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Puerto Rico is famous for beautiful beaches, year-round tropical weather, talented baseball players and music stars like Jose Feliciano, Ednita Nazario and Ricky Martin. Puerto Ricans have also excelled in boxing, many having been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Here are some facts about Puerto Rico’s best boxers.
Sixto Escobar became the first Puerto Rican boxing world champion in 1937, triumphing in the bantamweight. While Escobar’s first name resembles the word for sixth in Spanish, he has the distinction of being Puerto Rico’s first boxing world champion. As a result of his achievements, a stadium in San Juan bears his name.
Wilfredo “Bazooka” Gomez is known for winning 3 titles in different weight classes, finishing his career with 44 wins, 42 of them knockouts. What many may not know however, is that he competed in the 1972 Olympics, as a 15 year-old, before boxing professionally. Gomez lost as a youngster at the Olympic Games but that clearly didn’t hold him back.
As the only Puerto Rican boxer to win 4 titles in 4 weight divisions, Miguel Cotto’s successful title record will be very difficult to beat for any future fighters. His first world championship was won in 2004 against Kelson Pinto. Ten years later in 2014, Cotto achieved his fourth title in a fourth weight division, in a fight against Sergio Martinez.
Hector “Macho” Camacho’s career spanned 30 years, considered a lengthy period of activity in any sports, not just boxing. Some of his most notable opponents during those years were Jose Luis Ramirez and Ray Mancini. Camacho’s last fight was in 2010 at the age of 48.
As boxing fans know, it’s common for fighters to enter the ring while looking serious and intimidating. In contrast Hector “Macho” Camacho would enter the ring in costumes even before some of his biggest fights. His costumes included the clothing of a Roman soldier and a superhero.
Today many major boxing matches are fought in flashy U.S. cities like Las Vegas and New York City, but Puerto Rican boxer Carlos Ortiz fought all over the world. During his time as a professional fighter in the 1950’s and ‘60’s, Ortiz met his opponents in Britain, Italy, the Philippines, and Mexico, among other destinations outside of the United States. At a time when transportation wasn’t as advanced as it is today, Ortiz went the extra mile.
Towards the beginning of his fighting career, Miguel Cotto suffered a car accident in Puerto Rico that left him with a broken hand and shoulder. Cotto had fallen asleep at the wheel while driving to a gym and drove into a concrete wall, and while his injuries were serious, he went on to achieve what no Puerto Rican boxer had ever done before.
A notable win for Felix “Tito” Trinidad came against fellow Puerto Rican Hector “Macho” Camacho, another boxer on this list. The fight which Trinidad won by unanimous decision, took place in January of 1994, and garnered unprecedented attention for Trinidad. Approximately 5 years later, the victorious Trinidad was defending a title and Camacho had suffered more losses.
Wilfred Benitez became the youngest boxing world champion after defeating Antonio Cervantes in 1976, at an age when most people are still in school and can’t legally drink in the U.S., Benitez was just 17 years old. That victory was one of three world titles he would go on to win in 3 different weight divisions.
Among Latin American countries, Puerto Rico and Mexico have produced great boxers at different weight divisions. As a result, many of Puerto Rico’s best boxers have had high profile fights against some of the best Mexican boxers over the years, including Oscar de la Hoya and Salvador Sanchez.