Best I Faced: Miguel Lora
Colombian stylist Miguel Lora held the WBC bantamweight title in the mid-1980s and regularly thrilled his countrymen, while making seven defenses of the belt in a productive career.
Lora was the middle of five children, born in Monteria, Colombia, on April 12, 1961.
“I had a great youth,” Lora told The Ring through Mauricio Gonzalez. “It was tough in some senses, but financially we were OK. My father abandoned our family when I was 9-years-old. We went to live with my grandfather. He was a well-to-do farmer. I didn’t have a lot, but we didn’t have to go without.”
When Lora was a child, he was given the nickname “Happy.”
“My aunt would always tell me I was so positive,” he explained. “She would always say, ‘Estas happy’ [you are happy] and the family called me ‘Happy.’”
Lora was a keen soccer player until he was 15-years-old when boxing caught his attention.
“Where I lived played a huge role in my change to boxing,” he said. “They opened a boxing gym right across from us. I would come home from playing soccer and I started to go to the boxing gym to just mess around and burn energy. I started liking it and would go every day and people would say I was good.
“I would do both football and boxing. None of my family wanted me to box, they said, ‘You are too small, that sport is too rough.’ When I would not go to the gym after football practice, the people at the gym would go and look for me. That interest motivated me.”
Lora was a good amateur, winning the national title in 1977. He left the amateur ranks with a record of 33-1 and made his professional debut in July 1979.
In just his sixth outing, Lora put down a marker by winning a WBC junior bantamweight regional title, outboxing future world title challenger Julio Soto Solano over 12 rounds. Lora later added the national title before moving up to bantamweight.
Lora was due to face WBC 118-pound titlist Alberto Davila on September 14, 1984 but the defending champion hurt his back two weeks before and was later stripped.
The Colombian had to wait nearly a year for his opportunity when he met newly minted WBC titleholder Daniel Zaragoza in his adopted home of Miami in August 1985.
“I had my ring walk, song and outfit picked out since I was 15,” he said. “I remember going to that ring walk and everyone was dancing to my music and felt like no one could stop me.
“My only concern was I never fought a southpaw, but I felt like the champ walking into the ring. My trainer told me ‘To throw the straight right, it is going to land, do not stop throwing that right.’
“The first couple of rounds were difficult, finding the timing because of the stance. Then I finally found my right and knocked him down, I was excited but at the same time I remember thinking, ‘Mexican fighters always get up,’ so I had to be smart. I did not finish him but I knocked him down three more times. This SOB is tough and keeps coming. As the rounds went on, I got a bit tired and had to regroup and just wanted to win round-by-round. Zaragoza recovered a bit and had a hard left to the body, but for me, luckily, I moved well.
“When I won, the country went crazy and even the president was there to greet me.”
In his first defense, the defensive wizard turned back the challenge of rugged future three-weight titleholder Wilfredo Vazquez. After stopping Enrique Sanchez, he was given a home defense against former titlist Alberto Davila.
Incredibly, 50,000 fans showed up to cheer him to victory over Davila in Barranquilla, Colombia in November 1986.
“It was an unbelievably proud moment for me,” he said. “There are things I hold dear to my heart and this is one of them. It was unheard of before and since with that size of a crowd. Even thinking of it now, it gives me goose bumps.”
Lora made four more defenses, outboxing speedster Ray Minus. He showed his toughness to edge past tough Argentinean Lucio Omar Lopez and Davila in a rematch.
Next, he was tasked with facing Raul Perez on the undercard of Julio Cesar Chavez-Jose Luis Ramirez at the Forum, in Inglewood, California, in October 1988.
“I lost to Raul ‘Jibaro’ Perez in a tough fight,” he admitted. “He could not hit me; he will tell you himself, but I lost on points. For that fight, I had trouble getting down to make weight. I was roughly eight pounds over the weight. I wasn’t as prepared as I would have liked.”
After a 22-month hiatus, he returned and won two low-key fights in Monteria, before he received an opportunity to fight Gaby Canizales for the vacant WBO 118-pound title in March 1991.
“That fight my people were telling me you are never going to knock this guy down, but you will stop him,” he said. “So, when I knocked him down that came to my head. I was thinking I knocked him down let’s go for the kill and that was my mistake.
“I fought inside and he got a lucky punch. I was going to win that night, hands down but my carelessness and my corner saying what they said hurt me, but I will tell him to this day, ‘You are so lucky.’”
Lora won four fights and met unheralded Rafael Del Valle for the vacant WBO 118-pound strap in Puerto Rico in June 1993. It proved a bridge too far and Lora dropped a unanimous decision and retired from boxing with a record of 37-3 (17 knockouts).
Lora, now 60, still lives in Monteria. He has been married for 40 years and has three children.
“I now dedicate my life to my family,” he said. “I do some acting, I have been in several soap operas. I also get involved with youth sports and try to help where I can.”
He graciously took time to speak to The Ring about the best he fought in 10 key categories.
Raul Perez: Without a doubt “Jibaro” Perez had the best jab. His reach was greater than mine, he was taller and that jab really kept me at bay. He knew how to use it and he used it well against me.
Ray Minus: That guy was tough to hit. I won that fight by unanimous decision, but that was one of my tougher fights. He made me work for everything I got. His defense was very impressive.
Minus: His handspeed was superb. He was a fast guy all around. He was from the Bahamas, not many boxers are from there. Sometimes fighters couldn’t find me, Minus was able to tag me a couple of times because of his handspeed. He didn’t hit hard, but to get in on him was difficult. A couple of times I had to watch out for his jab and he threw good combinations and the speed they came at really caused me trouble.
Minus: I really admired his footwork. He made me try to cut off the ring because his footwork was so quick and so good.
Perez: He had a jab and he knew what to do and he carried out a great execution of the plan. He was by far the smartest boxer I ever faced. Great champion.
Wilfredo Vazquez: Vazquez was strong, but so was Alberto Davila. I would have to go with Vazquez. He was very physically strong. I had trouble pushing him back. He had the strength of an ox. I had trouble fending him off. I walked out of that fight physically tired.
Vazquez: He was a hard puncher. I felt every single punch in that fight. It was my toughest physical fight because he hit so hard. Canizales didn’t not hit harder than Vazquez. That fight I became a little reckless when I felt I had him and I went for him. Canizales got me with a lucky punch. Vazquez was definitely the hardest puncher; I felt every single shot. Canizales was one shot.
Alberto Davila: I fought him twice, once in Colombia and once at the Forum, in Inglewood, California. I hit him with everything and the kitchen sink and I couldn’t get him down. I hit him and he kept coming back for more. He could take a punch like no other.
BEST BOXINGS SKILLS
Vazquez: Ray Minus had good skills. Defensively, he was great, but he didn’t have too much offensively. I have to give it to Vazquez. He was by far the best boxer I faced and he gave me the most trouble. That was my best training camp and I felt prepared for that one. It’s a shame I didn’t feel prepared like that one for my other fights. For the Perez fight, not taking anything away from him, but I was way more prepared for the Vazquez fight due to many circumstances. Vazquez’ boxing skills were the best I faced. He was smart. He could get inside, jab, he was strong. He had a punch.
Vazquez: Vazquez had the best skill set. He was maybe not great at everything, but he was good at everything. I had to give it to Vazquez, because I was in tip-top shape and it took its toll on me. I won that fight, but that was the toughest fight by far I ever fought even the ones I lost.
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