The CBZ Newswire

Touching Gloves with…Carlos Palomino

by on Dec.07, 2012, under Boxing News

By Dan Hanley

carlos-palomino

When Carlos Palomino first arrived on the scene, one could almost sense a gentle bow to the styles and fashion of the early ’70s, for the new face of boxing had arrived. Indeed, Palomino, with his shaggy locks and drooping mustache, appeared more at home riding with Eli Wallach’s gang of marauding banditos in The Magnificent Seven than lacing up leather in a four-cornered ring. However, proving himself in and out of the ring became a staple with this ambitious pug.

DH: Carlos, you’re originally from Mexico, is that right?

CP: That’s correct. I’m originally from San Luis de Colorado in Sonora. We came north when I was about ten and eventually settled in Westminster, California. There was about four of us kids then, which eventually grew to eleven.

DH: During the ’60s and ’70s L.A. was such a boom-town in the fight trade. Were you just drawn to the sport?

CP: Not at all. My Dad was a big fight fan and some of his buddies would come over and they would start having a few (laughing), and they would start matching us kids with each other. They’d put the gloves on us and we had to go at it for their entertainment. But I had no interest in it. I was into baseball. I had dreams of playing major league. In fact I was in my late teens playing AA ball down in Tijuana when I had an offer to play AAA ball. But I then got a call from my Dad telling me it was time to come home.

DH: What happened?

CP: (laughing) A little notice from the Selective Service. I was drafted.

DH: Ouch! So much for baseball. Is this where you got your start in formal boxing?

CP: In a round-a-bout way. See, my older brother was just getting out of the army when I was going in and he told me to get in shape before going in, which would make things easier for me in basic training. So, I started going to this gym in Westminster hitting the bag, skipping rope when this coach asked me if I would spar with his fighter. I told him no, that I was just there to get in shape because I was going into the service. His fighter was experienced and in training to defend his Golden Gloves title. The coach was persistent, asking me to just go three rounds with him and I finally agreed.

DH: How did it go?

CP: Well (laughing), I must have done alright because at the end of the 3rd round suddenly every coach in the gym is all over me to come and box for them. I should say, except for one. One coach is hanging back, he doesn’t come near me. I tell everyone else I’m going into the army and that was that. So, I’m ready to leave and finally the one coach comes up to me and said to me that there is a fighter that comes in here that’s just getting out of the service, who might be able to give me some advice. I thought that was great and he said he would call me when he shows up. This coach, by the way, was Noe Cruz, who was with me throughout my career.

DH: Who was the fighter from the service?

CP: Armando Muniz. Noe got ahold of me when he showed, I went over and Mando told me if I got involved and was serious with boxing that he would call Pat Nappi with the U.S. amateur boxing program and recommend me to box for the U.S. army. Which is what I did for my entire hitch.

DH: How did you progress in the service?

CP: I won championships at Ft. Hood, the 4th Army championships and the All-Army championships. The All-Army title enabled me to fight in the ’71 Pan-Am trials, which I won and the ’72 National AAU tournament, which I won by beating Sugar Ray Seales in the finals. I should mention, although I won the ’71 Pan-Am trials I was disallowed to compete since I was Mexican-born. And would you believe, they didn’t even tell me this until I got out of the ring after winning the final?

DH: That’s a little ironic isn’t it? Seeing as how you were serving in the U.S. Army.

CP: I know. There was one fighter from Puerto Rico that they allowed to fight for the U.S. team because they said it was a Commonwealth. But what can you do?

DH: As AAU champ in ’72, you were qualified to compete in the ’72 Olympic trials, is that correct?

CP: That’s correct. I did lose to Pete Ranzany in the trials but was hoping to be named to fight in the box-offs. Everyone thought I was a shoe-in to be named to the box-offs, but instead they named this kid from Texas, Bubba Busceme and I was left out again. You have to remember, the amateurs were very political.

DH: You turned pro in ’72 when your hitch was up. Did you also enroll in college around this time?

CP: I had my first class in September around the time of my first pro fight. I started out as a Physical Education major but changed that to a Recreational Administration major. The Physical Education was like anything else in sports medicine, you had to learn every bone in the body. I would be up studying until 3:00 in the morning and then my Dad would be waking me at 5:00 am for road work. It was killing me. I eventually attended Long Beach State where I got my degree.

DH: Who did you turn pro with?

CP: Jackie McCoy and of course Noe Cruz. They were co-managers and co-trainers. We went to Jackie to see if he would manage me and we talked. I told him I was AAU champ but he was unimpressed. He said that didn’t mean anything in the pro game but he’d have a look at me regardless, and invited me to training camp where Mando Ramos was preparing to defend his lightweight title against Chango Carmona. Jackie put me in sparring with Mando.

DH: Whoa! How did that go?

CP: (laughing) Well, I went right at him and was all over him and he keeps pushing me back and then I’d go at him again. Finally he just sunk one right into my cup and turned me over. Mando was yelling, “He has to settle down!” I learned a few things in that camp, such as Mando didn’t like to work hard, but I was just trying to impress Jackie.

DH: Were you surprised at what happened to Ramos in the Carmona fight?

CP: Not at all. I’ll tell you a story not too many people know. The night of my pro debut I’m in the ring at the Olympic Auditorium with Jackie and Noe in my corner. Suddenly Jackie gets word about something and he tells us that he has to go. Here’s my first pro fight and I’m already without Jackie. I won my fight but do you know where he was? Bailing Mando out of the drunk-tank of the police department. And this was the night before the Carmona fight at the Coliseum. It’s no wonder Carmona tore him up.

DH: McCoy had such an impressive stable at this time. Who else were you working with?

CP: Well I should tell you first that Jackie sat me down and talked to me about my career so far. My first several fights I wasn’t stopping anyone just winning on points and Jackie thought I had too much of the amateur program in me. He said that I would need to get away from Westminster and get down to a real gym like the Hoover Street Gym. He also wasn’t a fan of me attending college. He felt I wasn’t giving 100%, so I agreed to go to the Hoover St. Gym for better instruction. When I walked into that place you could practically hear everyone yell, “New meat!” But I learned a lot sparring extensively with Rodolfo Gonzalez.

DH: There was a similarity between you and Gonzalez, You were both very strong, very physical in the ring and both of you liked the body. Was this a Jackie McCoy trait?

CP: Well, maybe. The strength I attribute to Noe Cruz. Noe was a big man and after a workout he would get in the ring and lay on me, push me, muscle me around until I could handle it. As for the body work. Let me tell you, Rodolfo Gonzalez was a tremendous boxer. He would throw vicious body punches and it was really amazing what he could do on the inside. I was a bigger man – he was only a lightweight – but I felt those punches. I suppose I was picking up a little of everything.

DH: You were undefeated in eleven fights when you fought Andy ‘The Hawk’ Price in the San Diego Coliseum. So little is known about this fight. How did it unfold?

CP: Y’know, I had gone to Jackie about getting me a good fight. I was only picking up like $80.00 a fight up until then and needed the money. So, when he told me this fight with Price paid $1,200 I told him in no uncertain terms to get me the fight. As for the fight itself, it was a friggin’ war! It was close and I thought I had him in the 10th, but he spun out and caught me and, although I didn’t go down, my glove touched the canvas and that was enough for a split decision win for him.

DH: Was it true that the promoter of the Olympic Boxing Club, Aileen Eaton, did not take kindly to any of her house fighters fighting for a rival promoter?

CP: Oh yeah (laughing), she told Jackie before we took the fight in San Diego, “If he loses, we can’t use him!” It was like eight months before she got me another fight. She told me that she expects loyalty from her fighters. But I was just trying to make a living.

DH: You got back on track – winning three in a row – before taking on the still very dangerous Zovek Barajas at the Olympic. Tell me about that fight.

CP: Oh, man, he was such a difficult opponent. All arms and elbows. I had planned to box him in that fight but at the weigh-in he really pissed me off pointing his thumb down at me to the press saying he was going to knock me out. I fought him instead and it was a war. But just like in the Price fight he catches me with a flash knockdown and pulls out a 10 round draw.

DH: You had an immediate rematch. What did you do so differently in the return?

CP: Dan, I did exactly what I was supposed to have done in the first fight. I boxed him, set him up and stopped him in the 9th round.

DH: You had three more wins against modest opposition before taking on you first top ten rated opponent. Tell me about your fight with Hedgemon Lewis.

CP: I saw Lewis’ second fight with ‘Mantequilla’ Napoles and I thought that was the way to fight him. I would overwhelm him with pressure. I thought I edged him but they called it a draw.

DH: That was in November of ’75. You stayed active, but in June of ’76 you found yourself in the Empire Pool over in London standing in the opposite corner of world welterweight champion John Stracey fighting for his title. Now, Carlos, I gotta ask you, how surprised were you – with really only Zovek Barajas and Hedgemon Lewis on your record – to be getting a shot at the world title?

CP: Well, let me explain how this came about. See, the Lewis fight was so close and so exciting they signed us up to an immediate rematch to take place in six weeks. In the meantime Lewis gets the call to fight the new champ Stracey for the title. Everyone is contacting the Olympic to free up Lewis but Aileen Eaton stood fast. She said, “No, I have a contract.” Finally, the English promoter, Mickey Duff called her and asked her what it would take to make this happen. Aileen told him he would have to pay me $2,000 for my trouble and grant me the next title shot.

carlos

DH: Tell me about your preparation for the fight?

CP: Well, Lewis was stopped in the 10th round by Stracey so we spoke to Hedge on what he thought of him and he said Stracey was very strong and it winded him. I wasn’t worried about Stracey’s strength, but I myself would get winded in fights, so I spoke to the cross-country coach at Long Beach State who invited me to run with his team. Well I had been running the same way since my army days, (laughing) with combat boots. When I showed up to run he looked at me and said, “What are those?” He got me a pair of proper footwear and told me I wasn’t getting my lungs to expand properly, which was why I would get winded. And this was a new facet in my training.

DH: Tell me how the fight with Stracey unfolded.

CP: It was just like Hedgemon Lewis told us, he was very strong. But I started working the body immediately and felt him getting weaker as the fight progressed until I stopped him in the 12th round and was the new champion.

DH: How did it feel being crowned champ?

CP: Oh, an incredible feeling but a little disappointing in the fact that there was no American Press covering it. Although one guy did come in my dressing room to congratulate me. It was Larry Merchant. But he was there covering Wimbledon. He just happened to come to the fights. I don’t think anyone expected me to win.

DH: In January of ’77 you made your first defense against old friend and fellow collegian Armando Muniz. The west coast was absolutely abuzz about this fight. So, I was really surprised that his fight was held at the Olympic and not somewhere like the L.A. Sports Arena.

CP: I know what you mean and I don’t know the reason for it myself. The Olympic held 10,400 and the story was that there was 10,400 more outside that couldn’t get in.

DH: Tell me about the fight.

CP: Y’know, when I first started out Mando used to kick the crap out of me in sparring. But I had improved. I was now more polished and I knew he would stay on your chest. Sure enough he started fast, decked me in the first round and controlled the first half of the fight. Then I started coming on in the second half. Jackie told me before the start of the 15th round that this was a tossup. And sure enough the fight was dead even on the officials cards. The winner of the last round would win the fight and I managed to stop Mando in the last round. It was a war.

DH: Your second title defense found you back at Wembley defending against top contender Dave ‘Boy’ Green. Was this part of the contractual obligation to Mickey Duff?

CP: Actually Mickey had two options after we won the title and he chose Armando Muniz and Dave Green. He was there ringside at the Olympic for the Muniz fight.

DH: Tell me about your fight with ‘Boy’ Green.

CP: Dave Green was a very good fighter. Around the 10th round I think it was, Dave caught me and I can honestly say it was the only time in my career that I was actually hurt. I had been down before but got right back up. But when he caught me, my eyes blurred and I was in a fog. I don’t know how I lasted. In the next round I caught him with a shot that swelled his eye shut and I don’t think he ever saw the left hook that knocked him out.

DH: You made four more title defenses before defending once more against old adversary Armando Muniz. Although you won handily, you appeared tentative at times. Was it respect for his punch that held you back?

CP: What happened was around the 4th or 5th round I broke my left hand. I didn’t tell Jackie until the fight was over. It may have looked like I was tentative but I was just being so careful not to give it away because he was always dangerous.

DH: In late ’78 you were scheduled for a rematch with ‘Boy’ Green in Monte Carlo. Why did this fight not take place?

CP: After the Muniz fight my hand was in a cast for six months. By the time I was healed the WBC wouldn’t allow the fight. They said I would now have to defend against their #1 contender, which was Wilfredo Benitez and Puerto Rico won the purse bid. I was so rusty I asked Jackie to get me a 10 round non-title fight at the Olympic but the WBC wouldn’t allow it in case there was another injury.

DH: In January of ’79 you lost your world title in your eighth title defense to Wilfredo Benitez. Tell me about that fight.

CP: Y’know, I’ve watched this fight several times and every time I think I won. I fought him like a champion. I took it to him. But he won a split decision in his hometown. He promised me a rematch but the WBC had just outlawed immediate rematches. Still, I thought I would have a rematch by March or April, but he then signed to fight Sugar Ray Leonard for $1,000,000.

DH: You had one more fight in you – for the time being. Tell me about your fight in Madison Square Garden against Roberto Duran.

CP: This fight was originally scheduled for 12 rounds but was then cut to 10. I can’t take anything from Duran. He outhustled me with speed.

DH: You were only shy of 30 and still in the picture. Why the sudden retirement?

CP: I always said I was going to retire at 30. This fight just ended it for me. I had been thinking about getting into acting for awhile and thought I would give it a go.

DH: I think the first couple of things I remember seeing you in was small roles in The White Shadow and Marciano.

CP: (laughing) Y’know, the actor who played Marciano was Tony LoBianco. He came into my dressing room before the Duran fight and when I told him I wanted to get into the business he said he would get me a part in the film. I played something like a waiter. I think I served him a beer.

DH: How did you do in the business and are you still acting?

CP: I stayed pretty busy. I did about 20 films over the years. Some Independent films and some major studio films like Geronimo. I’m still doing a bit of acting. I’ve auditioned for a series and also wrapped a Documentary piece called Palomino.

DH: In 1997 at the improbable age of 47 you made a shocking return to the ring – at your original weight class of all things. How did this come about?

CP: In ’97 my Dad passed away. He was a stubborn old Mexican who wouldn’t go to the doctor and prostate cancer got the better of him. The last six months he lived at home and we took care of him. He was always tough on me but it always pushed me to do the best and to show him. Well this one day I happen to be by the Westminster gym and went in. Jackie and Noe were still there and Gerrie Coetzee, the former heavyweight champ was there planning a comeback. Anyways, Hector Camacho was there getting ready for his fight with Roberto Duran I believe and he asked me to spar. So just for the hell of it I went in and did three rounds with Camacho. Jackie said to me after the session that if he had to give a decision on that fight that I would have won. Camacho, too, said that was the best three rounds he ever fought. It was an eerie feeling. I could almost feel my Dad’s presence. It was a good feeling and I decided to give it a go when a couple of young promoters made me an offer.

DH: What was the offer?

CP: Well, the biggest purses of my career was the $450,000 for the Benitez fight and the $250,000 for the Duran fight. So these two come in and offer me a four fight package worth $1,000,000. I made $25,000 a fight and after the third fight I told them that someone’s going to be owing me about $925,000 after the fourth fight. (laughing) And that was the last I saw of them.

DH: You won four fights straight on this amazing comeback before stepping up and giving a very credible performance against top ten contender Wilfredo Rivera. Tell me about the fight and was that what you needed to get it out of your system?

CP: I was warned against this fight. Bob Arum said to me, “Carlos, he’s going to hurt you.” But I actually think I won that fight. I clearly won the last three rounds and I still think that was enough. But, yeah, I was done with it now.

DH: Jackie McCoy was once asked who was the best fighter he ever managed. Perhaps not wishing to offend any of his fighters he said, “Well…my most successful was Carlos Palomino.”

CP: (laughing) But we all knew Jackie had a soft spot in his heart for Mando Ramos. He was his favorite. He and Mando were together since Mando was a kid. Mando caused him all kinds of headaches but when Jackie fell ill to cancer, I would go up to see him and Mando would come in and Jackie’s eyes would light up and we would all have a good laugh together. It did him good.

DH: Carlos, what else are you up to these days?

CP: Aside from the acting I’m working part-time for a non-profit veterans organization called Chicana Service Action Center. Among other things we provide shelter for victims of domestic violence.

DH: Last question, amigo. Was there any fight out there which you regret not having been made?

CP: Only one. I wanted the unification match with WBA champ Pipino Cuevas. Jackie was talking to Aileen about this to take place after the Benitez fight. He had envisioned a multi-million dollar purse. Of course after losing my title to Benitez talks never began. Dan, we would have sold out the Coliseum.

#   #   #

Carlos Palomino (left) with the author, Dan Hanley

Carlos Palomino (left) with the author, Dan Hanley

Having been crowned welterweight champion of the world and enshrined in the World Boxing Hall of Fame and the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Carlos Palomino should hold little regret over his phenominal career. However, thus is the perfectionist who strived to impress his beloved father. If the documentary Palomino is anything like his past endeavors, I am looking forward to nothing short of perfection.

See ya next round,

Dan Hanley

pugnut23@yahoo.com

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