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Claude Noel-Pride of Tobago


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While doing the research for my last thread, I found out that this guy was the first boxer from Trinidad and Tobago to win a world title as a pro. Noel was a technically clever boxer, who also had some punching power, and fought some of the best at 135 in his time. He managed to win the WBA light title in 1981 but lost it in his first defense by a KO to Arturo Frias, who then lost it to Ray Mancini. After that, Noel also won the Commonwealth title, but his career soon unravelled after that and that would be his final achievement. This is the story of Trinidad and Tobago's first world champion in boxing.

 

Noel was born 22 August 1949 in Roxborough, Tobago, so he is a Tobagian, not a Trinidadian. ;-) In his early teenage years, he began selling mango and other tropical fruits, before starting to box and turning pro in 1973. He won his first 6 fights, all by knockout, before losing the 7th by TKO 10 to Lennox Blackmore, a known Jamaican contender who later fought Aaron Pryor for the world title. He would win one fight before again losing to Blackmore, the same way. He continued winning after that and won his next 12 fights, also winning the national light title by a KO 9 against Fitzroy Giuseppi and the Latin American light title by PTS12 against Pedro Acosta Nunez. He then challenged for the vacant WBA title, vacated by Roberto Duran himself. His opponent was Ernesto Espana of Venezuela (25-1 at the time) and the fight was staged at Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 16 June 1979. Noel was down in the first round, and although he recovered and came back into the fight, he was again down in the ninth and finally knocked out in the thirteenth. After this debacle, Noel defended his Latin American title against Antonio Cruz by SD 12 in May 1980 and then in March next year beat the contender Gaetan Hart (another Aaron Pryor-challenger) by TKO 3.

 

He landed another shot at the WBA title on 12 September that same year, 1981, against Rodolfo Gonzalez, who was 19-0-1 at the time. Gonzalez was coming off a win over Andy Ganigan and was a Mexican warrior. They faced off at Ballys Park Place Hotel in Atlantic City and Noel boxed very cleverly, confusing Gonzalez with his carefully calculated spurts from the middle of the ring. He then started backing Gonzalez against the ropes and firing left hooks to the head. Noel was however cut over the right eye in rounds 8 and 14 from punches of his opponent, but managed to last the distance and was in the end victorious on all scorecards and with comfortable margins. Thus, he became a hero of his home country, their first world boxing champion. A little less than 3 months later however, on 5 December, he had to defend his title against Arturo Frias. a Californian-Mexican fighter. The fight was staged at Showboat Hotel & Casino in Vegas, which favored Frias since it was not far from California. Noel on the other hand didn't look so good in the fight, but he managed to win a few rounds before getting knocked out in round 8. It was a devastating end to his championship glory. He would rebound by winning the Commonwealth title against Aussie Barry Michael, a future world champion at 130, by MD 15 in Melbourne, 22 July 1982. That would be his final achievement however and he found himself on the losing end again, fighting against Olympic champion Howard Davis jr in Miami on 12 November. He lost by UD 10. Next year on 24 April, he fought his most famous opponent, Alexis Arguello; Noel was knocked down in the first round and in the third he injured his hip and was unable to continue-thus losing by a TKO. He then defended his Commonwealth title twice, first on points against Steve Asson and then by a TKO 7 against Davidson Andeh. However, he again ran into bad luck as he was stopped in his next fight against Rene Arredondo, future two-time light welter world champion. Noel lost by TKO 2 at Olympic Auditorium in LA on 17 May 1984.

 

After losing on points to Canadian Mario Cusson, he was again stopped by a KO 4 against Tsuyoshi Hamada in Japan, before finally losing his Commonwealth title to Australian Graeme Brooke; the fight happened on 2 November same year in Melbourne and Noel put Brooke down in the fourth but in the end lost clearly on all scorecards. That would be his last fight and he retired after 11 years as a pro, with a record of 31 wins, scoring 18 ko's, and 10 losses. The Claude Noel highway on Tobago was named in his honor.

 

ClaudeNoel.jpeg

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