30.07.08 – by James Slater: In sad news, former WBC light-heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medallist Mate Parlov died late on Tuesday in his hometown of Pula, in Croatia. Five months ago, the 59-year-old was diagnosed with lung cancer, and yesterday, while being treated in hospital, the former champ passed away..
A fine fighter in his day, southpaw Parlov captured gold at the 1972 Munich Olympics, before gong on to achieve great success as a professional. Born in November of 1948, the 6’2″ lefty turned pro in May of 1975 – winning his first 12 bouts, 6 by KO. Then, in May of the following year, in a bout held in Italy, Parlov met the great Matthew Saad Muhammad for the first of two fights – losing an eight-round decision. Three wins for Parlov and seven months later, the two future 175 pound world champions met again, also in Italy. This time they boxed a draw over ten rounds.
After benefiting greatly from the experience of twice holding his own against a man who is today fondly remembered as one of the toughest light-heavies in modern day boxing history, Parlov focused his attention on defending the European title, which he had captured in his very next fight after the loss to Saad. Making three successful retentions in all, the 29-year-old was then given a shot at the WBC 175 pound crown.
Fighting once again in Italy (Parlov boxed there over ten times as a pro), the 19-1-1 Parlov challenged Argentina’s Miguel Angel Cuello, who was making his first defence. Parlov, not generally recognised as a huge puncher, KO’d the champ in the 9th round – retiring Cuello in the process. The Olympic medallist was now a world champion also.
One successful defence followed – a 15 rounds points win over Britain’s John Conteh, in a fight that took place in Serbia in June of 1978 – before Parlov was dethroned by Indiana’s Marvin Johnson. TKO’d in the 10th round in Italy, the Croatian’s days as a light-heavyweight were over. So too, as things turned out, were his days as a world champion.
Moving up to the brand-new weight class of cruiserweight in late 1979, the 31-year-old boxed Montana’s Marvin Camel in what was the first ever world title fight at cruiser. The bout, held in Parlov’s home country, was declared a draw after 15 long rounds. Still in need of an inaugural world champion at 190-pounds, the WBC ordered an immediate rematch. In March of 1980 the two met again, this time in Las Vegas, and Camel won a wide UD over the 15 rounds.
Parlov, finishing up with a very respectable 24-3-2(12) record, announced his retirement shortly afterwards. A very good boxer, who made his country proud, Parlov was only ever stopped one time – in the fight with Johnson. May he rest in peace.