20-20 vision – The Greatest Fighter from Argentina: Carlos Monzon
Most countries have produced at least one or two special boxers whose ring exploits have been etched permanently in our collective memory. That includes tiny nations like Puerto Rico and behemoths like the U.S. and Mexico, as well many in between.
In this feature, The Ring looks closely at 20 countries with strong boxing traditions and selects the best fighter from each.
The process wasn’t easy. First, we had to select the 20 countries, which proved to be painstaking. Some nations that have produced memorable fighters didn’t make the list. And, second, choosing a single boxer from the countries that did make the cut was easy in some cases – Panama, for example – but excruciating in others.
The countries will be rolled out in alphabetical order one day at a time at The Ring. First up: Argentina.
Notes: The “five more” listed at the bottom of each capsule were among other fighters in the discussion for each nation. … Some boxers lived in more than one country. We assigned each to the country where they spent their formative years. For example, a fighter who left one country as a small child was assigned to his second country.
Birthdate / place: August 7, 1942 / San Javier, Santa Fe
Death date: January 8, 1995
Years active: 1963-77
Record: 87-3-9 (59 KOs)
Major titles: Middleweight (1970-77)
Greatest victories: Bennie Briscoe, Emile Griffith (twice), Jose Napoles, Rodrigo Valdez (twice), Nino Benvenuti (twice)
Background: Monzon’s life outside the ring was as turbulent – and ultimately tragic — as it was magnificent between the ropes. The dynamic “Escopeta (Shutgun)” was one of those rare fighters in whom it was difficult to find a flaw. He was long (76-inch reach), quick, powerful (59 knockouts) and unusually clever. The results speak for themselves: Monzon failed to have his hand raised three times in the first 20 months of his career and never lost again, avenging all three setbacks along the way. He “upset” Nino Benvenuti in 1970 in Rome to win the middleweight championship and reigned for seven years, which included a string of 14 successful defenses that ended when he retired in 1977. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990, confirming his place as one of the greatest fighters of any weight. His life outside the ring didn’t go as well. He became an idol in his native Argentina because of his good looks and glamorous lifestyle but he ultimately succumbed to his dark side. Always combustible, he was convicted in 1989 of strangled his wife to death and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. In 1995, while returning from a furlough to visit family members, he was killed when his car rolled over.
Quote: “Monzon destroyed you little by little,” Angelo Dundee told The Independent. “I studied him before the fight and was confident my guy (Napoles) was slick enough. I was wrong. Monzon did a job.”
Five more from Argentina (in alphabetical order): Victor Galindez (HOF), Niccolino Locche (HOF), Sergio Martinez, Omar Narvaez, Pascual Perez (HOF)
Next up: Australia