By Joe Queijo
Pipino Cuevas was one of the most ferocious punching welterweights ever to lace gloves. This deadpan Mexican slugger fired bombs with either hand with his pulverising left hook being one of the hardest single punches in welterweight history.
Cuevas turned professional at 15. His lack of ring experience showed early on as he was outpointed three times in his first 10 bouts. He started to turn his career around when he kayoed future world title challenger José Palacios in 10 rounds to win the Mexican welter crown. He was, however, surprisingly outpointed by classy Andy “Hawk” Price, a superlative boxer who had previously outpointed Carlos Palomino, who would reign at the same time as Pipino.
He was given an unexpected world title chance against Angel Espada for the WBA title, and destroyed the favoured champion in two brutal rounds to win the world crown at just 18 years of age.
He made 11 successful title defences, 10 by kayo. Hi smost impressive victories were a one round win over former undisputed champion Billy Backus, a two round kayo over talented Clyde Gray and two further kayos of Angel Espada in 11 and 10 rounds respectively. Only the rugged Randy Shields managed to last the full 15 rounds with Pipino, but he never contended again.
The Mexican faced undefeated knockout sensation Tommy Hearns in his most publicised fight. The bout was expected to be a duel between Hearns’ right hand bombs and the champion’s crippling left hooks. It turned into a complete rout for the challenger as he outboxed the champion with ease in the first before landing two cracking rights in the second which sent Pipino crumpling to the canvas for the first time in his career. The champion managed to beat the count, but his own corner threw in the towel.
He returned with a one round win over European champion Jorgen Hansen, but then was shockingly floored and outpointed by unheralded Roger Stafford. However, he received a world junior middle elimination fight with the great Roberto Duran with the winner set to face Davey Moore.
Cuevas connected with his vaunted hook, but Duran ignored it and proceeded to hammer away with both fists to send Pipino down twice for an impressive fourth round win. Duran went on to the hammer Moore while Cuevas was effectively washed up as a serious contender.
The Mexican slugger did fight future champs Jorge Vaca and Lupe Aquino, but both flattened him in two rounds apiece thus finishing the career of one of the most exciting fighters to hold the 147Ibs world title. He will never be mentioned in the same breath as greats like Sugar Ray Robinson or Henry Armstrong, but every fight fan lucky enough to see Cuevas in action never asked for their money back and 11 successful title defences is no mean feat!