The boxing world will be dominated by welterweights the next few weeks.
On Saturday, Andre Berto defends his WBC title against Luis Collazo in Biloxi, Miss. And on Jan. 24, Antonio Margarito defends his WBA belt against veteran Shane Mosley.
Thus, we take a look back at March of 1982, when one of the greatest welterweights ever – Sugar Ray Leonard – shared the cover of THE RING with featherweight titleholder Salvador Sanchez.
Leonard held the welterweight and junior middleweight titles concurrently.
Heavyweight: Larry Holmes
COVER STORY: “Sanchez & Leonard: Fighters Of The Year” is the cover headline for THE RING’s annual awards issue, which features an outstanding illustration of both fighters by Mark Anderson. It was just the third time since 1928, when the magazine launched the award, that two fighters (Ray Leonard and Salvador Sanchez) shared the honor. Previously, Tony Canzoneri and Barney Ross (1934), and Muhammad Ali and Carlos Monzon (1972) had been co-winners.
WBC featherweight titleholder Sanchez had won four bouts in ’81, defeating Wilfredo Gomez (KO 8), Pat Cowdell (W 15), Robert Castanon (KO 10) and Nicky Perez (W 10). World welterweight champion Leonard had tallied three knockouts: Thomas Hearns (KO 14), Ayub Kalule (KO 9), and Larry Bonds (KO 10).
Other awards included Fight of the Year (Leonard-Hearns), Round of the Year (William “Caveman” Lee-John LoCicero, fifth round), and Upset of he Year (Roger Stafford W 10 Pipino Cuevas).
“The Night Benitez Wrote ‘No Mas’ To Duran’s Career” is Bert Sugar’s take on Wilfred Benitez’ 15-round decision over Roberto Duran to retain the WBC super welterweight title in what was Duran’s third fight since his disgraceful capitulation to Leonard in their November 1980 rematch.
“As the rounds began to fly by like signs on the freeway leading out of Vegas and the sands in Duran’s hourglass began to wind down to a precious few, he tried mightily to stage a late rally, bullying Benitez into the ropes,” wrote Sugar. “But especially in the 15th, Benitez used the opportunity to put on a masterful exhibition of counterpunching, choreographing his moves to stay out of Duran’s – and harm’ – way.”
“Boxing’s Powers-That-Be” by Mike Marley divides boxing people into two groups, the “in basket” and the “out basket.” Although most of those in the out basket stayed there (Harold Rossfield Smith, the criminal mastermind behind the MAPS scandal, for example), it’s fun to note how some of those residing in the in basket later fell from grace, including then-New Jersey commissioner Bob Lee, who ended up in prison as a result of his illegal activities as president of the IBF.
“Dwight Braxton And ESPN: TV Boxing’s Version Of The Dating Game” by Nigel Collins traces both Braxton’s journey from the penitentiary to the WBC light heavyweight title and the emergence of ESPN as a powerful boxing entity.
“Braxton’s rise to the title in just 18 professional fights is a tribute not just to him, but to ESPN’s boxing program,” wrote Collins. “Dwight used his ESPN belt – the first boxing championship created exclusively by, and for, television – as a springboard to other belts – most notably THE RING/VO Championship belt. But just as importantly, his triumph lent credibility to their ‘TV title.’”
Braxton would change his name to Dwight Muhammad Qawi shortly after the article was published.
“Last Round: Red Smith” is Dave Anderson’s tribute to the recently departed Smith, dean of American sportswriters: “Red Smith was, quite simply, the best sportswriter. With the emphasis on writer. If he had chosen to write novels or plays, he would have been a great writer too. But he preferred to write about sports – better than anyone else ever has. Of all those who have written sports for a living, nobody else had his command of the language, the turn of a phrase, the subtlety of the skewer as he did. And nobody enjoyed it more.”
“Fight Of The Month” is a now-forgotten classic between defending WBC super featherweight titleholder Rolando Navarrete of the Philippines and South Korean challenger Chung-Il Choi, held in front of 30,000 fans at Manila’s Rizal Memorial Stadium. “The fight was ballyhooed as the ‘Duel At The Park,’ but it might as well have been called the second ‘Thrilla In Manila,’” wrote Joe Koizumi.
The undefeated Choi, whose 13 previous victories included eight Filipinos, almost made it nine when he floored Navarrete in the fifth round. But the local hero beat the count and finally prevailed via 11th-round knockout in a savage war.
Also of interest was the fact that the Philippine government waved all taxes on the fighters’ purses, which meant Navarrete took home $80,000 and Choi $40,000.
“Rings Around The World” features fight reports from various correspondents from a variety of nations. Many fighters who would go on to win major titles are found in this section, some already main-event fights and others still in the preliminary ranks. Among those in this issue are Edwin Rosario, Daniel Zaragoza, Tim Witherspoon, Hector Camacho, Juan LaPorte, Pinklon Thomas, Joes Luis Ramirez, Jorge Vaca and Dennis Andres.