By Joe Queijo: Carlos Monzón is arguably the greatest middleweight champion ever - though his toughest challenge came in the form of rugged Colombian Rodrigo Valdez. Monzón first sprung to international attention when he travelled to Italy to easily knock out Nino Benvenuti in 12 rounds to be proclaimed champion.
The Argentine quickly showed himself to be a cold, calculating fighter, who used his height and reach advantages to land his ramrod left and hard right. Twelve defenses were quickly made, the most impressive being kayos over reigning welterweight great Jose “Mantequilla” Napoles, big-punching Aussie Tony Mundine and American champion Tony Licata.
Monzón was stripped of the WBC version of his undisputed crown, which Valdez had won, and they met in a unification bout in which Carlos floored and outpointed Valdez. With no better challengers around, Monzón decided to make his 14th and final defense against the Colombian.
Valdez was a vicious right hand puncher, who had kayoed quality fighters like Bennie Briscoe, Gratien Tonna and Max Cohen in his two years as champion. He started furiously as he attacked the slow-starting champion with long rights. In the second round, a cracking right sent Monzón flying to the mat, but the tough Argentine used his experience and tenacity to survive Rodrigo’s fearsome onslaught.
Monzón pulled himself together and proceeded to rip his jab into Valdez’s face. Repeatedly, the challenger was pulled up short by Carlos’ awesome left as he jabbed his way into a points lead. Soon, the champion started landing his crunching right hand with abandon as Valdez was outpunched and punished by his classier foe.
After 12 intense rounds, it looked as if Monzón would romp to another easy decision win when Valdez started finding room for his right hand bombs. Both fighters stood and traded fearlessly with each other, but Valdez looked fresher and stronger as he kept catching Monzón with his feared right.
Nonetheless, it proved too little, too late as Monzón won a marvellous fight by scores of 144-141, 145-143 and 147-144. The great Monzón had retained his middleweight crown successfully for the 14th time and, true to his word, he retired never to step in the squared circle again. Valdez was never the same after this fight, but was still good enough to become middleweight champion for a second time, outpointing Bennie Briscoe before the year was out.
Carlos Monzón w pts 15 Rodrigo Valdez, Monte Carlo, 30 July 1977.
By Joe Queijo