Thursday, March 16, 2017

Rodrigo Valdez

Another champion of my youth passed away in Colombia as former middleweight champion Rodrigo Valdez died of a heart attack at the age of 70.

The former world middleweight champion (Unified once,WBC twice) was rated as one of the most devastating punchers in the 160 pound division's history,but had the misfortune to have his prime run into arguably the best middleweight of all time in Carlos Monzon.

Valdez owns three wins over Bennie Briscoe,who many including myself rate as the best middleweight to never win the championship and made three defenses of his WBC title in the first reign.
Valdez was a dangerous fighter and Monzon decided that the cash wasn't there for a Valdez fight and was stripped of his title by the WBC with the WBA keeping Monzon as their titleholder.

Editor's Note:Doing some later research,Monzon's decision to not fight Valdez then was about money,but his reasoning was that Valdez didn't bring the payday that a "Battle of the Champions' against welterweight champion Jose Napoles did and the WBC stripped Monzon for fighting Napoles rather than Valdez.

Valdez,who had decisioned Bennie Briscoe earlier in his career,would stop him in seven rounds in their rematch to fill the vacant WBC title and make three title defenses against lower level challengers before the inevitable match with Carlos Monzon.

The unification of the two world titles was set for June 1976,but a week before the fight,Valdez's brother was murdered and Valdez wasn't allowed to cancel the fight.
A listless Valdez (and understandably so) was easily decisioned by Monzon,who once again was undisputed middleweight champion-even if only the WBC had such a dispute before.
One year later,both organizations in a rare show of cooperation ordered a rematch between the pair due to the distractions suffered by Valdez before their first bout.
This match was much closer and better contested and round two saw Valdez drop Monzon with a booming right hand for the second time in the Argentine's career.
Valdez built a lead that he could not hold as Monzon took over and won a close,but unanimous decision.


Ordinarily,that might have meant a third fight,but Monzon decided to retire (and never return) and vacated both of his titles.
In another unusual form of working together (even back then,the organizations rarely dealt with each other for best interests of boxing),the vacant titles were to be filled from the same fight.
Usually then as now,the sanctioning bodies fill their titles with various contenders that scatters championships among many,not one,so this was pretty rare and the two top contenders to fight for the two belts were Valdez and yet again Bennie Briscoe.
Valdez notched a 15 round decision and was once again middleweight champion and this time-everyone recognized him as such.

In his first title defense in April 1978,Valdez dropped the title to undistinguished challenger Hugo Corro and seven months later,most were even more shocked when Corro decisioned him again in the rematch.
Valdez notched two knockouts in 1980 and retired at the age of 33,never to fight again.

Of all sports,boxing might be the one sport this happens fairly frequently-that a possibly great athlete
can fall short of being considered great because someone else a little better that happens to be the same size comes along at the same time frame as the possibly great.
Rodrigo Valdez might have been considered a great middleweight,had Carlos Monzon not come along and Monzon was just a little bit better....

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