Best I Faced: Laurent Boudouani
Skilled boxer-puncher Laurent Boudouani was a top amateur who went on to become the WBA junior middleweight titleholder in the late 1990s.
Boudouani was born in Sallanches, which is located at the foot of Mount Blanc in the east of France, the fourth of six children, on December 29, 1966.
“I had a pleasant childhood,” Boudouani told The Ring. “Not always easy but we were happy.
“I played sports with my friends. Social media didn’t exist and we were more united. We lived in a small town in Haute-Savoie surrounded by mountains and forests. I loved to fish in our rivers and lakes, [it was] quiet, far from the turbulence of big cities.”
The youngster first became enamored by boxing when he was nine years old.
“During the Montreal Olympics in 1976 I saw Sugar Ray Leonard – I loved it,” Boudouani admitted. “Looking at his footwork, I was attracted to his shoes and wanted everything. I loved boxing.”
His father took him to Mont Blanc Boxe Club in Sallanches and the development began.
Boudouani excelled from a young age. He won his first French title aged 11, then won cadet and junior titles before becoming a five-time senior national champion. He was on the national team for five years and notably reached the semi-finals of the World Junior Championships in 1983 and the quarterfinals of the World Championships in 1986, where he lost to eventual gold medalist Kenny Gould.
Those experiences amongst others helped mold Boudouani and he peaked in time for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. This time the Frenchman exacted revenge on former nemesis Gould at the semi-final stage.
“It was the apotheose,” he proudly said of his Olympic experience. “Unforgettable moments engraved in my head. I lost in the final against Robert Wangila.”
Boudouani exited the amateur scene with a record of 92-6 and turned professional with a routine first-round knockout over Djamel Zeghadi in April 1989.
The young prospect progressed well and won his first 15 fights before surprisingly losing to American journeyman Gilbert Baptist in July 1991.
“I had an operation for an appendicitis two months before the match,” said Boudouani, who was stopped in eight rounds. “Not enough time to be able to train well to beat Baptist.
“[I was] pushed by my trainer, who did not measure the danger. [I] left him [after the fight] and [worked my way back to] become challenger for the European [junior middleweight] title.”
That opportunity came against fellow Frenchman Jean-Paul Fontana in November 1992. Boudouani made the most of it, stopping his countryman in three rounds.
He defended the title twice, scoring inside the distance wins over Italian Romolo Casamonica (KO 9), Andy Till (RTD 4) before surprisingly yielding his title to unheralded countryman Bernard Razzano (TKO 8) in October 1993.
“Everything was fine until I received a damaging blow,” he said. “I had trouble recovering and ended up in the hospital, under surveillance until the next day.”
Boudouani returned with three low-level wins before he was matched with Razzano’s conqueror, Javier Castillejo, for his old EBU belt, in January 1995.
“A great fight against a great warrior,” said Boudouani, who stopped Castillejo in nine rounds. “I prepared for this fight with a lot of pleasure. I really wanted to get my property back (laughs).
Boudouani defended his title against Patrick Vungbo (TKO 6) and Castillejo (UD 12) in a rematch and then vacated to move on to world honors.
His big opportunity came when his promoters, the Acaries brothers, brought experienced WBA titleholder Julio Cesar Vasquez to the south of France in August 1996.
“I was challenger to [WBC titleholder Terry] Norris but [it was] very difficult to make this fight, so then my promoters suggested Vasquez to me, I was only too happy to fight him,” explained Boudouani, who stopped the game Argentinean in five rounds. “I become world champion. Vasquez was a great champion and beating Vasquez by KO was great.”
Not surprisingly this was his proudest moment in boxing.
“A great joy,” he said of being crowned world champion. “I celebrated this with my relatives and friends. I became a star, but I kept my feet on the ground.”
Boudouani traveled to Las Vegas for his first defense against savvy former titlist Carl Daniels on the same card as boxing luminaries Michael Moorer, Julio Cesar Chavez and Ricardo Lopez.
“It was great – a difficult fight,” said Boudouani, who had to use his full arsenal to outpoint the wily southpaw via 12-round unanimous decision. “It is true that in Las Vegas I gained experience, the temple of boxing.”
In 1998, Boudouani had a tough two-fight series with future WBA cruiserweight titleholder Guillermo Jones (D12/ SD 12).
“[It was] very difficult with this giant,” he said. “[Jones] was tall (6-foot-4 which is seven inches taller than Boudouani) and very good boxer.”
All the while the fight Boudouani long craved was against Terry Norris and although the American had lost his last two fights, he was brought to Paris to face Boudouani at the home of French boxing, Palais des Sports, in November 1998.
“Norris is a warrior who kept coming,” said Boudouani, who scored a ninth-round stoppage over the once-great American. “I managed him and I punished him. He was very arrogant before our match and he behaved badly against my idol Sugar Ray Leonard.”
Boudouani traveled back to America and took on rising star David Reid in March 1999.
“Against Reid I had no luck,” he said. “I left with a handicap; I injured my cervical vertebrae (neck) during training. But he was a very good boxer, no excuses.”
Despite being only 32, he decided against making a comeback and retired with a record of 38-3-1 (32 knockouts).
“I retired to get married and have a family,” he said. “I boxed for 25 years, a lot of work and joy (laughs).”
Boudouani, 55, has four children and still lives in Sallanches. He bought a brewery and ran it for 13 years before selling up. He now works at a security company.
The former world titleholder kindly agreed to speak with The Ring about the best fighters he faced during an illustrious career.
Guillermo Jones: He was a very good boxer. He was precise and his size gave me problems reaching him.
Carl Daniels: He was a good boxer with lots of experience.
David Reid: I haven’t found any boxers faster than me, but of my opponents David Reid had the best handspeed.
Daniels: With his mobility, he was difficult to reach and used beautiful feints.
Reid: He was smart because he beat me. He was weary of my blows.
Julio Cesar Vasquez: The strongest physically was Vasquez. With his South American origins, Vasquez was as strong as a bull, raised on the grasslands of the Pampas, and his exemplary record proves it.
Terry Norris: I would say one of the best chins was Norris, for his resistance. I hit him with counters and he took a lot of my shots.
Jones: When I met him he had won most fights by knockout. He hurt me, he had very powerful punches.
BEST BOXING SKILLS
Daniels: Reid and Daniels were the most technical. They had longer amateur careers. For me, a good amateur becomes a good professional. I would pick Daniels.
Norris: The adversaries he encountered, his achievements and many titles he won. Norris is the best.