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Ranking the best Panamanian fighters of all time

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  • Ranking the best Panamanian fighters of all time

    Panama has always had the strongest boxing tradition of all Middle-American countries, save for Mexico of course. But of all the smaller countries, it is number 1 in that respect. Their greatest son was and is of course Roberto Duran, but Panama produced some other greats such as Ismael Laguna, Eusebio Pedroza, Ernesto Marcel, Anselmo Moreno, Celestino Caballero and not least Panama Al Brown, their first world champion. Then we also have Guillermo Jones, Vicente Mosquera and Luis Concepcion, of furious action fighters. Panama has given us both clever technicians and action fighters. So, get ready for a tour thru Panama's boxing history!

    1. Roberto Duran

    This one is never in doubt. This guy belongs to the echelon of boxing history and can't be denied his rightful no.1 spot here. This Chorillo, Panama City's toughest neighborhood-native was both a clever boxer and a tough warrior who could box and punch. He is considered by many the greatest lightweight in history and reigned there as the world champion from 1972 to 1978, making 12 defenses. He beat Ken Buchanan for the WBA title of course, by TKO13 and beat such names as Esteban de Jesus (first by KO11 and then by TKO12), Guts Ishimatsu (TKO10) and Hector Thompson (TKO8), winning the WBC title in his third match with De Jesus. He stepped up to welterweight in grand fashion and dethroned the great Sugar Ray Leonard in an unforgettable war 20 June 1980 in Montreal. However, he was coaxed too soon into another fight with Leonard and he had a hard time getting in shape. He infamously quit after 8 rounds due to Leonard's box and run tactics which annoyed him and which he could not deal with in that shape. After unsuccessfully challenging Wilfred Benitez for the WBC super welter title in 1982, he won the WBA title at that weight class against Davey Moore, on his 32nd birthday, 16 June 1983 at MSG. He pounded Moore into a bloody defeat in 8 rounds and was then named the Comeback of the Year by The Ring. He never defended that title and instead first challenged the undisputed middleweight champion Marvin Hagler, becoming the first man to last the distance against Hagler in a championship fight and losing in a close and competitive fight by close scores. He then made a mistake and challenged Tommy Hearns, the WBC 154-pound champion, and the two fought on 15 June '84 and the much taller knockout artist Hearns nailed him with a perfect right which put him out cold after a minute in round 2. Duran's last great succcess was winning the WBC middle title against another much bigger man, Iron Barkley, 24 February '89, by SD. He again fought Leonard for his WBC super middle title later that year, but was too bloated and slow to produce a good performance and lost by UD. Duran finally retired in 2001, after fighting for 32 years, and aged 50! His record is 103 wins with 70 ko's, and 16 losses, 4 by ko. He was only knocked out for real twice, by Hearns and then when he was 47 against William Joppy. He was inducted by IBHOF in 2007.

    2. Eusebio Pedroza

    With 19 defenses, Pedroza is no.1 in his country's history in that respect. A very tall featherweight at 5'8 (some sources say 5'9), Pedroza was a very good technician who simply knew how to win fights. He also had excellent stamina and most of his stoppage victories as a champion came in the late rounds. He was clever but unpolished and with his size dominated his often-shorter opponents with his constant attack. He started fighting professionally at the age of 17 and already in April '76 he challenged the WBA bantam champion Alfonso Zamora, but was knocked out in 2 rounds. On 15 April '78, he captured the WBA feather title by stopping the excellent Cecilio Lastra by TKO13 at home in Panama City. His first famous challenger was Ruben Olivares, who was no longer at his best but still good enough to be a worthy challenger. Pedroza stopped him by TKO12 in a fight in Houston, Texas, 21 July '79. His first true test came in the form of Rocky Lockridge, at 5'6 considerably shorter but a dangerous and hard-hitting fighter who also could box. They fought on 4 October '80 in McAfee, USA and Pedroza retained his title in a tough fight where he came back strong in the second half, as usual, to win by SD15. Lockridge and his corner complained of robbery, so they had to fight again, eventually. Pedroza first beat Juan Laporte by UD15 and drew against Bernard Taylor before fighting Lockridge again 24 April '83 and this time won by UD, in San Remo, Italy. His last successful defense came in February '85 against former WBA bantam champ Jorge Lujan and Pedroza won by UD. He finally lost his title on 8 June that year, fighting in Shepherd's Bush, London, against the young lion from Ireland, Barry McGuigan. Pedroza was down in the 7th round and lost clearly on all scorecards. After 7 years and 19 defenses, that was it. He had a few more fights before retiring in 1992, after losing by SD10 to Mauro Gutierrez. His record is 41 wins with 25 ko's, 6 losses and 1 draw. "El Alacran (Scorpion) Pedroza died 1 March 2019, aged 62. He was inducted into IBHOF in 1999.

    3. Panama Al Brown

    Probably the tallest bantam ever, Brown was reported to stand 5'11, but newer sources provide 5'9. He was still exceptionally tall for that division and also had serious power and was durable and tough. He also had a very big reach of 76". Born Alphonso Teofilo Brown in Colon, Panama, he started boxing after watching American military personnel engage in that sport. He was also known under the alias Kid Teophilo. He turned pro in 1922, aged 19 and won the New York State Athletic title (akin to the world title back then) by UD15 against Gregorio Vidal on 18 June '29 at Queensboro stadium. He first defended it by a disqualification in 4 against Johnny Erickson, where he also won the NBA title. On 4 October '30, he won the IBU title against Frenchman Eugene Huat in Paris, by UD15. He never defended it and instead he fought Pete Sanstol with the NBA and NYSAC titles at stake, and for Sanstol's Canadian Boxing Federation and Montreal Athletic Commission title, 25 August '31 at Forum in Montreal. He won by SD15. He was then stripped of the NYSAC title in September. He once again fought Huat with the titles at stake and once again beat him by UD. In July '32 he once again won the IBU title by SD against Kid Francis, once again in Paris and then in September that year he famously knocked out French puncher and former world flyweight champ Emile Pladner in 1 round in a defense of NBA belt. He was the world champion until 1 June '35, when he lost on points to Baltasar Sangchili in Valencia, Spain. On 13 September that year, he again fought Pete Sanstol, this time in Oslo, and lost to him by UD10. Brown retired but came back 2 years later and in 1938 he again won the IBU title by beating Sangchili by SD, in Paris. However, that would be his last hooray and he fought non-title fights before retiring in 1942. His record is 129 wins with 59 ko's, 19 losses and 12 draws. He has never been knocked out, most likely due to his height. Brown died in 1951, aged 48 and was inducted by IBHOF in 1992.

    4. Hilario Zapata

    One of the greatest light flyweights ever, Hilario "Bujia" Zapata was the two-time WBC champion at this weight and also the WBA flyweight champion. He has 15 world title defenses altogether in those 3 title reigns. Zapata was a boxer who most often won on points in his championship fights, who was durable and tough. He first challenged the WBA light fly champion Alfonso Lopez in only his 7th pro fight, dropping a split decision to him in 1978. He won his first WBC belt in 1980, by UD15 over Shigeo Nakajima in Kokugikan, Japan. He made 8 successful defenses, most notably against Joey Olivo (future WBA champion) by RTD13 and German Torres (future WBC champion) by UD15. He lost the title by shock upset KO2 against unheralded Amado Ursua, 6 February 1982. Only 5 months later, 20 July, he got to fight for it again against Tadashi Tomori and recaptured it by SD15. In his first defense, he made his greatest achievement by beating the 18-0 future hall of famer Jung Koo Chang by another SD. After stopping Tomori by TKO8 in his second defense, he was then stopped in the rematch with Chang by TKO3. In December 1984, he tried to win the WBA fly title but was decisioned by Santos Laciar in Buenos Aires. He finally became a champion again by beating Alonzo Gonzalez for the vacant WBA title by UD, 5 October 1985 in Panama City. This time he made 5 defenses, most notably beating Dodie Boy Penalosa by UD, before losing the title away in Colombia to their favorite Fidel Bassa, by UD, 13 February 1987. They had a rematch in August but it ended a draw. Zapata had his final fight against Sung Kil-Moon on 27 February 1993, but by then he was just a shadow of his old self and was easily stopped by the Korean whirlwind by TKO1, fighting for the WBC super fly title. He was almost 35 when he retired and his record is 43 wins, 14 by ko, 10 losses and 1 draw. He was inducted by IBHOF in 2016.

    5. Ismael Laguna

    Laguna, known as "El Tigre Colonense" or "Tiger of Colon", was a splendid boxer who had an aggressive style, a great jab and enough power to knock most opponents out. He only lost against the best, with the exception of two fights, where he was likely robbed, fighting away in Colombia. He shocked everyone by beating Carlos "Golden Lightweight" Ortiz in April 1965 to win the undisputed world light championship. He bullied Ortiz into winning by a majority decision in Panama City. He lost the title to Ortiz in November that year, by UD, in Ortiz's home country of Puerto Rico. After losing another rematch to him in 1967, again by UD, he sensationally stopped Mando Ramos by TKO9 in March 1970 to win the same championship again. Ramos was badly cut up by Laguna's jab and had to quit. This time, Laguna made one successful defense by stopping Guts Ishimatsu by TKO13 in June, before losing the titles in September to Ken Buchanan, by a SD15, once again losing his championship in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In September next year, he had a rematch with Buchanan, but only for the WBA title, and this time lost by UD in Madison Square Garden. He retired after that, with a record of 65 wins, 37 by ko, 9 losses and 1 draw. He has never been stopped. He was inducted by IBHOF in 2001.

    6. Anselmo Moreno

    What a fabulous technical and defensive fighter this guy was. Among his "scalps" are those of Vic Darchinyan, Lorenzo Parra and Volodymyr Sydorenko. Moreno became a pro in 2002 and only lost one fight early on, by SD4 to Ricardo Molina. He then beat the same guy by TKO9 to win the vacant WBA Fedecentro super fly title in January 2005, before also winning the bantam version of that title, by UD10 against former world champion Felix Machado, in May 2006. He finally received a real world title shot against then-WBA bantam champion Sydorenko and had to go to Dusseldorf in Germany, where he was based. He defied all odds when he beat the 21-0-2 Sydorenko convincingly on all scorecards. He made 8 defenses of that lone belt, beating Nehomar Cermeno twice (both by SD) and Lorenzo Parra once (by RTD8) , before fighting IBO champion Vic Darchinyan on 3 December 2011 and beating him with another convincing UD. He could not keep the IBO title however, but defended his WBA one succesfully (he had in the meantimg been upgraded to super champion, before the Parra fight) one more time against David De La Mora by RTD8. He then fought for the WBC title against Abner Mares and lost, after being down once and deducted a point, by UD, 10 November 2012. His WBA title was not at stake however, and he defended it twice more, against William Urina and Javier Nicholas Chacon, both times by UD. He then lost his title controversially against Juan Carlos Payano, who got cut and could not continue after 6 rounds. Payano was ahead on the scorecards and so was proclaimed the winner by technical decision. On 22 September 2015, Moreno fought the WBC bantam champion Shinsuke Yamanaka in Tokyo and lost to him by a controversial split decision. He was stopped in the rematch 16 September 2016 by TKO7 and thus ended his prime. He was also knocked out in his next fight, in 3 rounds against Julio Ceja. He is still listed as active, but it is clear he has already achieved everything he was supposed to. His record is 38 wins, 12 by ko, 6 losses and 1 draw.

    7. Celestino Caballero

    A reincarnation of Panama Al Brown, Caballero stands 5'11 and was thus an EXCEPTIONALLY tall super bantam and featherweight. He was a true destroyer and a ko artist who has had a very good career, but has also experienced a few upsetting losses. Known as "Pelenchin", he turned pro already in 1998 but early on he had a couple losses, first getting knocked out in 3 by Jose Rojas in 2003 and then next year losing to national rival Ricardo Cordoba by UD and also getting knocked down once, in a fight for the NABA and Panamanian sbw title. He first won the interim WBA title against Yober Ortega by UD in October 2005, before winning the full title by TKO3 against Somsak Sitchchatchawal in Thailand, 4 October 2006. He defeated former IBA champion Jorge Lacierva by UD and then stopped the former IBF light fly champion Mauricio Pastrana by TKO8, both in 2007. In 2008, he stopped Lorenzo Parra by corner retirement in 11 rounds, who retired because of an injury. His most impressive victory was against the 28-0 IBF champion Steve Molitor; Caballero went to Molitor's hometown of Rama, Canada to stop him by a TKO4, thus winning another title. He made 2 defenses as a unified champion, by SD against Jeffrey Mathebula and by RTD7 against Francisco Leal, before vacating them to step up to featherweight. After beating the unbeaten Daud Cino Yordan by UD, he dropped a controversial SD10 to American Jason Litzau at the MGM Grand, 27 November 2010. He then fought Jonathan Victor Barros for his WBA title but again lost by a split decision, despite flooring Barros twice. He once again fought Barros in Argentina and this time won by a wide UD to win his third world title, at a second weight class. He beat Satoshi Hosono by UD in Yokohama to make one defense of it in December 2011, before vacating it in October next year. He fought Robinson Castellanos for the WBC Silver title on 20 April 2013 but was down once and lost by a razor-thin SD12 in Panama City. His last fight was on 4 October 2014 and he lost by UD to then-unbeaten Adrian Estrella, after being down three times. He retired after 16 years as a pro, aged 38 and with a record of 37 wins, 24 by ko, and 6 losses, 1 by ko.

    8. Guillermo Jones

    The best "big boy" from Panama and their only world champion at cruiserweight, Jones was known as "El Felino" while boxing, and also "El Jefe", the boss. Standing 6'4 and with a reach of 76 inches, Jones was a magnificent beast, equally adept at infighting as outside-fighting, and could punch hard, also equipped with above average chin. He was only knocked out once, while fighting at 154, in 2 rounds by David Noel, but he avenged that with a TKO1 immediately thereafter. Jones first fought as a welter, turning pro in 1993 at the age of 21, and won the WBC FECARBOX title by TKO1 against Jaime Mayorga. A native of Colon like Ismael Laguna, he often fought there. He was 21-0 before that loss to Noel, winning 11 fights in 1 round. He also won the WBA Fedelatin title at 147 and 154. In 1997, he knocked out Jorge Luis Vado, who had fought Terry Norris recently, in 1 round. On 13 February '98, he fought against Laurent Boudouani for his WBA super welter title, but was denied his deserved victory in a draw, getting the nod from one of the judges. They had a rematch on 30 May in Vegas and this time he lost by a controversial SD. He eventually became a cruiser and 23 November 2002 fought Johnny Nelson for his WBO title in Derby, but once again was denied the victory by the judges, the verdict was a split draw. As if that was not enough, in 2005 he also lost a controversial SD10 to Steve Cunningham, even though that fight was rather close. He then stopped Kelvin Davis and Wayne Braithwaite, both by TKO4, before finally winning the WBA title against Firat Arslan on 27 September 2008 in Altona, Germany. Jones bust up Arslan and stopped him by TKO10. However, for unknown reasons, he was away from the ring for 2 years, yet somehow still was allowed to keep his title. He finally defended it against Valery Brudov and won by TKO11, on this date in 2010. On 5 November next year, he beat Michael Marrone by TKO6 in a second defense and then on 17 May 2013, he went to Russia to fight Denis Lebedev in an unforgettable war, where he in the end prevailed by TKO11. However, he tested positive for a banned substance and the result was changed into No Contest. He then became a heavyweight but only had 3 fights there before retiring, after winning the vacant WBA Fedelatin title by SD11 against Ytalo Perea, 18 November 2017. His record is 41 wins, 30 by ko, 3 losses and 2 draws.

    9. Ernesto Marcel

    Fighters seldom achieve their best victory in their last fight-that is exactly what this guy did. Known as "Nato Flat Nose", Marcel was a skilled featherweight with power who won the WBC title in his rather short career and defended it 4 times. Marcel stood 5'6 and was born in Colon, but lived in Panama City. He turned pro in 1966, aged 18. He first fought as a bantam and won the national title there in 1969, by TKO6 against Eugenio Hurtado. In May 1970, he took on the then-19 yearold Roberto Duran in a fight at super featherweight and lost by TKO10. In his next fight, he won the Panamanian feather title by UD12 against Miguel Riasco. He went to Japan to fight the WBC champ Kuniaki Shibata, 11 November 1971, but the fight ended in a draw. He then fought the WBA champion Antonio Gomez of Venezuela, in Maracay, 19 August 1972. Marcel badly battered and bloodied Gomez, enforcing the stoppage after 10 rounds, thus becoming the champion. He beat Gomez again in his second defense, by TKO12 this time. He knocked out Japanese Spider Nemoto in 9 in his third defense and then in his fourth and final one he faced the man who would later become a legend and a hall of famer: Alexis Arguello. Arguello was still 21 when they fought, but with a 5-inch height advantage. Still, Marcel had the experience on his side and he dominated most of the fight, especially round 7 where he hit Arguello with many stiff punches. In the end, the fight went the distance and Marcel was the winner by the scores of 146-140 twice and 146-142. He surprisingly retired after that fight, at only 26. He thus became one of the few to retire as world champions. His record is 40 wins with 23 ko's, 4 losses and 2 draws. Ernesto Marcel died 29 June this year, aged 72.

    10. Ricardo Cordoba

    A very underrated fighter who several times got on the short end of some questionable decisions, Cordoba was a tall super bantam at 5'8 who was both clever and a good boxer and could punch and brawl. He unfortunately never got to win the full world title, but he won the interim WBA one in 2008. Cordoba comes from San Miguelito and is one of few known boxers from that town in the far northwest of the country. He started fighting professionally at 17 and was at first a super flyweight. He won the WBC FECARBOX title at that weight by stopping Alex Saavedra by TKO9 in 2001. In October 2003, he won the WBC Latino and Panamanian titles at the weight as well, but then first had a fight at bantamweight for the WBC Latino title and won by TKO1 and then fought the even-taller Celestino Caballero for the NABA and Panamanian super bantam titles, 25 May 2004 in a great domestic showdown. Cordoba proved he was, at least for the time being, better of the two when he dominated the fight and put Caballero down once to win by a wide UD. His next fight was tragical, as his opponent Carlos Meza died after being stopped in the 12th round. On 31 August 2005, Cordoba went to Bangkok to fight Prakorb Udomna (also known as Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym) for the interim WBA bantam title and after a tough, action-packed fight, Udomna won by a split decision. Cordoba then challenged the full WBA champion, Volodymyr Sydorenko, and fought him in Altona, Germany, 11 March 2006. Despite outlanding the shorter Ukrainian, only one judge gave him the fight, while the other two had it even. They had a rematch on 17 March next year, but once again, despite dominating much of the fight, he had to settle for a draw. On 18 September 2008, he finally won his only big title, the interim WBA one, when he beat former IBF super fly and bantam champion Luis Alberto Perez by a wide UD. He then got to fight for the full title against Bernard Dunne, but he had to go to Dublin. That night on 21 March 2009 was unforgettable, but it would turn out bad for Cordoba. After getting floored in the third round, he scored two knockdowns in the fifth, but he was affected by a cold and he faded in the late rounds, eventually getting badly knocked out in the eleventh. He again fought for the interim title against Guillermo Rigondeaux on 13 November 2010 in Arlington, Texas. He was down once in the fourth and came back to put Rigondeaux in the sixth, but ultimately lost once again by SD. He retired in 2012 after winning two low-key fights. His record is 39 wins, 25 by ko, 3 losses and 2 draws.

  • #2
    For a small country Panama has produced some tremendous fighters. Duran is far and away the best LW of all time for me. Can you think of any other 37 year old ex lightweight who would have beaten Iran Barkley?

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Robbo View Post
      For a small country Panama has produced some tremendous fighters. Duran is far and away the best LW of all time for me. Can you think of any other 37 year old ex lightweight who would have beaten Iran Barkley?
      Don't think so! That was just an unbelievable feat. A 37-yearold, 5'7 guy who probably came in a pound over what he weighed in, against the 28-yearold, 6'1 guy who came in at probably 170 or 175. And Duran still put him down and kicked his ass for much of the fight.

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      • #4
        - -Duran beat a vastly better version of Barkley than did Toney. A brief overlap in divisions coulda seen Roberto bury his fists into Toneys ugly mug for the purists to bawl about!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by LondonRingRules View Post
          - -Duran beat a vastly better version of Barkley than did Toney. A brief overlap in divisions coulda seen Roberto bury his fists into Toneys ugly mug for the purists to bawl about!
          I think by then, alas, Roberto was not the same anymore, but he did fight pretty well against Vinny Paz. He just tired in the later rounds. That's the big problem.

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          • #6
            --- Another thing about Duran was that his father was Mexican, Ay Chihuahua!!!

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            • #7
              Originally posted by LondonRingRules View Post
              --- Another thing about Duran was that his father was Mexican, Ay Chihuahua!!!
              Hehe...did you see that movie, when he meets his father? "I thought he looked like Paul Newman, but he looks like Pancho Villa."

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