Carlos Monzón (August 7, 1942 – January 8, 1995) was an Argentine boxer who held the world middleweight title for seven years, during which he made a then-division record of 14 title defenses.
Nicknamed "Escopeta" (Shotgun), Monzón was adored all over Argentina during his unprecedented middleweight championship run, despite being accused of domestic violence and beating up the paparazzi who hounded him. His glamorous and violent life was avidly followed by the media, culminating with his trial for the killing of his second wife and his later death in a car crash.
Monzón retired from boxing as a champion at the top of his game. However, his personal problems continued, and he was convicted of killing his wife in 1989. Sentenced to 11 years in jail, he died in a car crash during a weekend furlough in 1995. He is considered by boxing critics to have been one of the greatest middleweights in history.
Monzón was born in poverty in the slums of the city of Santa Fe, the capital of the province of the same name in Argentina. Coming from a poor background and a difficult childhood, he harbored a deep anger, coupled with the fighting instincts of a society steeped in the culture of machismo. Having learned early that he loved to fight, Monzón was discovered by trainer Amilcar Brusa while hanging around the Luna Park, a famous 8,000-seat arena in the Argentinean capital of Buenos Aires.
At the start to his professional career, Monzón did not exhibit particularly great talent. On May 19, 1965, he won his first bout on points, against Anibal Codoba in Buenos Aires. In his first 20 bouts he won 14, lost three, and drew three more. However, he kept progressing against local foes and ultimately built an impressive record. Since most of his opposition in his record was local, however, he was not given much credit by critics, who saw him as simply one more decent middleweight who could fight 10-round bouts. Monzon's aloof personality, combined with a somewhat listless ring style, kept him fighting in Argentinean and Brazilian contests, almost exclusively against second-rate opponents. Finally, after racking up an impressive 50 straight victories, Monzón earned a number-ten world ranking in 1970 and was given a title shot.
Middleweight champion Nino Benvenuti had a long and distinguished career that included championships in two divisions and two wins in three bouts against all-time great Emile Griffith. He had lost the year before to American Tom Bethea in Australia, but in a title rematch in Yugoslavia, he avenged that loss. Thus, nobody expected Monzón to beat Benvenuti in their title match. Indeed, very few outside of South America even knew of him.
In taking the world middleweight title by knocking out Benvenuti on November 7, 1970, Monzon shocked the boxing world. Monzón applied pressure from the start. Then, in the twelfth round he landed a right hand perfectly on Benvenuti's chin, and the title changed hands. Monzón also beat Benevenuti in a rematch, this time in only three rounds in Monte Carlo, as Benevenuti's seconds threw in the towel.
In 1971, Monzón became only the second man to stop former three-time world champion Emile Griffith, beating him in 14 rounds. Before the rematch with Griffith, Monzón had difficulty getting down to the middleweight limit and was forced to spar three rounds and run three miles in order to make the weight. He was nevertheless able to out-point Griffith over 15 rounds in a close fight. Monzón then scored a win over tough Philadelphian Bennie Briscoe, overcoming a shaky ninth round, in which Briscoe almost scored a knockout. He followed this with a knockout in five rounds over European champion Tom Bogs, a knockout in seven over welterweight champion José Mantequilla Nápoles, and a ten-round knockout of tough Tony Licata of New Orleans at Madison Square Gardens. The latter fight would be Monzón's only fight in the United States.
Monzón had now firmly established himself at the top of the middleweight division. Much adored in native Argentina, he became a well known society figure and also began a career as an actor.
However, a darker side of Monzón would soon begin to emerge. In 1973, he was shot in the leg by his wife, Beatriz Garcia, requiring seven hours of surgery to remove the bullet. In 1975, he began a highly publicized romance with the actress Susana Giménez. The couple had previously met during the filming of the 1974 thriller La Mary, directed by Daniel Tinayre, where the two played husband and wife. He went to Italy with Giménez to participate in another movie, and started traveling more with her to exotic locations in Brazil and the rest of Latin America, letting himself be seen with her in public. Meanwhile, Monzón developed a stormy relationship with the paparazzi and reporters who detailed his affairs.
Monzon's relationship with his wife Beatriz rapidly deteriorated amid the publicity, and soon allegations of spousal abuse against him became public knowledge. He was repeatedly detained by the police. In addition, Giménez began wearing sunglasses more often, presumably to hide her own bruises. Several times, paparazzi had to be hospitalized from the beatings suffered at the hands of Monzón, whose unpredictable violent outbreaks became infamous. During this period, Monzón divorced his wife, and later married another Argentine woman, Alicia Muñiz.
Monzón vs. Valdez
Monzón's middleweight championship title was lifted in 1975 by the World Boxing Council for not defending it against mandatory challenger Rodrigo Valdez. Valdez, a Colombian, then won the WBC title, while Monzón retained the World Boxing Association championship. In 1976, the two finally met to unify the title.
Valdez's brother had been shot to death one week prior to the fight, leaving him in mourning and reportedly uninterested in the fight. However, the fight took place in Monte Carlo as scheduled. Monzón handed the unmotivated Valdez a beating, winning a 15-round unanimous decision and unifying the world title once again. Because of the special circumstances under which Valdez was forced to perform, an immediate rematch was ordered, once again in Monte Carlo.
This time, Valdez came out roaring. In the second round, a right cross to the chin put Monzón down for the first and only time in his career. Valdez built a lead through the first half of the fight. Monzón, however, mounted a brilliant comeback and outboxed Valdez for the last eight rounds, winning a split decision to retain the title and score his fourteenth title defense.
Retirement, prison, and death
Monzón retired after this defense, one of the few great champions to quit at the top and not attempt to mount a comeback. He kept a low public profile through most of the late 1970s and the 1980s.
After Susana Giménez left him in 1980, Monzón's private life was finally closed to the public. However, his violent streak continued, this time directed against his second wife. In 1988 she ran, scared and bloody, to the balcony of their second floor apartment and fell to death after a struggle in which Monzón also fell. According to the investigation performed later, Monzón had grabbed her by the neck, picked her up, and pushed her off the balcony to her death, following her in the fall injuring his own shoulder in the process. Upon hearing his sentence, Monzón reportedly did not show remorse. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
In 1995, Monzón was given a weekend furlough to visit his family and children. While returning to jail after the weekend, he crashed near the jail building, dying instantly. He would have been freed in 2001. There have been rumors that he committed suicide by crashing the car, but no evidence has surfaced that supports this claim.
Had Carlos Monzón fought more in the United States, he would certainly have gone down in history not only as one of the greatest middleweights, but also as one of the best known fighters in history. He was to the middleweight division what Mike Tyson would later become as a heavyweight: An unstoppable force of nature whose life outside the ring left an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise stellar career. The difference between the two is that Monzón's career as a boxer ended with him retiring at the top of his game, while Tyson's career spiraled downward into infamy inside the ring as well as outside of it.
Monzón's record stands at 87 wins, with only three losses, nine draws, and one no contest. Of his wins, 59 came by knockout. His only losses were on points and early in his career.
He was named by the Ring Magazine as one of the 100 greatest punchers of all time in 2003. On the independent computer-based ranking of boxrec.com he is listed as the best middleweight boxer of all time.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Monzón, Carlos, and Ernesto Cherquis Bialo. Mi verdadera vida. Buenos Aires: Editorial Atlantida, 1976. (Spanish) OCLC 4872144
- Sugar, Bert Randfolph. Boxing's Greatest Fighters. Lyons, France: The Lyons Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1592286324.
- Walsh, Peter. Men of Steel: The Lives and Times of Boxing's Middleweight Champions. London: Robson, 1993. ISBN 978-0860518471.
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