By Anthony “Zute” George – Barbecues. Ballgames. Beaches. Movies. Fireworks. We celebrate the Fourth of July in the good ole USA in many ways. For me, it is always about boxing. For as long as I can remember, I set aside time to binge boxing matches from my library on the day America celebrates its independence. Indeed, I was binge-watching pugilism even before Netflix was just a company where you received your DVDs in the mail.
Truth be told, I watch old boxing matches all the time. But on certain holidays, I go out of my way to make it more of a thing, if you will. Whatever that means. This year, I decided to set aside fights linked to particular aspects of the meaning of America. Therefore, here are the six fights I have chosen to binge, as well as why I connect them to America’s Independence. Why six? Well, is there anything more American than a six pack?
My sixpack, in chronological order, is as follows:
1. Carlos Monzon UD 15 Rodrigo Valdes II (July 30th, 1977).
Why this fight?
After all, neither fighter is American, right? Not only that, but they also hardly fought on American soil. Monzon only once. While Valdes fought in the USA a lot more, none of his championship fights took place in the states. Why would I then choose to start my Fourth of July binge with such a fight? More than anything, America is fascinated with guns and murderers. You can blame the state of the country now and the youth of today all you want, but the last time I checked, Charles Manson was getting fan mail way before the invention of social media. Boxing fans worship King Carlos despite being a lousy murderer, and I find it perplexing. I get it; he was a great fighter and that is why I chose this fight. All his attributes were on display in his final battle inside the squared circle. Still, can we scale back the love affair with him just a bit, considering he did what many of us would never even dream of? The last time I checked, people have no issue spewing venom at Floyd Mayweather Jr. for some of his antics. None of which ended in murder. Nevertheless, I suppose enjoying a classic Monzon fight is not against the rules, and this fight is among his more aesthetically pleasing.
2.Carlos Palomino KO 13 Jose Palacios (December 10th, 1977).
Why this fight?
The first time I had the pleasure of speaking with King Carlos, he inspired me with the story of how he and his beloved brother were enthralled with America when they first came over from Mexico. Indeed, they were living in poverty when they moved to the States, but Carlos explained that poverty in the USA was much different than poverty in his home country. Running water and electricity were perfect strangers to the Palomino family living in impoverished conditions in Mexico. They embraced these utilities with glee, despite not having much else.
Carlos eventually fought his way out of poverty by becoming a world champion and a crossover star in the entertainment business. What a country! I chose this particular fight because I recently obtained a full version of it in my collection, albeit the Spanish-speaking version. As far as I know, a complete version of the CBS telecast does not exist. If anywhere knows differently, let me know. Also, it is an excellent action fight. Palacios took advantage of Palomino’s well-known deficiencies early in fights. Still, Carlos was built to last. Always stronger as the fight progressed. At his best in the championship rounds-thirteen to fifteen in his day.
King Carlos was such a joy to watch. His lead left hook was a thing of beauty and made the best of men crumble upon impact. What is also great about this fight is the Palomino right hand also has a significant impact on the outcome.
3.. Marvelous Marvin Hagler UD 10 Bennie Briscoe (August 24th, 1979).
Why this fight?
I never have a binge party without including a Hagler fight. For me, he is the greatest fighter I ever saw. Period. So, why not pick a fight that took place in Philadelphia for a Fourth of July celebration? Hagler’s Philly Wars are very much publicized. Extremely important to his career.
Proving he can flourish as a road warrior. Not afraid to test himself. Still, his fight with Double B typically does not get as much attention as his other Philly scraps. This is a shame because if you sit down and watch this fight with your undivided attention, you will witness how fantastic a boxer the Marvelous One was. I watch it any chance I can get.
4. Bert Cooper UD 12 Henry Tillman (June 15th, 1986)
Why this fight?
Twofold. Tillman is part of a common American boxing theme where his superb amateur career failed to translate as a pro on the same level. See Joe Belinc, Sugar Ray Seales, Paul Gonzalez, Duane Bobick, Tyrell Biggs, and so on. While Smokin’ Bert’s story is an American tragedy.
Despite being a hero to so many inside the ring. His life ended when he finally seemed to be in a great place. A place that was as elusive as Floyd Mayweather Jr. inside the ring when Bert provided so many thrills for boxing fans.
This fight is also chocked full of action. A call to arms for the underappreciated cruiserweight division.
Farewell, Bert; I was proud to know you for just a little bit.
5. Greg Haugen UD 15 Vinny Paz (February 6th, 1988).
Why this fight?
In case you did not know, Greg is one of my favorites. After all, I wrote a book about the guy. Very few fighters exemplified the common American moniker of hard work paying off when Greg Haugen was right. When Greg worked hard, he had a fantastic run on ESPN Boxing, where time and time again he flourished against a guy who was supposed to beat him. When Greg worked hard, he pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the decade by outboxing Jimmy Paul over fifteen rounds. Indeed, he reaped the benefits of hard work When Greg worked hard, he showed who was boss against the sensational Vinny Paz in the most unfriendly conditions in The Pazmanian Devil’s hometown of Rhode Island. Only to be shafted by the judges.
Whatever your feelings are about the decision in that first fight with Paz, Greg thought he was robbed and knew he would have to work even harder to get his title back. Haugen probably never worked as hard as he did leading up to the second fight with Vinny. The result was a majestic performance that even Paz said. “He kicked my ass.” Haugen’s work in the pocket was, in a word, perfection. I never get tired of watching it. If Greg does not belong in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, his jab in that fight certainly does. Unfortunately, Greg’s story is also filled with many American tragedies. But this fight is a master class. The Poster Boy for just how fruitful hard work can be. I choose to focus on that.
6. Orlando Canizales TKO 8 Billy Hardy II (May 4th, 1991).
Why this fight?
Orlando Canizales is a great American mystery. The Marvelous One and Salvador Sanchez are the only fighters I watch more than the man from Laredo, Texas. One of the most outstanding technicians to ever lace up the boxing gloves.
He could also crack with both hands and had a great chin. Although with his exceptional defense, it was not tested as much as most of his peers. Why he is not in everyone’s top five bantamweights of all time is a mystery. Why he is never even mentioned as a pound- for- pound great defies all logic. Indeed, if you genuinely understand what P4P is supposed to mean, you cannot name more than six or seven men in boxing history more worthy than Orlando. I firmly believe that. Why I might be the only one who holds this belief? ….mystery.
This rematch with Hardy is especially fun. Orlando managed just a split decision victory over Hardy in 1990. The second time around, Mr. Canizales left no doubt who the superior pugilist was.
If performing exponentially better in a rematch is a strong indicator of a boxer’s greatness, that indicator is another notch in the championship belt of this great man. Both in this fight, against Sergio Reyes, Richard De Jesus, and the aforementioned Paul Gonzalez.
There you have it. A little peek into how I will be celebrating this American holiday.
What say you?
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