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Ranking the greatest Puerto Rican boxers

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  • Ranking the greatest Puerto Rican boxers

    Yes sir, I've decided to undertake that task! This archipelago has truly produced some great boxers and in comparison to Mexico, PR boxers have been known for their technical finesse and ability, instead of just toughness, machismo and power. From Wilfred Benitez to Macho Camacho, Puerto Rico has given us so many wonderful and exciting boxers as well. Here we go!

    1. Wilfred Benitez
    It isn't exactly easy choosing between so many greats, but this guy just seemed to have it all. He was a defensive genius, as most of you know already, but also was fast, willing to brawl and had underrated power as well. El Radar Benitez is still the youngest boxer to become a world champion, being 17 when he defeated another legend, Antonio Cervantes, by a split decision to take Cervantes' WBA light welter title in 1976. After making 3 defenses, he forfeited the belt and chose to compete as a welter. Here he won the WBC title from the excellent Carlos Palomino, January 1979, again by a split decision. However, most agree he won it clearly and the judge that scored it for Palomino later admited error. He made one defense by decisioning the excellent Harold Weston by UD before fighting Sugar Ray Leonard on 30 November that same year and tasting defeat for the first time. In a back and forth fight which was competitive till the end, Benitez was dropped in the finishing seconds of the fight by a left uppercut and beat the count, but the fight was foolishly stopped with only 6 seconds to go, thus giving Benitez a ko loss. Benitez rebounded by knocking out WBC super welter champion Maurice Hope in 12 in 1981 and then in 1982 beat Roberto Duran in his greatest performance, in his second defense, by UD. He lost this title against another great, Thomas Hearns, who put him down a couple times and beat him by MD, but Benitez gave Hearns a tough fight nevertheless and slipped many of his punches. That fight however spelled the end of Benitez's prime and he would lose to Mustafa Hamsho by UD in 1983 and then get stopped in 2 against Davey Moore, after getting his ankle broken following a knockdown, in 1984. He finished his career in 1990, with a record of 53 wins, 31 by ko, 8 losses, 4 by ko, and 1 draw. The Bible of Boxing he was known as, and he certainly was that, but due to reaching his peak so early, he also burned out early.

    2. Hector Camacho
    Perhaps the fastest fighter ever, "Macho" Camacho was a true delight to watch at his best, but after a tough fight against his national rival Edwin El Chapo Rosario in 1986, he became more cautious and as a result his popularity suffered. He had it all, especially at 130 and 135: he could punch and knock out or stop most guys, he was fast as the wind and had great defensive as well as offensive skills, and a great chin. The chin part remained unchanged throughout his career. Camacho first won the WBC super feather title by stopping the Mexican two-time world champion Rafael Limon by TKO5, 7 August 1983 in San Juan. He also knocked out Rafael Solis in 5 to make his only defense of that belt, before vacating it to step up to lightweight. Here he won the WBC title against champion Jose Luis Ramirez, dropping Ramirez down once before winning by UD12 in Vegas, 10 August 1985. He then had his christening by fire as he took on Edwin Rosario in his first defense, which was at Madison Square Garden, 13 June 1986. Camacho was given a beating in the 5th and had he not been blesssed with that iron chin, would've most likely get stopped in that round or the next. He bounced back in the later rounds to snatch a split decision. The real result has been hotly disputed since. Macho made his second and last defense of this belt against Cornelius Boza Edwards, dropping Boza once early on but then choosing to take the safe road and boxing his way to an easy victory by UD. It was the first time he displayed the new cautious approach, as mentioned in the beginning. Camacho won his third world title at a third weight against Ray Mancini, winning the WBO light welter title in a close and thrilling fight, by SD12, 6 March 1989 in Reno. He defended it against Vinny Pazienza and heavy-handed Tony Baltazar, both by UD, and against Baltazar he displayed his old bravery and flair by trading against the heavier punching man. He then lost the title under controversial circumstances to Greg Haugen, after having a point deducted for hitting Haugen before the start of round 12, after Haugen refused to touch gloves. He had Haugen down once, but it didn't help as he lost by SD. He reclaimed the title in a rematch, and this time he was on the right end of a split decision. He vacated the WBO belt to take on the WBC champ, Julio Cesar Chavez, 12 September 1992 in Vegas. It seems like his prime had been spent, as he dropped a wide decision to the busier Chavez, who was same age as he. In 1994, he lost in an ugly fight against Felix Trinidad, which was for Trinidad's IBF belt, where Macho kept holding and got a point taken away. It was clear he was no longer the same guy. In 1997 he fought Oscar De La Hoya and was down for the first time in his career in round 9, but lasted the distance and lost by another wide UD. Before that, he ended Sugar Ray Leonard's comeback attempt by battering the aging legend and stopping him in 5 rounds. Camacho retired or had his last fight in 2010, losing on points to Saul Duran. His record is 79 wins, 38 by ko, 6 losses and 3 draws. He was shot and later died in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, 24 November 2012. He was 50.

    3. Felix Trinidad
    One of the greatest offensive fighters and punchers of his era, Felix "Tito" Trinidad was a tall welterweight who later became a super welterweight and middleweight. Although technically not as good as his greatest rival, Oscar De La Hoya, Trinidad had a killer instinct and knew when to pull the trigger, and was pretty fast on his feet, especially for his size. On the downside, he was known for his habit of throwing low blows. He bust onto the world scene in 1993, dispatching the IBF champion Maurice Blocker in 2 rounds, becoming a world champ at only 20. He made 15 defences of that belt and among others beat Hector Camacho (UD), Luis Ramon Campas (TKO4), Oba Carr (TKO8), Freddie Pendleton (KO5) and finally Pernell Whitaker by UD, where he also put Whitaker down once. He then faced his greatest rival, De La Hoya, in a huge unification fight (DLH was holding the WBC belt), 18 September 1999 at Mandalay Bay. Despite DLH being more dominant, his cautious approach in the late rounds cost him the decision and he was denied by the vindictive judges of the victory, thus Trinidad became the man instead. He would move up to 154 and beat the Olympic gold medallist and then-WBA champ David Reid. He put Reid down four times in a climactic fight and was briefly down once himself, before winning by UD and becoming a two-weight champion. He then stopped the overmatched Mamadou Thiam in 3 rounds, before having his second great showdown on 2 December 2000 against Fernando Vargas, the IBF champion. Vargas was undefeated at 20-0 and was known as "El Feroz (The Ferocious)", packing in a considerable punch and being a great brawler with some boxing skills as well. Trinidad put him down twice in the first minute of the fight, but Vargas weathered the storm and came back strong in the following rounds, putting Trinidad on his ass in round 4 with a body shot. Trinidad came back and took control of the fight sometime after round 8. He finally put Vargas down three times in the 12th to end the fight there. Next year, he took part in Don King's great middleweight tournament and beat the WBA champ William Joppy by TKO5 after having him down three times, 12 May at MSG. In the final however, he would finally meet his match, as he faced Bernard "Executioner" Hopkins, a naturally stronger and also more cagey and clever fighter. The fight was even in the early going, but Hopkins neutralized Trinidad's offense and broke him down slowly. In the 12th round, a weary Trinidad was put down with a right and Trinidad's father and trainer came in to stop the fight. It was 29 September 2001 and the end of Felix Trinidad as a great force. Although he came back and had a memorable war against Ricardo Mayorga, stopping the inferior Mayorga by TKO8 on 2 October 2004, he was soundly outboxed in his next fight against Winky Wright, 14 May 2005, and quit. He came back one more time, fighting Roy Jones jr at MSG on 19 January 2008, but was put down three times and lost convincingly on scorecards, being nowhere his old self and fighting a naturally stronger man. His record is 42 wins with 35 ko's, and 3 losses with 1 ko.

    4. Miguel Cotto
    Junito or "Caguas Jaguar", the last is my own moniker for him. Miguel Cotto was and is one of the best p4p fighters of the last 20-30 years. He was always known for his relentless assault, very good boxing skills, physical and punching power and a rather sturdy chin. He has only been stopped twice, late, once by a cheater and once by a guy some have accused of cheating. He also has had longevity, despite suffering these two devastating losses in a space of a year, and went on to become a 6-time, 4-division world champion. He turned pro in 2001 and won the WBO light welter title by TKO6 against Kelson Pinto, in 2004. He made 6 defenses there, most notably stopping Randall Bailey by TKO6, DeMarcus Corley by TKO5 and Ricardo Torres by TKO7 in an unforgettable war. He won the WBA welter title in 2006, by corner retirement in 5 against the excellent technician and undefeated countryman Carlos Quintana. He stopped Zab Judah by TKO11 and decisioned Shane Mosley, both in 2007, before losing the title to Antonio Margarito by TKO11, under controversial circumstances. He then won the WBO title by TKO5 against Michael Jennings and defended it by SD12 against excellent Joshua Clottey. He was then dismantled by Manny Pacquiao and stopped in 12 rounds in November 2009 and considered retirement, but next year he came back at another weight class and stopped the undefeated Yuri Foreman by TKO9 to win the WBA 154-pound title. He made 2 defenses of this title, first stopping Ricardo Mayorga by TKO12 and then avenging the loss to Margarito by RTD9. He lost his title in a unification fight against Floyd Mayweather, 5 May 2012, and gave Mayweather one of his toughest fights in a long time, but lost by a clear decision. He ran into a bad streak, losing in his next fight as well, to the WBA super welter champion Austin Trout, by UD. He decided to enter the middle division and against all expectations, stopped the best middleweight back then, Sergio Martinez, by a corner retirement in 9, after flooring Martinez four times. That was in 2014 and next year he defended his WBC belt against Daniel Geale and was again impressive, stopping the tough Aussie in only 4 rounds! He was however stripped of the belt and then faced Saul Alvarez in a match for the same belt, 21 November 2015. Though Canelo won by a wide decision, half of the boxing establishment thought Cotto was the real winner. He won his last world title against Yoshihiro Kamegai and won by UD to win the WBO super welter title. He lost it against Sadam Ali, also by UD, in December 2017 and retired with a record of 41 wins with 33 ko's and 6 losses, 2 by ko. What is most amazing about Cotto is that he has fought 26 world title fights and since 2004, only one of his fights was not for a world title!

    5. Wilfredo Gomez
    The greatest super bantam ever, known as Bazooka, Wilfredo Gomez has made 17 defenses of the WBC SB title and beat fighters like Carlos Zarate (by KO5), Lupe Pintor (TKO14), Juan Meza (TKO6) and Roberto Rubaldino (RTD7). In between those fights, in 1981, he decided to challenge the reigning WBC champ at featherweight, one Salvador Sanchez, but the fight didn't go well for him and he was beaten into submission and stopped by TKO8. He vacated his title after the 17th defense and then beat Juan Laporte by UD12 to win the WBC feather title in March 1984, but lost it in his first defense to Azumah Nelson, who stopped him by KO11 in December. Gomez was doing well until he lost his steam in round 10 and was then hurt and put down in the next round. He decided to jump to another division and challenge Rocky Lockridge for the WBA super feather title in 1985. He won in a very close fight by majority decision and thus became a three-weight world champion. However, also this reign would be short, as he lost in a huge upset to Panamanian journeyman Alfredo Layne, who stopped him by TKO9 in May 1986. Gomez retired and came back 2 years later, winning two smaller fights by TKO before finally calling it a day. His record is 44 wins with 42 ko's (!), 3 losses and 1 draw. He was a dynamo of a fighter who possessed a terrific punch but could also box well when needed and be clever.

    6. Edwin Rosario
    Few fighters were as exciting to watch as Edwin "Chapo" Rosario. He was one of the best fighters of the 80's and a formidable offensive fighter and puncher. The way he dismantled some fine fighters like Livingstone Bramble (in 2 rounds), Roberto Elizondo (in 1 round) and Loreto Garza (in 3) was truly impressive. He had speed and was very good at cutting off the ring. It was only against the very best that he failed: Julio Cesar Chavez and Hector Camacho. He first won the WBC lightweight title by decisioning the excellent Jose Luis Ramirez in 1983, and defended the title with a blistering 1-round knockout of Roberto Elizondo. He defeated the Olympic gold medallist Howard Davis jr by SD12 in his second defense, also knocking him down once, before he lost the title in a rematch with Ramirez, being stopped after a climactic back and forth war. He put the Mexican down twice in the first round, but Ramirez came back and hurt him several times before finally stopping him against the ropes in round 4. It was the FOTY. He tried to recapture his title against Hector Camacho in 1986, but was denied in a very close fight where he had Camacho in big trouble in round 5. The outcome was a split decision for Macho, but most agree it should've at least been a draw. 3 months later, he fought Livingstone Bramble for the WBA belt and dismantled him, as mentioned, in 2 rounds by KO. Bramble only had one loss on points previously and had taken the title from Ray Mancini, whom he beat twice. Rosario then stopped Juan Nazario by TKO8 in his first defense, but lost the title once again to Julio Cesar Chavez, who gave him a beating and stopped him by TKO11. Rosario was known for his love of the night life and used Cocaine, also known for his friendship with the POSTER WILD BOY Mike Tyson. This sometimes affected his performances. In 1989, after stopping Anthony Jones by TKO6 to take his third world title, the WBA one, he was stopped by Nazario by a corner retirement in 8. He then decided to campaign at 140 and in 1991 beat the reigning WBA-champ there, Loreto Garza, by TKO3. That reign would also prove to be short-lasting, as he got annihilated in 1 round by Akinobu Hiranaka in 1992. After also getting stopped by Frankie Randall, whom he once defeated, by TKO7, Rosario retired in 1993. He came back in 1997, fighting as a welterweight and won 5 fights, but suddenly died of a lung aneurysm, 1 December 1997. He was 34. His record is 47 wins with 41 ko's and 6 losses, 5 by ko.

    7. Jose Torres
    The first Latin world light heavyweight champion, Jose Torres was a splendid boxer with power who only lost to two men: Dick Tiger twice and the exceptionally hard-punching Florentino Fernandez. He competed at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne and won a silver at light middleweight, losing to the great Laszlo Papp in the final. He turned pro in 1958 and first fought as a middleweight. After going 13-0, he drew against Benny "Kid" Paret, who was more a natural welter, but very slick and more experienced. In May 1963, he was stopped for the first and only time in his career against Cuban slugger Florentino Fernandez, widely considered to have been the hardest hitting middleweight ever, who put him down twice before winning by TKO5. Torres then decisioned Don Fullmer by UD10 and Jose Monon Gonzalez, also by UD10. He entered the 175 division in 1964 and beat Gomeo Brennan by MD10 that year. He then knocked out the former world middle champion, Bobo Olson, in 1 round, at Madison Square Garden. He was matched against the reigning world champion, the clever Willie Pastrano, 30 March 1965 at MSG. He defied the odds by stopping Pastrano by TKO9 after dropping him in the sixth round and giving him a terrible beating, thus becoming the first Puerto Rican and Latin lhw champion ever! He defended the world title thrice, first decisioning Wayne Thornton and then Eddie Cotton, both by UD15, before stopping Chic Calderwood by KO2 in the third defense. It was 16 December '66 at MSG when he lost to Dick Tiger,a superior boxer and a very strong and cagey fighter, by UD15. The rematch was held exactly 5 months later and this time the fight was closer, ending in a SD15-victory for Tiger. Torres had a late surge and hurt the champion in round 12 but that was only enough for one judge to give him the fight. The decision provoked a riot. Torres had 2 more sporadic fights before calling it a night in 1969, aged 33 and leaving behind a record of 41 wins, 29 by ko, 3 losses and 1 draw. He was inducted into the IBHOF in 1997 and died 19 January 2009, aged 72.

    8. Wilfredo Vazquez sr.
    Known as "The Pride of Puerto Rico", WV1 was an all-around fighter who could box and punch, play chess and brawl. He won the WBA title as a bantam, super bantam and feather. He had a long and illustrious career and was known for his never say die attitude, often bouncing back strong after losses. In 1986 he took on Miguel "Happy" Lora for the WBC bantam title and had Lora down once, but was himself down once and lost by UD against the slick Colombian. He captured the WBA bantam title in 1987 by stopping the South Korean Chan Young Park by TKO10 in Seoul. He made one successful defense in a draw against Takuya Muguruma of Japan and in Japan, before losing the title to Khaokor Galaxy by SD in Bangkok. Vazquez was also known for his willingness to travel and fight abroad, even while being the champion. He won his second WBA title, at 122, by stopping the excellent Raul Perez by TKO3 of Mexico in his own ground, in 1992. This time, he made 9 successful defenses, stopping Thierry Jacob twice and decisioning Orlando Canizales by SD in a very close fight, in 1995. He finally lost this title against the much taller Antonio Cermeno of Venezuela, who beat him by a close UD, also in 1995. His last hooray was when he came from behind to knock out Eloy Rojas in 11 rounds in 1996, in what was later named the KO of the Year by The Ring. He made 4 successful defenses of this version of WBA belt, before vacating it to fight Naseem Hamed in a major showdown in 1998. But by then, Vazquez was already 37, almost 38, and was no match for the 24-yearold puncher from Sheffield. He put on a brave fight but was stopped by TKO7, 18 April in Manchester. That was the end of his greatness and he later got stopped by Juan Lazcano by TKO9 and retired in 2002, aged 42 and with a record of 56 wins, 41 by ko, 9 losses and 2 draws.

    9. Alfredo Escalera
    Known as "El Salsero" or "Petro", Escalera at 5'8 was a tall and rangy featherweight, who used his advantages well and could box and punch. After a less than great start as as pro, he captured the WBC featherweigh strap by knocking out the reigning champ Kuniaki Shibata in 2 rounds, in an upset in 1975. He surprisingly went on to defend the title 10 times, first drawing against Leonel Hernandez in Venezuela, then stopping the best Norwegian boxer of that time, Svein Erik Paulsen, by TKO9 in Oslo and then beating the Japanese Buzzsaw Yamabe twice in back to back fights, first by TKO6 and then by UD15. In November 1976, he beat the 34-0 Tyrone Everett in a fight in Philadelphia, but by a very controversial split decision that has since been condemned as one of the worst in history. They were supposed to fight again, but Everett died before it could happen. He finally lost the title against maybe the greatest fighter in the feather divisions, Alexis Arguello, by TKO13, 28 January 1978 in Bayamon, PR. They had a rematch a year later, this time in Rimini, Italy, and the result was the same: a TKO13 victory for Arguello. Escalera continued fighting at higher weights and once beat Gene Hatcher, the world light welter champion, on points, but was largely unsuccessful against better fighers and hung em up in 1983, after losing to Charlie "Choo Choo" Brown on points. His record is 53 wins with 31 ko's, 14 losses, 4 by ko, and 4 draws.

    10. Juan Manuel Lopez
    Rarely has there been a fighter so formidable in some fields and yet so weak in others, like JuanMa Lopez. One of the most spectacular punchers and offensive fighters in the feather divisions, Lopez however had a problem with stamina and defense. He was too easy to hit and gassed late, in other words. He first ruled the super bantam division with terror and entered the championship ranks there with a bang, stopping the reigning WBC champ Daniel Ponce de Leon in only 1 round, in 2008. He also scored first-round ko's in his first two defenses, which is practically unheard of. In 2009, he became the only man to stop Gerry Penalosa by corner retirement in 9. Penalosa was one of the best, if not the best, technical fighters from the Philippines. In 2010 he took on the WBO feather champion Steven Luevano, then 37-1-1, and dismantled him to win by TKO7. At the end of that year, he beat another former world champion, Rafael Marquez, who surrendered on his stool after 8 rounds. Lopez was now 30-0 and a unification fight between him and Yuriorkis Gamboa was anxiously awaited. However, before that, he took on the tough old warrior Orlando Salido, 16 April 2011 in Bayamon. Salido surprised the entire world by handing Lopez his first loss by TKO8. The scorecards were all even and stoppage was considered premature by some, so a rematch was issued. On 10 March 2012 in San Juan, Salido proved he was JuanMa's Kryptonite and despite being put down in round 5, he got up and went on to put down and stop Lopez in round 10. JuanMa took almost a year off and came back in early 2013. After two easy victories, he was dismantled by Mikey Garcia and stopped in 4 rounds. In March 2014 he managed however to stop Ponce de Leon once again, this time in 2 rounds. He was down first before nailing De Leon with a huge uppercut and knocking him out. That proved to be his last hooray and he was again stopped by Francisco Vargas by RTD3 and then by Jesus Cuellar by KO2. His last victory was a TKO11 over Wilfredo Vazquez jr. His record is now 36 wins with 32 ko's and 6 losses and 1 draw.

  • #2
    --- Good show Boz!

    Juanma a victim of wine, women, and song more than opponents. Interesting how hated he was compared to Cotto, primarily in the US it seemed to me .

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    • #3
      Originally posted by LondonRingRules View Post
      --- Good show Boz!

      Juanma a victim of wine, women, and song more than opponents. Interesting how hated he was compared to Cotto, primarily in the US it seemed to me .
      Why thank you LRR! And here are some honorable mentions: Daniel Santos, Ivan Calderon, Eric Morel, Esteban de Jesus, John Ruiz (hate to mention him, but he was the first Latin hw champion), Sixto Escobar. Puerto Rico has had the honor to give the Latin world its first lhw and hw champion...quite an honor!

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      • #4
        Good list though I wouldn't rank Camacho so high. Had the potential to be one of the greatest of all time but not the discipline mentally or physically. Looking at your piece about Cotto made me realise how fortunate he was when campaigning in the higher divisions. If memory serves both Foreman and Martinez had bum legs and Geale had to weigh in at 157lbs. Esteban de Jesus would have been on my list for being the only guy to beat Duran below 147lbs if nothing else.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Robbo View Post
          Good list though I wouldn't rank Camacho so high. Had the potential to be one of the greatest of all time but not the discipline mentally or physically. Looking at your piece about Cotto made me realise how fortunate he was when campaigning in the higher divisions. If memory serves both Foreman and Martinez had bum legs and Geale had to weigh in at 157lbs. Esteban de Jesus would have been on my list for being the only guy to beat Duran below 147lbs if nothing else.
          Maybe DeJesus deserves to be there-instead of Escalera. But Escalera made so many title defenses...it's a tough choice.

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