Monzon: A Tragic Tale
Argentine mega-star Carlos Monzon is widely regarded as one of the best middleweights of all time and consistently ranked in most pundits top 25 pound for pound greatest fighter’s to ever live. He successfully defended his title 14 times. Known for his speed, punching power and relentless work rate, Monzon ended his career with a record of 87-3-9 with 59 knockouts, each one of his losses were early in his career and were avenged. Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990, he was chosen by The Ring magazine in 2002 as the 11th greatest fighter of the last 80 years.
Monzón was born in the city of San Javier, Argentina. His parents were Roque Monzón and Amalia Ledesma, who were of Spanish and Mocoví descent. Monzón was raised in poverty with his twelve siblings. When Monzón was six years old, his family moved to Barranquitas Oeste, a poor neighborhood, of Santa Fe, the capital of Santa Fe Province. To help out his family, he quit school in third grade, working different jobs, such as shoe shiner, paper boy and milk man. As a youngster, he showed an interest in boxing.
Monzón had his first amateur fight on October 2, 1959. This first fight ended in a draw. Three years later, after a 73-6-8 amateur record, he became a professional. His first professional bout was held on February 6, 1963. He knocked out his opponent in the second round. In 1966, he won the Argentine Middleweight title. In 1967, he won the South American Middleweight title.
After this success, Argentine boxing promoter Juan Carlos Lectoure pushed him into the international boxing scene by organizing fights with foreign boxers such as Douglas Huntley, Charles Austin, Johnny Brooks, Harold Richardson, Tommy Bethea, Manoel Severino and Eddy Pace.
World Middleweight Champion Nino Benvenuti had long had a distinguished career that included championships in 2 divisions and 2 wins in 3 bouts vs all-time great Emile Griffith. He had lost the year before to American Tom Bethea in Australia, but in an actual title fight in Yugoslavia, he avenged that loss.
Nobody expected Monzón to beat Benvenuti in their title match (very few even knew of him). Yet Monzón applied pressure from the start, and in the 12th, a right hand landed perfectly on Benvenuti’s chin, and the title changed hands. Monzón also beat Benevenuti in a rematch, this time in only three rounds in Monte Carlo when his seconds threw in the towel.
Monzon was tremendously popular throughout his career. During Monzon’s fights, Argentina would stand still, cities had no traffic, and all TV sets and radios were tuned to the fight. While filming La Mary, he met famous Argentine actress and model Susana Giménez. They started a tumultuous relationship, which led to Monzón’s divorce. Since then, his glamorous and sometimes violent life was avidly followed by the media. He toured Latin America and Europe with Argentine and Italian models and actresses.
While still a champion, a darker side of Monzón began to emerge. In 1973, Monzón was shot in the leg, requiring seven hours of surgery to remove the bullet. In 1975, he began a very publicized romance with Susana Giménez; they had previously met in the 1974 thriller La Mary, directed by Daniel Tinayre, where the two played husband and wife. Monzón hated paparazzi who detailed his affairs. He went to Italy with Giménez to participate in a movie, and started increasingly traveling with her to locations in Brazil and the rest of Latin America, allowing himself be seen with her, although still married. He was accused of domestic violence and of beating paparazzi.
Soon the beatings he gave Giménez became public knowledge. Monzón was repeatedly detained by the police. Giménez began wearing sunglasses more often, presumably to hide her bruises, and many times, paparazzi had to be hospitalized from the beatings suffered at the hands of Monzón, who had unpredictable violent outbreaks. During this period, Monzón divorced his wife.
Susana Giménez left him in 1978. After the breakup, Monzón’s private life was fairly low key. In 1979, he met Uruguayan model Alicia Muñiz, with whom he had an on-and-off relationship for many years. They eventually married and had a child together, Maximiliano Roque. But his violent behavior continued. In 1988, while vacationing in the resort city of Mar del Plata, after a heated argument, he beat Muñiz, followed her to the balcony of their second floor apartment and, presumably after a physical fight, threw her off the balcony and jumped after her. According to the investigation he strangled her, picked her up and pushed her off the balcony, killing her, after which he followed her in the fall, injuring his shoulder. In 1989, he was found guilty of homicide. He received an 11-year prison sentence.
On January 1995, Monzón was given a weekend furlough while serving his term in Cárcel de Las Flores, Santa Fe Province, to visit his family and children. On January 8, 1995, when returning to jail after the weekend, he and a passenger, Gerónimo Domingo Mottura, were killed instantly when the vehicle rolled over near Santa Rosa de Calchines. The other passenger, Monzon’s sister-in-law Alicia Guadalupe Fessia, was injured. Even in his death, Monzón drew a crowd. Thousands sang “Dale campeón” (“Go Champ”) during his funeral.
By: Chris Henderson
You can follow Chris on Twitter @4CornersBoxin