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On March 6, 1976, at the age of 17, he faced Lineal and WBA Light Welterweight champion Antonio Cervantes with his high school classmates in attendance. Known as Kid Pambele, the champion was 30 years old, had a record of 74-9-3 with 35 KO’s, and had made 10 title defenses. The result was a fifteen-round split decision in Benítez’s favor. Winning a title at the age of 17 is a record that will never be broken. Benitez defended his title three times before moving up to Welterweight and beating the reigning champion Carlos Palomino. He then defended his title against the Always Tough Harold Weston and ended in 1979 losing his title to Sugar Ray Leonard.
Easton Assasin Larry Holmes began his professional boxing career in 1973 and quickly rose through the heavyweight ranks. A powerful fighter, Holmes became known for beating Tom Prater aboard USS Lexington on January 16 1977. Later in 1978, he challenged Earnie Shavers in a 12-round bout before earning Unanimous Decision to set himself up for Ken Norton’s WBC Heavyweight Title fight on June 9 1978, which would determine its winner and ultimately, his legacy. Both boxers engaged in an extremely close and competitive fight; in Round 15, it would turn out that decisive final round, which Holmes won, ultimately becoming WBC Heavyweight Champion and starting his legacy and thus creating his legend! Beat Shavers again before the decade ended.
Canto, who stood 5’1”, was first challenged for the WBC flyweight title in 1973 and lost a 15-round decision to Betulio Gonzalez. Two years later, he met Shoji Oguma in Japan for the vacant crown and won a 15-round decision to become champion. Canto and Oguma were ranked number one and two, respectively, by the WBC. For four years, Canto went unbeaten and set a division record by making 14 successful title defenses. During that span, he avenged his earlier defeat against Gonzalez and beat Oguma twice more. Oguma would later win the WBC title, as did Antonio Avela, another Canto victim.
Bobby Chacon debuted as a pro fighter in 1971, winning 23 consecutive bouts before facing off against all-action star Bobby Chacon at the LA Sports Arena on May 24, 1974, in a highly entertaining battle that resulted in Chacon defeating Lopez via 9th round TKO. Once he recovered from his initial loss, “Little Red” resumed winning by defeating Chucho Castillo, Ruben Olivares, Sean O’Grady and Art Hafey before challenging David Kotey for the WBC featherweight championship in Accra, Ghana, in 1976. Lopez won his championship before an audience of 122,000 and quickly made eight successful title defenses during this span, including fights against Kotey (TKO 6 on Ali vs Spinks card) and Mike Ayala (KO 15 in 1979’s “Fight of the Year”).
Frazier probably won the biggest fight in Boxing history, beating Muhammad Ali in 1971. The only men that Frazier ever lost to were Ali and George Foreman. Frazier owned wins over Ellis, Mathis, and Quarry.
Zárate was voted Fighter of the Year by The Ring magazine in 1977. Zarate had two separate streaks of 20 straight knockouts. Zarate cemented his legend with a stoppage of Alfonso Zamora; Zarate was in trouble throughout the first round, from the second round on though Zarate dominated the action stopping Zamora.
Gomez was a force of nature who was dominant over the last half of the decade of the 70s. Gomez, during that time, scored 32 consecutive knockouts, which included a ninth-round stoppage of Alberto Davila. Gomez’s biggest win came with a five-round defeat of bantamweight champion Carlos Zárate, who was 55–0 with 54 knockout wins coming into their San Juan bout.
Napoles is one of the greatest Welterweights who ever lived and is too often forgotten. Napoles captured the title from Curtis Cokes in 1969 and defeated the legendary Emile Griffith in his first defense. He dropped the belt briefly in December 1970 when he lost to Billy Backus by TKO after receiving a nasty cut to his eye. However, he won it back six months later by stopping Backus in eight. He reigned at 147 pounds until losing to John Stacey in his last fight in 1975. Napoles lost just once during these four years when he challenged the great Carlos Monzon for the middleweight title in 1974.
Arguello was the WBA featherweight title from 1974 to 1976; the WBC super featherweight title was from 1978 to 1980. Arguello became the bantamweight champion by stopping the great Ruben Olivares in the 13th round. Arguello became the Junior Lightweight title by beating the excellent Alfredo Escalera; he would beat Escalers in a rematch and then beat Bobby Chacon, Bazooka Limon and Ruben Castillo.
I don’t usually put Heavyweights on a pound for pound list, but it’s hard to ignore a Heavyweight that wins 2 out of 3 against Joe Frazier, takes 2 out of 3 over Ken Norton and beat George Foreman. Ali was not the same Ali in the 70s, but he still was a force of nature in the early and mid-70s. Even at the end of his career, you had a win over the hard-hitting Earnie Shavers.
Known for his speed, punching power and relentless work rate, Monzon was the Undisputed Middleweight champion for seven years and defended his title 14 times. In 1971, Monzón became only the second man to stop former three-time world champion, Emile Griffith in 14 rounds and later out-pointed him over 15 in a close fight. Monzon also dominated Rodrigo Valdez in their first fight; the rematch was different as Monzon had to come on late in the battle to win a close decision. It was his 14th and final defense.
Duran was a dominant champion at Lightweight, and his defensive prowess is big-time underrated. Duran won his first 31 consecutive professional fights and scored knockout victories over future Featherweight Champion Ernesto Marcel and former Super Featherweight Champion Hiroshi Kobayashi, culminating in his first title bout in June 1972, where he defeated Ken Buchanan in Madison Square Garden, New York, for the WBA Lightweight Championship. Durán was a 2-to-1 underdog and scored a knockdown against the defending champion just fifteen seconds into the opening round and battered him throughout the bout. He lost to Esteban Dejesus in a non-title fight but avenged his only defeat by beating Dejesus twice. Duran also defeated future Light Welterweight Champion Saoul Mamby. Overall, Durán made twelve successful defenses of his title and scored a knockout in 11 of the 12 defenses.
Matthew Saad Muhammad
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