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The Greatest Fights Of All-Time: 14. Robert Quiroga Vs Akeem Afinowoshe

Robert Quiroga vs. Akeem Anifowoshe

Photo via the San Antonio Express-News

14. Robert Quiroga Vs Akeem Afinowoshe

June 15, 1991
San Antonio, Texas
Venue: Hemisfair Arena

I didn’t own my first VCR until 1987. As soon as I got my first VCR, I began recording all the fights that would air on network television. The South Bronx, where I resided, didn’t get fully wired for cable until 1995. I would go to a few friends houses who had cable and they would record the fights that aired on cable for me. One fight that escaped me was a fight between Robert Quiroga and Akeem Anifowoshe for Quiroga’s IBF Super Flyweight title. I heard of a fight between these two fighters that I had never seen fight before was a classic. At the time, I was trading wrestling tapes with a gentleman from Long Island. I inquired as to if he had any knowledge of someone who might have a copy of this fight on tape. Finally, right before Christmas of 1991, my acquaintance from Long Island put me in touch with a young man from San Antonio who had a copy of the fight. We made a deal and my tape arrived right before New Years Eve of 91. That New Year’s Eve, my father and I sat down in his living room and watched the fight on the brand new floor model color television I had gotten my parents for Christmas. It was a perfect example of how two fighters you have no personal investment in can bring you so much drama and excitement for one night.

The 22-year-old native of Nigeria, Akeem Anifowoshe at 5’8” was freakishly talk for the 115 pound division. He was your classic tall, skinny fighter with a good jab and great right cross. The 21-year-old champion Quiroga of San Antonio was your classic, Mexican-style slugger who applied both great pressure and body punching. The first two rounds saw Quiroga land several hard shots to Anifowoshe’s body while trapping him against the ropes. Anifowoshe completely dominated rounds three and four as he kept the fight in the middle of the ring and landed several punishing right crosses. One right cross opened a huge cut above Quiroga’s left eye. After the round ended, my father was salivating at what was to come next. Meanwhile, my mother and my girlfriend at the time were completely frustrated that their New Year’s Eve was being spent watching their men acting like bloodthirsty animals.

Quiroga came back strong in the fifth round, hurting Anifowoshe with a right hand and once again battering him against the ropes. Anifowoshe’s left eye was now beginning to swell. The next four rounds saw both men engage in one heated exchange after another. Anifowoshe’s right crosses were landing at will, yet he was unable to halt Quiroga from landing several punishing shots to his body. After eight rounds, both fighter’s faces had significant damage. Anifowoshe’s left eye was all but closed and he was bleeding inside his mouth. Quiroga’s cut over his right eye had continually bled since it was opened in the third round.

The slugfest intensified in rounds 10 and 11. Both landed at will against each other. My father could not believe that both fighters could take so much incredible punishment without going down. Anifowoshe was swallowing a lot of blood from the cut inside his mouth, but it didn’t seem to affect him at all. The 12th round was an unbelievable display of brutality. Towards the end of the round, Quiroga landed several hammering left hooks and right crosses that briefly hurt Anifowoshe. Both landed several bombs right before the bell rang. Quiroga won a decision, but this was a fight that both men lost.

Seconds after the fight ended, Anifowoshe collapsed in his corner. This was more than a decade before social media. The national sports media at the time only covered the major fights. I had heard about how great this fight was, but I never inquired as to who won and the end result. I hadn’t purchased a boxing magazine in over a year. So my father and I were watching this fight as though it was live. The only thing we knew was that it was a can’t miss fight. The tape ended with medical personnel tending to an unconscious Anifowoshe.

The day after New Year’s, I went on my lunch break from work to the nearest public library and did a microfilm search on the fight. According to all the reports I found, Anifowoshe had suffered severe blood clots in his brain and was in a coma by the time he was brought to the hospital that night. Anifowoshe awoke from his coma in less than a day, but his career at the age of 22 was over as the result of the brain damage he acquired due to the insane amount of punishment he took from Quiroga. Unable to find employment due to both his brain damage and inability to box, Anifowoshe began trafficking drugs. After he was caught, he was deported back to Nigeria. Once back in Nigeria, he foolishly began training for a comeback fight. He died at the age of 26 after collapsing from a beating he sustained during a sparring session.

Nineteen months after his war with Anifowoshe, Quiroga lost his title. He too was never the same after the punishment he had endured against Afinowoshe and he retired after losing his title. Two years later, Quiroga made a brief comeback, being outclassed by a journeyman fighter. Quiroga finally retired for good at the age of 25 in 1995. On August 16, 2004, while playing cards at a friend’s house, Quiroga got into an argument with a gentleman named Ricky Merla. The ensuing argument resulted in Merla murdering Quiroga by stabbing him 13 times. Quiroga was only 36 years old at the time of his death. Merla received a sentence of 40 years in prison.

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