There can be little debate that Carlos Monzon was the greatest Argentine boxer of all time. As a middleweight his run in the 1970′s included 14 defenses over nearly 7 years, a record that lasted until Bernard Hopkins surpassed it in 2002. Among Argentines of any weight class the record stood even longer. But records are, after all, made to be broken.
Which is what Omar Narvaez did.
The two-time Olympian became the first member of the 2000 Games to win a pro title, doing so in just his twelfth fight. He reigned for 8 years as the WBO flyweight kingpin, making 16 defenses before abdicating his throne and stepping up to junior bantamweight where he’s now the WBO ruler. With 7 successful defenses at 115 pounds so far, he’s a very impressive 24-1-1 with 9 knockouts in world title fights.
Narvaez, who recently turned 38 years old, says he intends to fight until he’s 40. He’s one of boxing’s quiet men, still living in his hometown of Trelew far away from the bright lights and hustle and bustle of a metropolis like Buenos Aires.
Next up for the southpaw is Japan’s Hiroyuki Hisataka. The hardnosed journeyman enters the bout with a modest (22-10-1, 10 knockouts) record but it will be his fourth attempt at a world title, having previously failed in two challenges at 112 and one at 115. He is also coming off a solid win over previously streaking Sonny Boy Jaro, with only one of his losses coming via stoppage – and that was in his debut.
Through his interpreter, former amateur teammate Fabricio Nieves, Narvaez (39-1-2, 20 KOs) spoke about his upcoming fight.
Anson Wainwright: You fight Japan’s Hiroyuki Hisataka on Aug. 24. What are your thoughts on him and how do you feel about the fight?
Omar Narvaez: I saw a couple of videos of Hisakata and he’s a good fighter with the experience of fighting for a world title before. He has good boxing skills, he’s fast and has a good left hand.
AW: In your last fight you beat Felipe Orucuta on points. Could you tell us about that fight?
ON: About the fight against Felipe Orucuta I can say that it was a fight where I had to use my boxing skills and intelligence because he was a tough and strong opponent, bigger than me. I had to work with lot of footwork and counterpunching. I had to anticipate him or counter him because he was strong and my punches didn’t slow him down.
AW: I’m sure you are very well known in Argentina – how popular are you?
ON: I’m more known in the boxing environment. I haven’t done any TV commercials, maybe because I chose to live in my birthplace, a small town. I live in Trelew of the Chubut Province, far away from the capital and all the noise.
AW: Can you tell us about growing up in Trelew?
ON: About my youth I can tell you that I grew up in a humble neighborhood and as a boy I played soccer for a club from my city. (He is a very good soccer player and had big dreams of becoming a soccer star before starting to box. In his town he had the nickname “The Future” because of his talent. But his small size ultimately limited his possibilities.)
AW: How did you become interested and then involved in boxing?
ON: When I was 16 years old I started to go to a boxing gym to watch my big brothers’ workouts. My passion for boxing was born there. That year my mother died, and at 17 years old I started to box. And when I started I quickly realized that I had talent for boxing and became fully dedicated to it with the vision of becoming world champion one day.
AW: You were a highly decorated amateur. Could you tell us about your amateur career, what titles you won, what it was like to represent Argentina at the Olympics twice, etc.?
ON: My amateur career was very successful! I achieved significant wins with the gold medal of the South American Games in 1998 and the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada. I participated in the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, won the gold medal in the 1999 Cordoba Cardin tournament in Cuba, I was the runner-up in the World Championship in Houston, Texas, in 1999, and in Sydney 2000 I lost in the Round of 16 to Vladimir Sidorenko of Ukraine.
I participated in many other international tournaments and did a total of 103 amateur fights, of which 70 or so were international, with a total of 25 losses, but no one stopped me. I also fought, among others, Jose Navarro, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Daniel Reyes and Yonnhy Perez.
Having represented my country is still my proudest moment.
AW: You’re from a boxing family. Could you tell us a little about them?
ON: We are five brothers and all have boxed and all are part of my team. Of the five of us, only me and my youngest brother, Nestor Daniel, are still fighting. He had an excellent fight against (Toshiyuki) Igarashi, losing a majority decision in Japan.
AW: You have achieved many things in your career: You’re a two-weight world champion, you broke Carlos Monzon’s Argentinean record for most successful title defenses in a weight class… what goals do you still have in boxing?
ON: I would like to unify the titles fighting with the other champions.
AW: You stepped up to bantamweight and fought Nonito Donaire in 2011. Could you tell us a little about that fight? Some people questioned why you were so defensive; would you say that when you realized how good Donaire was this was the only way you could fight, or was his size to much for you?
ON: When I went to fight with Nonito I had a fracture in my left hand but I accepted the fight anyway. That is no excuse. I tried out the bantamweight category but when I fought him I realized that the size difference was just too much and I had very little possibility (of winning). I speculated too much because my hands were not right and he didn’t attack to give me possibilities of doing anything, either, and if I entered into his game plan it became just too dangerous, so I didn’t deviate from my script. But I honestly thought that they (the other champions) would dare to call me out to fight me, but in my weight class. But I did not receive any offer.
ON: Outside of boxing I like going to ride my motorcycle. I like the adrenaline but I try to watch out and take care of myself. I also enjoy playing soccer a lot.
Photos: Juan Mabromata-AFP/Gettyimages (2); Alejandro Pagni-AFP/Gettyimages (2); Chris Trotman-Gettyimages