Latin America is a land of goals and homeruns, but it also houses jabs, hooks and dodges. If we check any ranking related to the most outstanding pugilists of all time, we will certainly find several fighters from our region; but which of these boxers have become legends on the ring? PanamericanWorld proposes an approach to the best moments of 10 unforgettable figures in the history of Latin American boxing.
JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ, THE GREAT MEXICAN CHAMPION (MEXICO)
The Mexican boxer heads our list with 37 powerful reasons, in other words, his fights defending or trying to conquer a world title. No other boxer has ever done this. Chavez became a five-time world champion in three categories: light, super featherweight and welter. He won his first 91 fights and spent 13 years, 11 months, 24 days undefeated. All in all, he won 107 out of 115 fights, with 86 KOs. In ESPN, the Mexican athlete is ranked 24th in the “Top 50 Boxers in History”; while in 2002, prestigious “The Ring” magazine gave him the 18th position in its ranking of “The Best Boxers over the Past 80 Years”.
CARLOS MONZON, THE IRON ARGENTINIAN (ARGENTINA)
Monzon joins the list of great Latin American legends that had a tragic end. This Argentinian was a middleweight world champion between 1970 and 1977. He defended his crown in 14 fights and prevailed over the best boxers at the time (from Emile Griffith, to Benny Briscoe and Cuban Jose “Butter” Napoles). He totaled 87 wins and 3 defeats. In 1990, he was included in the International Boxing Hall of Fame and, according to “The Ring”, he occupies the eleventh position among the best boxers of all time, pound by pound. Away from the ring, Monzon left a sad image because he murdered his couple and was sentenced to spend 11 years in jail. In 1995, during a work session, he died in a car accident.
ALEXIS ARGUELLO, THE KNIGHT OF THE RING (NICARAGUA)
Arguello has been Nicaragua’s best boxer of all time and one of the top fighters in the region. His end was also tragic. The Nicaraguan fighter won three world titles in three different categories: featherweight (1974-1977), super featherweight (1978-1980) and lightweight (1981- 1983). He won 82 out of 90 fights, 65 of which finished with KO. After his retirement, he became a politician and, in 2008, he was appointed mayor of Managua, the country’s capital. In 2009, the country was shocked when the news came out: the idol had shot himself in the heart.
ROBERTO “STONE HANDS” DURAN (PANAMA)
This Panamanian legend spent 33 years on the ring (1968-2001). His nickname, “Stone Hands”, speaks high of the punches delivered by this man that became world middleweight champion after defeating Ken Buchanan in 1972; medium middleweight against Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980, in the so-called “Montreal Fight”, junior middleweight against Davey Moore in 1983 and, back to the middleweight, victory against Iran Barkley in 1989. His long career included 103 wins (70 KOs) and 16 defeats. In 1999, Associated Press labeled him as the seventh fighter in the “Top Boxers of the 20th Century” list.
WILFREDO GOMEZ, BAZOOKA ON THE RING (PUERTO RICO)
This amazing Puerto Rican boxer was named amateur world champion in the event hosted by Havana in 1974. He was only 18 years old at the time. He later joined the professional realm and, after a first attempt, he won 32 fights in a row delivering KOs, thus joining the select list of fighters with 20 or more consecutive KO wins. In 1977, he conquered the super bantamweight world title given by the Boxing World Council, after defeating South Korean Dong Kiung Yum in Puerto Rico, KO in the twelfth round. Gomez held his crown through 1983 and championed the title in 17 fights, which finished with KO. The list of beaten opponents includes such world champions as Leo Cruz, Juan Meza, Lupe Pintor and Carlos Zarate. The Puerto Rican fighter retired in 1989. He put an end to his professional career with 44 wins (42 KOs), 3 defeats and a tie. He was included in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995.
FELIX “TITO” TRINIDAD (PUERTO RICO)
“Tito” is considered one of the best boxers of all time in Puerto Rico. At the age of 17, he began to fight as a professional and he was a world champion 3 years later. He conquered the crown in three different categories for different organizations, such as the International Boxing Federation (IBF), World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Council (WBC). One of his most famous wins took place against Oscar de la Hoya, in 1999. He finished his career with a 42-win record (35 KOs) and only three defeats.
TEOFILO STEVENSON (CUBA)
Stevenson has been the best full weight in the history of amateur boxing. His numbers were spectacular: in two decades on the ring, he won 301 out of 321 fights. He collected 72 gold medals, six silvers and two bronze medals. His three Olympic titles (Munich 1972, Montreal 1976 and Moscow 1980) are joined by three crowns in world championships, two in Central American championships and another one in the Mexico Pan-American Games, in 1975. Moreover, Stevenson was handed the Russell and Val Baker awards, which are given to the best fighters in world championships and Olympic Games. Stevenson’s passing in 2012, at the age of 60, moved the pugilism realm and some of the condolence messages were sent by his friend, Muhammad Alí.