50. Alexis Argüello Vs Alfredo Escalera II
February 4, 1979
Venue: The Sports Palace
A year prior to their rematch, Alexis Argüello and Alfredo Escalera engaged in a fight so brutal that it was forever christened as “The Bloody Battle of Bayamon.” The referee stopped the fight in the 13th round as Escalera’s lower lip was hanging and an Argüello punch away from getting completely ripped off. Their rematch was even more brutal, the ending being my number 50 knockout in boxing history.
Through 12 rounds, Escalera, despite being knocked down twice and hurt several times, had himself hurt Argüello and busted up his face. The self-proclaimed Puerto Rican Snake had the heart of a lion. All that heart was never going to be enough to defeat the greatest athlete to ever hail from Nicaragua. Midway through the 13th round, to the disappointment of my father and I who were heavily rooting for our fellow Puerto Rican, Argüello landed a short, picture-perfect left hook that briefly paralyzed Escalera. Escalera got up and fell face-first into the corner as referee Angelo Poletti counted him out. Arguello consoled Escalera like the gentleman he was. This fight was the beginning of my idolizing of Argüello. He would become one of my five favorite fighters of all-time.
After fighting to a lackluster draw in his next fight, Escalera retired and put on 70 pounds to become a pro wrestler. Two years later, he would shed the weight and make a comeback. In the next two years, he fought 15 times, winning 11 of them. He wasn’t the same after the punishment he endured from Argüello, but he was competitive enough to win most of the fights and not get knocked out in any of his losses. He would retire in 1983 at the age of 31. More on Argüello later.
49: Archie Moore Vs Yvon Durelle I
December 10, 1958
Venue: Montreal Forum
Archie Moore was one of several great Black fighters who were denied a world title shot in the 1940s because of the color of their skin. When he finally got his shot in 1952, Moore won a convincing 15-round decision over Joey Maxim to win the World Light Heavyweight Title. Moore was anywhere between the age of 36 and 39 as his real age was never determined. By the time he journeyed to Montreal to defend against the hometown favorite Yvon Durell, Moore’s stranglehold on the 175-pound crown had been dominant. Durelle gave Moore his toughest fight yet during his title reign.
Moore was shockingly knocked down three times in the first round by Durelle. Moore summoned all his guile and intestinal fortitude in order to survive Durelle’s first round onslaught. By the time the fight had gotten to the 11th round, Moore had gained control of the fight.
Durelle came straight at Moore to begin the 11th. Moore deftly avoided the challenger and landed a big counter right. After Moore landed several more rights, Durelle went down again. He barely got up at the count of nine. Seconds later, Moore landed a picture perfect left hook, right cross combination that put Durelle away for good. Former Heavyweight Champion of the World and referee Jack Sharkey counted to 10 and Moore had the most dramatic win of his career. In a rematch eight months later, Moore had already figured Durelle out and blasted him in three rounds.
After his two defeats to Moore, Durelle won eight of his last eleven fights before retiring in 1964 at the age of 35. In 1977, outside a night club he owned in New Brunswick, Durelle shot a man to death. His lawyer, Frank McKenna, successfully got Durelle acquitted as the jury found him innocent by the way of self defense. McKenna wound later become the Premier of New Brunswick. After years of battling Parkinson’s disease, Durelle died due to complications from a stroke on January 6, 2007 at the age of 77.
Moore held the 175-pound world title until being stripped in 1962. He would be a young Cassius Clay’s first trainer, but was fired because he tried to make Clay do chores around Moore’s house as part of his training regiment. His last “real” professional fight occurred on November 15, 1962 when the aforementioned Clay gave him a one-sided beating before knocking him out in the fourth round. Moore was anywhere from 46-to-50 years old when he finally retired. There were several conflicting reports as to exactly what year he was born. Moore had a wonderful life after boxing. He helped future heavyweight greats George Foreman and Ken Norton incorporate his defensive stance into their fighting styles and he appeared in several motion pictures. Moore died on December 9, 1998 of a heart attack, four days before his birthday. He would’ve been approximately 82-to-86 years old at the time of his death.
48. Michael Carbajal VS Humberto “Chiquita” González
March 13, 1993
Las Vegas, Nevada
Venue: Hilton Hotel
When Michael Carbajal signed with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Boxing after winning a silver medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics, he was promised that he would be the first fighter in the Light Flyweight or Flyweight Division ever to make one million dollars for a prizefight. That promise came to fruition when he fought Humberto González in a World Light Flyweight unification title fight. Both men earned one million dollars that night. They also engaged in the greatest fight in the history of that division.
Despite having a five inch height advantage over the aptly named “Chiquita,” Carbajal decided to engage in an all out slugfest with the Mexican born warrior. This resulted in Carbajal being hurt several times and knocked down twice through the first six rounds. Even when Carbajal hurt González, Chiquita would quickly recover and immediately hurt Carbajal in return. After six rounds, it appeared that Chiquita had Carbajal figured out. Then, at the start of round seven, Carbajal landed a left hook that hurt Chiquita badly. Then during another heated exchange late in the round, Carbajal landed a spectacular left hook that put Gonzalez to sleep. Both men more than earned their million dollar purses.
The following year, González would outbox Carbajal and win both rematches by decision. Then, on July 15, 1995, González would get knocked out and lose his title in the seventh round of another war against Saman Sojaturang. González retired after the fight at the age of 29. Carbajal twice won versions of the 108-pound world title before announcing his retirement in 1999 at the age of 31. Ironically, both men were inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame at the same time in 2006. They are two of the greatest little men to ever put on a pair of boxing gloves.
47. Nino Benvenuti VS Luis Rodriguez
November 22, 1969
Venue: Palazzetto Dela Sport
Throughout my childhood into early adulthood, I heard my father mention time after time, the night one of his favorite fighters, Cuban great Luis Rodriguez, had completely dominated the then Middleweight Champion of the World Nino Benvenuti in Nino’s homeland Italy for 10 rounds before his luck ran out. Finally, in 1996, the original Classic Sports Network began airing in New York City and I was able to watch this fight in its entirety with my father.
My father was right. Despite being three inches shorter and Nino being definitively stronger, Rodriguez used his incredible boxing skills to outbox a master boxer in Benvenuti for the first 10 rounds. Nino had one of the great left jabs in 160-pound history and Rodriguez, like many great defensive fighters want to do, took away Nino’s best weapon by constantly going in and out and giving the 160-pound champ awkward angles. My father explained to me throughout the viewing of the fight how Benvenuti took Rodriguez too lightly. Add to this the fact that Italian fans in attendance were dead silent as Rodriguez was carving up
Benvenuti’s face, causing massive cuts above both the champions eyes. It was as though they were watching the funeral of their hometown legend.
The first minute of the 11th round was more of the same. Then, all of a sudden, Rodriguez walked into a short left hook that landed picture perfectly. Rodriguez was out before he crashed to the canvas. He laid motionless as referee Domenico Caraballese counted to ten. He could’ve counted to 100.
Almost exactly a year later, Benvenuti would lose his title to, in my opinion, the greatest Middleweight of all time, Carlos Monzon. After losing the subsequent rematch, Benvenuti retired and became a successful restaurant owner and boxing ambassador. He is still alive and vibrant today at the age of 82.
Rodriguez never fought again for a world title. He’d retire two years later at the age of 34. Rodriguez suffered from multiple ailments including to his heart and kidneys. The former Welterweight Champion finally succumbed to kidney failure at the age of 59 in 1996, right around the time I finally saw his unfortunate knockout loss to Benvenuti.
Both men were eventually inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame; Benvenuti in 1992 and Rodriguez posthumously a year after his death in 1997.
46. Alexis Argüello VS Kevin Rooney
July 31, 1982
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Venue: Bally’s Park Place
On the eve of Alexis Argüello’s Super Lightweight debut against future Mike Tyson trainer Kevin Rooney, the Nicaraguan great had agreed to challenge the division’s WBA king Aaron Pryor. Pryor would be at ringside to see his future opponent up close and personal. What he saw had to send fear throughout his body.
Kevin Rooney was a likable brawler who fought out of the Cus D’Amato Catskills camp. Rooney was a likable pug whose voice sounded eerily like Mugsy Mahoney of Bowery Boys fame. Rooney had an excellent record going into the fight of 19-1. Despite his charm and record, the only person on the planet who actually thought Rooney had a chance against the legendary Argüello was D’Amato.
Round one of the fight saw both fighters feeling each other out. Argüello stayed outside and controlled the second round with his pinpoint left jab. Then, with one second left in the round, Argüello blinded Rooney with his left jab and followed up with a picture perfect right cross that decimated Rooney’s senses. Rooney looked concussed as he was unable to get up before referee Larry Hazzard counted to ten. Being the class act that he was, Argüello rushed over to make sure Rooney was ok. My father and I right then and there felt that Argüello’s power would be too much for Pryor. In the post fight interview with Tim Ryan, Pryor had a look of extreme fear in his face standing next to Alexis. Unfortunately, both my father and I were wrong.
Argüello landed a similar right hand against Pryor in the 13th round of their iconic fight three-and-a-half months later. It was probably the greatest right cross ever landed by Argüello. While it snapped Pryor’s head back like a bobble head, it did not hurt the Cincinnati Hawk. Pryor would knock out Argüello the following round, ending Argüello’s dream of becoming the first four weight class world champion.
Rooney became a journeyman after his knockout loss to Arguello and just a few years later would replace Teddy Atlas as the trainer for a young Mike Tyson. You might’ve heard of him.