By: Jim Amato
The 1970’s spawned such great and dominant champions such as Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Bobby Foster, Monzon, Napoles, Cervantes, Duran, Olivares, Arguello and Zarate. In review of their fine accomplishments and the feats of some other fine champions of that era, several very capable boxers fell short of their dreams of becomining a champion. Let’s take a look at some of these proud warriors. The ” Almost Champions “…
The first who comes to mind is Jerry Quarry. He was as tough as they come and talented too. He received his first title shot in 1968 when he made it to the finals of the WBA elimination tournament. He lost to Jimmy Ellis. In 1969 he met Joe Frazier for the NYSAC version of the title and was halted in seven. In 1970 he was stopped on cuts by Muhammad Ali. If he would have won that fight it would have paved the way for a rematch with Frazier. In 1974 he got that return engagement with Frazier who was now an ex champion. Jerry was stopped in five. If he would have won he would have been in a position to meet the winner of Foreman-Ali.
South African Pierre Fourie had four shots at the light heavyweight title. Too bad for Pierre he met two of the best light heavyweights of the era, Bob Foster and Victor Galindez. Bob and Victor each took a pair of fifteen round verdicts from Pierre.
Alvaro ” Yaqui ” Lopez was another tough cookie who failed in four attempts to win the light heavyweight title. He lost twice to Galindez, once to classy John Conteh and another to Saad Muhammad. Lopez even got a crack at the cruiserweight title losing to Carlos DeLeon.
Jorge Ahumada was the rage when he arrived in the States from Argentina. He was handled by the astute Gil Clancy and he was beating everybody put in front of him. Good fighters like Hal Carroll, Andy Kendall, Jose Gonzalez, Ray Anderson, Bobby Cassidy and Billy Wagner. Jorge met the great Bob Foster for the title in 1974 and they battled to a disputed draw. He then met John Conteh for the vacated WBC title after Foster retired. Conteh, who in his prime was a fine fighting machine won a fifteen round decision. Jorge then met countryman Victor Galindez for the WBA version of the crown and was outpointed over fifteen.
Bennie Briscoe may have been the ” Baddest ” middleweight to never win the title. He finally received a long overdue shot at ” King ” Carlos Monzon and almost pulled the upset when he hurt Monzon in the ninth round. Carlos rallied to win the decision. In a battle for the WBC version of the title Bennie was stopped by the vastly under rated Rodrigo Valdez. After Monzon twice edged Valdez and retired, Bennie met Valdez again for the vacant title and lost a decision. Another worthwhile 160 pound contender during the Monzon era was Jean Claude Bouttier. Carlos beat the Frenchman twice but held him in very high regard.
Armando Muniz was as tough as nails. He was a leading welterweight contender for years. Four times Mando would challenge for the coveted crown and four times he would come up short. He twice met the great Jose Napoles. ” Mantaquilla ” won the first one in a controversial match. Jose left no doubt in winning a decision in a rematch. Muniz would also lose twice to the formidible Carlos Palomino in title attempts.
Clyde Gray was one of the finest boxers to come out of Canada in the 70’s. He gave the great Napoles one of his hardest fights but lost a decision in his first title challenge. Later he would meet Angel Espada for the WBA version of the title and again lose a decision. In his third and final attempt, Clyde was kayoed by Pipino Cuevas. Two other fine welterweights challenged Napoles on two different occasions but could not overcome this outstanding champion. They were Hedgemon Lewis and Ernie ” Red ” Lopez.
Edwin Viruet gave Roberto Duran absolute fits in their two fights, one of which was for Duran’s lightweight title. Philadelphia’s slick Tyrone Everett came within an eyelash of winning the WBC junior lightweight title from the colorful Alfredo Escalera. This was one of the most debated verdicts of the decade.
All these fine fighters would have surely won a ” title ” under today’s rules, regulations and politics. They were top class fighters and should be remembered as such.