*** FLASHBACK – this article originally appeared on dmboxing.com on October 7, 2008
By Jim Amato / Senior Boxing Writer
The late 1960’s and early 1970’s produced some of the finest, most
dominant champions ever. While Ali, Frazier and Foreman were taking turns
ruling the heavyweights, other divisions found themselves under the
supreme rule of a certain superior boxer.
At light heavyweight “Bad” Bob Foster was the sheriff in town. When
Vincente Rondon disputed that fact he was gunned down in two rounds.
At middleweight Carlos Monzon truly was the “King”. He turned back the
challenges of such fine fighters as Nino Benvenuti, Emile Griffith and
Bennie Briscoe to name a few. After twice defeating the talented Rodrigo
Valdez twice, Carlos retired with his crown in tact.
Antonio Cervantes attained ” legendary” status as he established himself
as one of the greatest 140 pound ruler of all time.
Roberto Duran… Just the mere mention of the name is associated with
greatness. At lightweight his fists, the “Hands Of Stone” created havoc
with any would be challengers. Only the outstanding Esteban DeJesus was
able to compete with Roberto.
Then at bantamweight was the dynamic Rock-A-Bye Ruben Olivares. His
happy go lucky gap tooth smile belied his devastating power. Only a
wonderful little fighting machine named Jesus “Chu Chu” Castillo was able
to compete with a prime Olivares. One has to wonder where DeJesus and
Castillo would be among the fistic Gods if it wasn’t for Roberto Duran and
Ruben Olivares. I guess the same could be said for Rodrigo Valdez.
Then there was this smooth boxing but murderous puncher who defected
from his homeland of Cuba. He moved to Mexico and his fistic prowess led
to him being adopted as a national hero. He was a top ranking lightweight
and junior welterweight but when he was unable to secure a title shot in
either of those weight classes, he set his sights on the welterweight
division. The proud and classy welterweight titleholder agreed to put his
title on the line against this feared and avoided fighter. Curtis Cokes
would pay dearly for putting his title up for grabs. After over a dozen
painful rounds Curtis relinquished his title to Jose Napoles. Thus began a
reign that would establish Napoles as one of the greatest fighters ever to
lace on the gloves.
He began his professional career in his native Cuba in 1958 as a spy
eighteen year old. In the early 60’s he invaded his future homeland of
Mexico. He quickly established himself as a fighter of promise and by 1964
he was a bonafide contender. He kayoed the feared Carlos Hernandez. In
1965 he outscored Eddie Perkins and took out Adolph Pruitt in three
rounds. By now he had put himself in a position of being too good for his
own good. The champions at the time seemed very unwilling to give Napoles
a crack at the crown.
In 1966 Jose was upset by Youngstown, Ohio standout L.C. Morgan. Jose
had two earlier victories over Morgan. Napoles would beat Morgan again in
a 1967 return match.
Jose finally made his United States debut in 1968 when he landed in Los
Angeles and blasted out Leroy Roberts in the first round. He returned
later in the year to take out Des Rea in five.
On April 18, 1969 Jose Napoles defeated the game Curtis Cokes to capture
the welterweight championship of the world. The gracious new title holer
would give Cokes a chance to regain his old title Napoles would again
prove to be Cokes’ master and Jose would again win by knockout.
Jose closed the year by turning back the challenge of former champion
Emile Griffith. The clear cut win over the still fomidible Griffith made
Napoles a star. In 1970 he held off the challenge of the popular and
highly regarded Ernie Lopez.
Then on December 3rd 1970 Billy Backus upset Jose to capture the title.
Six months later Jose regained the title as he battered Backus in to
submission. Jose closed 1971 with a hard earned decision over the speedy
and clever Hedgemon Lewis.
1972 and 1973 would see Jose reel off five successful defenses. Among
his victims were Ernie Lopez who he nearly decapitated in the seventh
round. Jose also won a hard fought decision over rugged Canadian contender
On February 9th, 1974 Jose moved up in weight to challenge the great
Monzon for the middleweight title. Although this was a highly anticipated
pairing, Carlos proved to be too big and too strong for Jose halting him
in the seventh. Undaunted, Jose came right back in August to halt arch
enemy Hedgemon Lewis. He closed the year by taking out Horatio Saldano in
Although Jose was still on top you could begin to see the cracks in the
armour. Next came a near loss to the outstanding Armando Muniz. Four
months later Jose did what any great boxer would do, he beat Muniz handily.
In Jose’s next bout he had the very capable John H. Stracey of England
down in the first round but could not finish him off. Stracey went on to
overwhelm the aging champion ending matters in the sixth round. Napoles
knew that there was no sense in carrying on. Jose hung up the gloves for
Napoles had 84 recorded bouts and he only lost eight times. Fifty four
foes failed to last the distance with Jose. “Mantequilla”, smooth as
butter was his nick name. It was a fitting one. He made everything look so
easy and effortless. He had a stinging jab. He had fearsome power. He
threw effortless combinations. As good as he was at welterweight he may
have been a better lightweight. When I think of Jose Napoles I think
“greatness”. Nothing more, nothing less.