View Full Version : Top Ten Colombian Fighters Of All-time

06-23-2006, 11:01 AM
The Pugil List - Top Ten Colombian Fighters of All-Time
By Marty Mulcahey from Max Boxing

This Saturday on HBO, Joel Julio attempts to turn himself into "The next big thing" at welterweight, and become another championship caliber boxer in a long line of talented Colombian fighters.

Julio is historically different from other Colombian boxers, since he is building a buzz and winning fights in America before challenging for a title. In general Colombian boxers appear out of nowhere, giving little advance warning to promoters, fans, and champions of their true skill set. Thus, results have swung wildly, like their boxers at times, between brilliant wins and dismal failures. Either Colombians come into title bouts with built up records that belie their abilities, or built up records that tell the truth of their world class expertise.

Colombian boxing established itself in the late 1960's and early 1970's, and achieved its first breakthrough in 1972 when Antonio Cervantes won the world jr. welterweight title by defeating Alfonso Frazer in Panama. Cervantes was not the first to challenge for a world title, and if not for the greatness of Brazil's Eder Jofre (perhaps the best bantamweight of all time) Bernardo Carrabello might have won the world bantamweight title eight years earlier in 1964. Cervantes was quickly emulated by the likes of Rodrigo Valdez (1974) and Ricardo Cardona (1978), while Purdencio Cardona and Miguel "Happy" Lora continued Colombia's title reign in the 1980's. Since then, the explosion of alphabet organizations and weight classes has allowed Colombia to add 17 more champions.

Cervantes is undoubtedly the Godfather of Colombian boxing, but he has Rodrigo Valdez nipping at his heels for the status of most popular Colombian boxer of all time. In all, Colombia has created 22 champions since Cervantes began the nationís campaign for titles 36 years ago. The future looks pretty bright as well, with Joel Julio, Edison Miranda, and Juan Urango forming the new guard of challengers racing toward world titles? Ironically, all three are trying a new route to the title. The trio has based themselves in America, hoping that they can launch their offensives as effectively as Colombian champions of the recent past. One thing is for sure, this time fans and fighters alike will know of their skills before they challenge for a title.

In terms of greatness, that trio has a long way to go, and can not match the top ten. This, even though one fighter on my list never won a title and remains active to this day. Can the above trio crack this list in five years time? Read on and make your own evaluation.

10. Victor Polo - 1990 to Present (37-5-3) - Forget Colombia, Polo ranks with Yaqui Lopez, Bennie Briscoe, Oba Carr, and Jim Driscoll as one of the unluckiest title challengers ever. Four of his five losses came in world title fights, three of which were by split decision. Most believed he should have been awarded the win over Scott Harrison for the WBO featherweight title, and was considered equally unlucky against Derrick Gainer for the WBA title. Of course both those losses came in the other guyís hometown, and in his 1999 title clash against Manuel Medina, Polo was ahead on one scorecard when the fight was stopped on cuts. The cruelest cut of all came on neutral ground (England) when replays showed Polo slipping on a towel on the ring apron, which was scored as a knockdown and the subsequent point deduction prevented him from taking the WBO title from Julio Chacon. Polo was only ever really beaten by Moises Pedroza in his fifth fight, and Juan Manuel Marquez in his last fight to date.

9. Luis Mendoza - 1985 to 1998 (38-7-2) - Mendoza was a good amateur, who finished third at the world jr. championships in 1983. Like Polo, Mendoza lost an early fight, and went on to lose his first title shot against Mexican Juan Estrada in Tijuana. In his second title attempt, he fought countryman Ruben Palacios to a draw for the vacant WBA bantamweight title, but then got things on track by knocking Palacios out in three rounds in the rematch. With the WBA title in hand, Mendoza went on the road, defeating Fabrice Benichou in France, and Noree Jockygym in Thailand before returning home and handing Chilean Carlos Uribe his first loss. One month later he traveled to Spain and knocked out Joao Cardoso. Going on the road to put his title on the line finally caught up with Mendoza when he came to the United States. Fan favorite Raul "Jibaro" Perez beat Mendoza by split decision in Los Angles, and a deflated Mendoza was never able to mentally recover from the loss. He did land four more title shots, but faltered against Wilfredo Vazquez, Eloy Rojas, Regilio Tuur, and Freddie Norwood. From 1990 to 1991 Mendoza might have been the best jr. featherweight in the world.

8. Harold Grey - 1990 to 2004 (25-6) - I remember Grey as the man who prevented a longer reign of the talented Mexican Julio Cesar Borboa. Grey just seemed to have Borboa's number, even though I believed Borboa was the better boxer. Grey stormed out of the gates, recording 15 kayos in 16 fights on his way to his title fight against Borboa. Grey was thought an easy mark, as he had only beaten one fighter with a good record and lacked experience beyond the six round level. Yet he shocked many by going into Borboa's home turf, Los Angeles, and taking a 12 round split decision from a champion who was making his sixth title defense. People continued to doubt Grey, and there was some basis for this as he traveled to Italy and scored a second straight split decision win against Vincenzo Belcastro. After an easy title defense, Grey was again challenged by Borboa, winning another split decision over the Mexican in a hard to judge tactical duel. A split decision finally went against Grey when he traveled to Argentina and lost to veteran Carlos Salazar. An immediate rematch resulted in Grey winning his title back by unanimous decision, and directly led to his largest payday. That came in an HBO televised loss to American wunderkind Danny Romero, where he was knocked out in the second round. Grey was never the same after the defeat, losing four of his last eight bouts against mid level boxers.

7. Fidel Bassa - 1983 to 1989 (22-1-1) - A hard punching flyweight who made a big impact in a short six year career. His two fights with Irishman Dave McAuley (their first meeting was one of the best of the 1980's) are truly underrated classics, and being able to twice retain the title against the criminally underrated Hilario Zapata is a feat in itself. As exciting as his fights were, Bassa was a boxer at heart who preferred to use his handspeed to beat opponents. When that was not possible, Bassa bit down and slugged it out. In only his seventeenth fight, Bassa outpointed world-wise veteran Hilario Zapata by unanimous decision, and showed his inner strength by retaining the title when he traveled to Zapata's hometown of Panama City to draw with the determined former champ. Between those fights he had a war with Dave McAuley in Northern Ireland. Bassa would retain his title four more times, two at home and two away, before Venezuelan Jesus Kiki Rojas took his title via split decision. Early on in that fight, Bassa suffered a detached retina, which prematurely ended his career at age 27. An intelligent individual, Bassa used his ring earnings to educate himself, and is a professor of history who lectures throughout Colombia.

6. Jorge Eliecer Julio - 1989 to 2003 (44-5) - Much was expected of Julio, and most will tell you they were underwhelmed with his pro career. This, even though Julio was a two time bantamweight champion that made five title defenses. The main reason is the heavy expectations placed upon Julio after an exceptional 88-9 amateur career that saw him collect an Olympic bronze medal in 1988. Most saw Julio as having a pro style, and he did not disappoint early, going 23-0 with 21 kayos. Because of his popularity, Julio was able to lure American Eddie Cook to Colombia, and he took the WBA bantamweight title by unanimous decision. Julio made two title defenses before rising American star Junior Jones beat Julio by rallying (both men were down in the bout) in the championship rounds. For three years Julio languished before he defeated former champion Cuauhtemoc Gomez to earn himself a WBO title shot at bantamweight. Was only able to score a split decision win over the ordinary Oscar Maldanado in that fight, but redeemed himself with good title defenses over Daniel Jimenez, Adonis Cruz, and Julio Gamboa on the road. Again, Julio was given a chance to achieve breakthrough status, but was outclassed by the legendary Johnny Tapia in a forgivable loss. Since then, he has been knocked out by Manny Pacquiao and Israel Vazquez after a move up in weight. Not sure if Julio was a case of misplaced expectations, or a real underachiever.

5. Mauricio Pastrana - 1991 to Present (32-6-2) - No Colombian overcame a better champion than Pastrana did to win their titles, and this is the reason I rate him above Julio and Bassa.

Pastrana came out of nowhere to defeat a legend in Michael Carbajal, miraculously overcoming the champís world class experience in only his sixteenth pro fight. Pastrana had little to prepare him beyond a 43-5 amateur record, and a win over countryman and fellow prospect Luis Doria. As good as the win over Carbajal was, Pastrana did not follow up the victory with anything of substance in the next years, in which he went undefeated. His best wins were over Carlos Murillo and Jose Bonilla, the latter being more impressive because it came on Bonilla's home turf. Pastrana lost his IBF title on the scales, and regressed in title terms since his win over Bonilla, which was for an interim WBA title. Continued to go down in title stature by winning the IBO jr. bantamweight title, before suffering his first career loss to Jorge Lacierva for the IBA bantamweight title. After a second consecutive loss, this time to Adan Vargas, Pastrana rebounded and handed Heriberto Ruiz his first loss. The IBF gave Pastrana three title shots, one at jr. bantam and two at bantamweight, which he all lost to Rafael Marquez and Felix Machado. A win over either would have elevated Pastrana, but because of weight making difficulties he will be relegated to the status of one trick pony. He could beat Carbajal, but was never able to sustain the momentum.

4. Irene Pacheco - 1993 to Present (32-1) - Where Julio was perhaps always overrated, the opposite is true of Pacheco, whom people never even thought could raise himself to the world title level. Pacheco ran off 21 easy victories, of which only one came against a fighter with a plus .500 record, but he showed his potential by defeating the favored Angel Priolo in a title elimination affair. Pacheco got no respect, and deservingly so, for defeating below average Luis Coronado for the vacant IBF flyweight title. However, Pacheco got begrudging respect by defeating tough Tunisian southpaw Ferid Ben Jeddou, and even more for his ESPN televised victory over American Pedro Pena. Pacheco proved he was for real by retaining his title over Hawk Makepula and Mexican brawler Alejandro Montiel. Maybe Pacheco was underrated because he looks fragile in the ring, with an elongated body and volume punching that does not impress boxing purists. It took current flyweight star Vic Darchinyan's bull like charges to wear Pacheco down in an outstanding fight with a lot of toe to toe action, for a eleventh round TKO loss. Two months ago, he proved he was still a force on the world stage by defeating Heriberto Ruiz. This time he will not be overlooked by any champion.

3. Miguel "Happy" Lora - 1979 to 1993 (37-3) - Where Pacheco was not really tested until he reached the world title, Lora had to deal with 24-2-1 Dominican Julio Solano in only his fifth pro bout. Lora took on that challenge to gain recognition from the WBC, gaining the Fecarbox title over 12 rounds, and working his way up their rankings. In preparation for a WBC title shot, Lora fought three times in America. Even though he had a 23-0 record, he was considered an underdog against Mexico's future hall of famer Daniel Zaragoza. Lora's fast feet, and faster hands, befuddled Zaragoza over 12 rounds, and led Lora to a unanimous decision win. Lora impressed again in his first defense of the title, winning a 12 round decision over underrated three division Puerto Rican champion Wilfredo Vazquez. Both men were knocked down in the fight, but Lora was able to wrestle control of the fight away from Vazquez after the eighth round. Really showed off his boxing ability by outboxing the fluid Alberto Davila twice in title defenses, and racking up seven title defenses over three years. It took the angular Raul Perez to take the title from Lora, who used his jab to control range and pace to win the title. Lost an exciting fight (three knockdowns in two rounds) to Gaby Canizales in his last hurrah, and retired after a 1993 loss to Rafael Del Valle. A popular champ, he now acts in soap operas, and sings in variety shows.

2. Rodrigo Valdez - 1963 to 1980 (63-8-2) - Some men are cursed by the time in which they live. They are either too advanced to be understood by their contemporaries, or overshadowed by a brighter light whose talent is of the "Once in a century" variety. Such was the case of Rodrigo Valdez, a man who would have probably held the middleweight title for a considerable time if he had not competed in the Monzon era of middleweight history - a Monzon era that owes much to Valdez, for greatness is only bestowed on those who overcome formidable challenges. Valdez was formidable. His 5'9" body was a tightly laced package of muscle, whose weight was evenly distributed over a lean frame. Valdez was, like the great coffee which Colombia produces, a smooth blend of power and flavor which gave the boxing world a considerable buzz. He also buzzed opponents with his power. Any man who could knock out iron jawed Bennie Briscoe, and knock down Carlos Monzon (who had not tasted the canvas for thirteen years) deserves consideration as one of the fiercest punchers to ever inhabit the middleweight division. His punches were enhanced by constant forward motion; rarely did Valdez take a backward step. If things were not going Valdez's way in the ring, he could rely on a great equalizer. It was a straight right hand, a punch that should rate as one of the best the middleweight division has ever seen. Both fists contained considerable stopping power, but it was the right hand that caught the attention of opposing trainers and boxers. Experts saw enough of it to rate Valdez in the top 30, at number 29, when The Ring magazine's ranking of the hundred greatest punchers of all-time was announced. The Ring wrote, "Valdez was a stand-up, aggressive powerpuncher who could take a guy out with either hand. He liked to throw his right from distance, but if you wanted to go inside, as Briscoe did in their third match, he could do that too. He primarily played offense."

1. Antonio Cervantes - 1964 to 1983 (66-12-1) - Cervantes became a world wide favorite because the smooth punching two-time jr. welterweight champion gave beautiful exhibitions in Los Angeles, San Juan, Panama City, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Caracas, New York, Seoul, Cincinnati, and Udon Thani Thailand. Cervantes was Colombia's first champion, and built his legacy and the country's boxing reputation by taking his show on the road. Cervantes was all about internationalism, as his manager was from Venezuela, and he took his nickname "Kid Pambele" to honor a veteran Nicaraguan boxer. Sadly, although he made sixteen successful title defenses, (thirteen on the road) it is his two title losses to Aaron Pryor and Wilfred Benitez that he is most remembered for. Some will tell you that if the Benitez bout had been held in a neutral location, Cervantes would have gotten the nod. Too bad, since Cervantes was great in his own right, and now stands proudly with the above mentioned duo in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. After Cervantes won the title from Alfonso Frazer, he went 27-2 over the next eight years and engaged in 19 title fights. Few remember that he had to overcome a loss in his first title shot, when Argentine defensive wizard Nicolino Loche worked his counterpunching magic on the championship level novice. Cervantes came back to exact revenge against Loche, stopping the former champ over nine rounds in their rematch. In his eleventh defense of the title, Cervantes was nicked on the scorecards by Puerto Rican phenom Wilfred Benitez, who never gave the champ a rematch. Cervantes regrouped and won his next five bouts en route to a kayo of Argentinean Carlos Giminez. It took hall of famer Aaron Pryor to dislodge Cervantes this time, after Cervantes had made six more title defenses. After the Pryor loss, Cervantes cut back on his ring activity, and won four of his last five bouts. Cervantes is one of those guys you have to see to appreciate, and like Jose Napoles, his greatness lay in the nuances of his offensive outbursts and tactical adaptations to any given situation.

06-23-2006, 01:07 PM

Antonio "Kid Pambele" Cervantes

06-23-2006, 01:09 PM

Antonio "Kid Pambele" Cervantes

06-23-2006, 01:11 PM

Rodrigo "Rocky" Valdez

06-23-2006, 01:14 PM

Rodrigo "Rocky" Valdez

06-23-2006, 01:25 PM

06-23-2006, 01:27 PM

06-23-2006, 01:31 PM

06-23-2006, 03:46 PM
Valdez and Cervantes were two bad dudes.

06-23-2006, 04:55 PM
Cervantes was so damn fun to watch. Talk about a skilled warrior. He was descended from freed slaves who lived in isolated villages and trained their whole lives to fight. His beating of Dejesus is a classic. I wish we could have seen a great match between he and Duran.

Mike DeLisa
06-23-2006, 05:03 PM
I would oput Tomas Molinares in top ten -- even though his career seems to have been cut short by mental illness

Jimmy Garcia rates a mention also

Prudencio Cardona at his peak could be matched with anyone -- his excellent skills are obscured by a losing streak that closed out his career

Cervantes, for all his toughness, couldn't deal with the tough Venezuelan feathers of his day -- Cruz Marcano dismantled him, for example.

06-23-2006, 10:03 PM
Molinares could do only one thing, and that was punch like hell.
Pambele could run the table with the jr welters of today, and there are some good kids out there right now.

06-23-2006, 10:39 PM
Wasnt Pambele having trouble making weight for those fights which is why he jumped up so quickly two divisions? At that time it was relatively rare to do such a thing especially in a years time give or take.

06-29-2006, 07:17 PM
I remember seeing Antonio Cervantes take Esteban DeJesus
apart in a bout shown on television.

In his bout with Hugo Corro, it looked like Rodrigo Valdez was
suddenly a shell of his former self. Up to that time, he was
an outstanding fighter.

- Chuck Johnston