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Forgotten Champions: Rafael Del Valle


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The guy known for his stunning first-round knockout of Duke McKenzie, where he also won his only world title. Del Valle was a fine and hard-hitting fighter from Puerto Rico who didn't have a long career but achieved enough in his little less than 9 years as a pro. His career went downhill after losing the title to Alfred Kotey, somewhat surprisingly, and even though he once again fought for a world title, his career would never be the same. 

He was born 16 October 1967 in Santurce, Puerto Rico. He first boxed as amateur and won the bronze at the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis, in the bantam category. Del Valle turned pro in May 1989 and went 12-0 with 8 ko's before he, rather early, got to fight for the WBO bantam title against Duke McKenzie, the pride of Croydon and England. The fight took place at the Royal Albert Hall, 13 May 1992. The taller McKenzie was known as a slick boxer, but here he would experience a shock defeat to the shorter but dangerous Puerto Rican. As McKenzie threw a jab in the first round, Del Valle countered with a short left which put the champion down. McKenzie rose at the count of eight and proceeded with the fight, but Del Valle charged at him and hit him with a right and then a big left that put him out cold, after less than 2 minutes of the fight!

Couldn't have been a more stunning way to begin a championship reign. For his first defence, Del Valle took on his countryman Wilfredo Vargas, who had a record of 15-5, at home in PR of course. The scorecards were divided when Del Valle stopped Vargas by TKO in the 5th. In his second defence, he scored a win over another big name, even though no longer in his prime: Miguel "Happy" Lora. Del Valle defeated Lora by a wide UD to retain his title for the second time, in San Juan, capital of PR. He hadn't fought for 13 months before his third defence, which might have been the cause of the downfall. He went to York Hall in Bethnal Green, London, and fought the much younger brother of David Kotey, Alfred, on 30 July 1994. He lost convincingly on all scorecards and was thus no longer the champion, after 2 years.

He came back and scored 5 wins, 4 by ko, before winning the WBA Fedelatin super bantam title by TKO10 against Ramon Guzman. That was in March 1996, but 5 months later, he surprisingly drew against the 8-4 Marius Heriberto Frias. Next year, he scored two more knockout wins and then on 8 February 1998 he fought Enrique Sanchez for the vacant WBA super bantam title, at Harrah's Casino in Lake Charles, USA. He once again lost a clear unanimous decision and decided to retire after that. His record is 23 wins, 17 by ko, 2 losses and 1 draw. He has never been knocked out. 

Rafael Del Valle is one of those fighters very few people know about these days and those that do mainly know of him because he knocked out Duke McKenzie. For a while, he was surely one of the best bantams in the world. However, it appears inactivity was to blame for losing his world title. He was the first guy to knock out McKenzie and for that he will always be known. Which may not be such a bad thing. And for that-he is a FORGOTTEN CHAMPION!


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