Lee Groves

10: Best St. Patrick’s Day fights

 

7. 1973 – Antonio Cervantes KO 10 Nicolino Locche II, Maestranza Cesar Giron, Maracay, Venezuela – WBA junior welterweight title

That Locche was nicknamed “Untouchable” was only a slight exaggeration, for his defensive skills were nothing short of legendary. When Locche and Cervantes first met 16 months earlier, the then-WBA junior welterweight titlist drove “Kid Pambele” to the brink of insanity by dropping his hands, bowing at the waist and bobbing his head side-to-side and up-and-down to dodge almost every single punch. Not surprisingly, all three judges scored Locche a shutout winner, raising the Argentine’s record to a mind-boggling 103-3-11 (14 KOs).

Since then, much had changed. Locche lost the title over 15 rounds to Alfonso “Peppermint” Frazier in March 1972 but won four 10-rounders in the interim while Cervantes won five in a row, dethroning Frazier and notching one successful defense, a split decision win over Josue Marquez just 30 days before the Locche rematch. Given what happened in the first fight and Cervantes’ struggles against Marquez, Locche had to be considered a slight favorite.

Cervantes applied a brilliant strategy to neutralize Locche. First, he jabbed to the body, a larger and far less mobile target. Second, he threw clusters of unpredictably sequenced head shots in the hopes that at least one would penetrate Locche’s guard. Finally, he patiently waited out Locche’s series of moves before launching his own attacks.

While the blueprint worked well, the irrevocable turning point occurred in the third when a Cervantes flurry opened a nasty cut over Locche’s left eye, one that merited an instant examination by ringside physician Dr. Franklin Zavala.

Without full sight, Locche could no longer see every Cervantes punch coming and the champion took full advantage by methodically exploiting every split-second hole Locche exposed. Cervantes mounted big rallies in rounds five and eight, the latter of which dangerously widened Locche’s cut.

Knowing that the fight could be stopped at any moment – and also trailing on points – Locche was forced to chase the knockout, which was like asking knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield to strike out Albert Pujols with fastballs. The situation soon became hopeless so Locche’s trainer Tito Lectoure, not one to give up on a fight easily, threw the towel into the middle of the ring the moment the 10th round began. An enraged Locche protested while a victorious Cervantes rejoiced.

This bout marked a turning point for both. It was the first – and only – TKO loss of Locche’s career while the win effectively launched the run that eventually propelled Cervantes into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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