Best I Faced: Marcelo Dominguez
Teak-tough Marcelo Dominguez rose from the streets of Argentina to win the WBC cruiserweight title in the 1990s.
Dominguez was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on January 15, 1970.
“We were lower-middle class,” Dominguez told The Ring through Mauricio Gonzalez. “I had an older brother; I was in the middle and I had a younger sister. My father worked as a taxi driver and a security guard.
“Our family was together until I was 13-years-old. Then my parents separated. My brother and I lived with my father, my sister with my mother. At the age of 13, I left school and started working. I sold [things] on the street for a few days, but quickly I worked in a magazine publisher, then I worked in a restaurant kitchen.”
At 14, Dominguez visited a local gym with friends who wanted to box. Initially he just wated to exercise but he found something he enjoyed doing and combined that with his work.
“I did 40 legal fights but another 15 that I fought without my license,” he said. “In Argentina it was tough because my weight class isn’t one that is really managed. I had to fight in three weight categories, light heavy, heavy and super heavy. I only lost three fights and three draws.
“I participated in five national tournaments and won four of them and the other I was in the final.
“I was going to the eliminator for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. I won it but unfortunately, they didn’t send me because the guy that lost to me in the final ended up going there. They thought I was too small for that weight class. They never paid attention to my heart, my mentality and those were the big things I had.”
Dominguez turned professional with a fourth-round stoppage in October 1991. In just his seventh fight he was matched with vastly more experienced compatriot Nestor Giovanni for the national cruiserweight title.
“Everybody was saying that my manager was crazy and that he was taking me to lose but my manager said, ‘Listen to me, I know what I’m talking about. If we go out from the first bell and you’re aggressive with this guy, he’s not going to like it, he’s not going to take it.’ and that was my best style of fighting,” he recalled.
“I always listened to my corner because I knew he was a boxer with a lot of experience but I was younger and faster. So, I listened and went right for it and I think he got a bit desperate and didn’t know what to do, so first he hit me with an elbow. The fight went on. The next round he hit me twice with headbutts. That gave me a second cut and disqualified him.”
After the win, his manager wanted him to stop working but Dominguez had other ideas.
“I suggested that he give me a job in his office with hours that could coincide with my training,” he said. “I didn’t want anyone to give me the money, I had to earn it.”
It was during this time he was afforded the opportunity to act as chaperon to a legendary light heavyweight champion of the past.
“I was lucky to be able to spend almost a week with Archie Moore in Uruguay,” he fondly recalled. “There was a 40th anniversary commemoration of his fight against Dogomar Martinez. They say it was a violent and great fight won by Moore.
“They were doing a homage to him. I helped him with everything. He told me many, many stories. He wouldn’t let anyone touch him; he wouldn’t even shake hands wiith you when you met him. It only happened with me, I would help him walk and we’d go arm in arm. I believe he saw himself in me because I was an unknown boxer.
“He was the best in his weight class in history but we all know what happened when he went to heavyweight. I wonder how it would have been had there be cruiserweight during his time? He was a great person, I always ask myself, what did he see in me that he chose me, he could have talked or walked with anybody but he chose me.”
All the while Dominguez own career was progressing well. He made two successful defenses of his national title and stayed active in between with non-title bout before he was rewarded with a shot at WBC cruiserweight titleholder Anaclet Wamba in Salta, in the north of Argentina, in December 1994.
“Osvaldo Rivero, who was partners with Wamba’s managers, [the Acaries Brothers,]” he said. “I remember the lead up well. They announced the fight at a press conference. I stood up and let Wamba know, ‘This is going to be your last fight. I’m going to retire you.’ It was like that, he didn’t fight, he retired.
“When my fight with Wamba had finished in Argentina, the Acaries gave me a hug and said, ‘I’m going to give you another chance at the title.’ I think that says everything about the result with Wamba.”
Dominguez, who was 10-years-younger than Wamba, fought well but lost a 12-round majority decision.
“El Toro” beat two journeymen and was offered the chance to fight Akim Tafer for the WBC Interim title in the south of France in the summer of 1995.
“I got that fight when Norbert Ekassi was hurt and he was the one who was going to fight for the title,” he recalled. “It was a tough fight; it was a very even fight. I remember my trainer was telling me, ‘You’re going to get money or eat shit.’ In other words, something or nothing. In the eighth round, I was feeling exhausted and that’s when my trainer told me, to get it done. In the ninth round, I came out like a bullet and gave him three straight right hands in the neutral corner, [he went down] and didn’t get up.”
Dominguez fought in front of his people in Argentina and also in his promoter Michel Acaries homeland of France. He turned back Reinaldo Gimenez (TKO 12) and Sergey Kobozev (SD 12) in “interim” title defenses before Wamba officially retired and the proud Argentine was upgraded to full champion. Further defenses followed against Patrice Aoussi (TKO 10), Jose Arimatea da Silva (TKO 8) and Tafer (UD 12) in a rematch.
“I have great memories of all of them,” he said. “When I won the world title the training sessions became much harder, especially for the first defense. It was in my country and I wanted to present myself in the best condition. The referee stopped the punishment and I won by TKO. Then comes the defense that for many was the best against Kobozev, he was the No. 1 contender. Everyone believed he would beat me. I fought with a broken rib from Round 4 but I was able to get through it.
“Then came a fight where I was not very good [against Aoussi.] They changed my dates several times and I wasn’t at my best but I won. I beat the Brazilian (Da Silva) in my fourth defense. I was very good in that fight and won without problems. Against Tafer in a rematch, I was able to put on a great fight.”
However, Dominguez dropped his title to talented Cuban Juan Carlos Gomez in Argentina February 1998 and lost a rematch a year later in Gomez adoptive homeland of Germany.
“Those fights were awesome,” he said. “The first fight in Mar Del Plata was a very even fight. I fought Gomez a few days after becoming a father for the first time.
“I went in with an injury [in the rematch] and that’s no excuse because Gomez was a great champion and I consider myself to have been the boxer who brought him the most problems. I feel fine that I lost to him because he was one of the best in the weight class. He couldn’t knock me out in either fight.”
Dominguez stayed active over the next couple of years before he was rewarded with a fight against WBO titlist Johnny Nelson in Sheffield, England in July 2001.
“It was a good fight; I was very prepared physically,” he said. “I was in great shape; I think you could see that the first half of the fight I was winning. There was a situation that happened to me that made me lose the fight after the first half. Psychologically it wasn’t my best moment in life. I had issues with Argentinean Federation. I had a smaller promoter. I had to go to Uruguay to fight for a couple of times for little or no money, while I’m grateful for Uruguay and the people for supporting me, it was tough.
“Nelson ended up winning. In the 12th round, I was at the point of giving up but I mustered up some type of mental fortitude and was able to come through. Being local you don’t lose those decisions. I got out of the ring, crying and said I was going to retire. Mentally that was a tough one.”
After some time away from boxing, Dominguez returned as a heavyweight. He won the South American title and made a couple of defenses before he was offered a fight with future heavyweight titlist Nicolay Valuev.
“When they offered me that fight, I was thinking of retiring,” he said. “So, I was training at home, in the back. I didn’t spar for that fight. I picked the heavy bag up to over 2 metres and hit it.
“Before the weight in, I told him, like I would tell other opponents, ‘I’m not going to take a dive.’ I was here to win. Whoever saw that fight knows who won that fight. The referee was on me the whole time but even then, they weren’t able to stop me.”
After losing to then unbeaten Cengiz Koc (UD 8), he notched three wins at home and was offered a fight with Enzo Maccarinelli at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales in July 2006.
“I have strange thoughts on that fight. I consider it one of my best fights, even though I lost,” he said. “I worked very hard to get back to cruiserweight. It took me a year of work and planning. In the eighth round, I really thought I had him beat. I really thought I hurt him. I sat down and thought, ‘This fight is mine.’ One punch from Enzo [in round 9] changed everything.
“As I was leaving the stadium, me and Enzo crossed paths and Enzo showed me the suitcase the belt comes in. He said, ‘I’m not world champ because of this belt, I’m champ because I was the only one who was able to KO Dominguez.’ A world champion saying those words was huge for me.
“That really was the end of my career, even though I fought after that. I just did it, it wasn’t to become world champ but more to get the last bit of boxer out of me.”
“Since 2006, I’ve been working as a trainer,” said Dominguez (48-8-1, 25 knockouts). “I’ve been lucky enough to have many Argentinean champions, South American champions and Latino champions.”
Dominguez has been very busy with several other projects, including writing an autobiography, ‘The Day that we were champions.’ He also took classes in Sports Psychology; which he graduated in. He worked with the Argentinean Olympic committee. He has worked on radio and TV, some film work, TV series for a couple of seasons. He has worked with the Ministry of Sport for Argentina. He is the chief trainer for all trainers from different programmes in sports and heads a department where they start sports at a young age for kids, called Initiation of Sports.
Dominguez, now 53, is married, has two children and lives in Ramos Mejia, a province in the west of Buenos Aires.
He graciously took time to speak to The Ring about the best he fought in 10 key categories.
Akim Tafer: “His jab was strong and it took me some work to get the distance but I finally did it and I was able to KO him.”
Johnny Nelson: “He had great hands at distance and wouldn’t let me get inside.”
Nelson: “He was very coordinated with his hands and feet. A very athletic guy, who was able to keep me at bay.”
Juan Carlos Gómez: “He had an unusual amount of speed with his combinations.”
Gómez: “His amateur experience, the Cuban school of boxing or maybe everything was natural for him.”
Sergei Kovozev: “That guy was just a dog until he faced me. He was still the strongest.”
Miguel Morales: “I saw other boxers hit him with everything. I also hit him with everything and I couldn’t move him [Laughs.]”
Enzo Maccarinelli: “Gomez and Tafer made me feel their blows a lot, but the only one who truly managed to hurt me was Enzo.”
BEST BOXING SKILLS
Gómez: “I think many things: Exquisite boxing, good boxing skills and a great punch. I think he knew how to solve situations and define them.”
Gómez: “He was the best fighter I fought in my career. He beat me twice and improved between both fights. He is one of the best cruiserweights in history.”
Mauricio Gonzalez helped translate and make this feature possible. The Ring appreciates his assistance.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].