list, and Monzon will be there, near the very top.
Some established historians have Monzon as high as the second or third best of all-time. Yet the Monzon critics insist the wild (in and out of the ring) heavy drinking, chain-smoking (in and out of training) bully would have been beaten by the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson, Marvin Hagler, Harry Greb, Stanley Ketchel and Bernard Hopkins. Who can say for sure?
Monzon is without any doubt a total legend; a fighter and a man who will always be remembered. Not all of Monzon’s contributions to the world were good – in fact far from in. Fans who watched the quite recent “Monzon” series on Netflix will no doubt have been appalled at his out of the ring behaviour, especially his violence; this violence culminating in the murder of his wife and his subsequent prison sentence. Monzon was capable of being a wild animal, especially when he was drinking (and taking other substances). But his shameful exploits outside of the ring have nothing to do with where Monzon should be ranked amongst the all-time greats.
In terms of the best to ever do it at 160 pounds, Monzon is Top-5, certainly.
Monzon died in a car crash at the age of 52, this in 1995 as he was driving back to prison having been released on a furlough.