By Derek Bonnett: Argentina is a federal republic located in the southern end of South America and rates as the eighth largest country in the world. The country is divided into twenty-three provinces with the capital city being Buenos Aires. Each province has its own constitution, but exist under the federal system. Upon visiting Argentina in 2005, I was awed by the beauty of its landscape, architecture, and people.
Argentina is well-known for its Gaucho-culture, tango dancing, and futbol. Argentina has the highest consumption of red meat in the world due to its thriving cattle industry, which produces amazing food and leather products. Robust steaks and succulent Malbec wines were plentiful once trading in my American dollars for the Argentine peso. I enjoyed the best steaks I’d ever consumed for under ten dollars in certain spots. I had a leather motorcycle jacket tailored specifically for me for a hundred dollars and I don’t even own a motorcycle.
Soccer is clearly the popular sport of choice in Argentina, but the official national past-time is Pato an ancient horseback game. Argentina has won the World Cup, Confederations Cup, and the Olympic Gold Medal in soccer; this feat is only shared with France. A quick scan of the boxing schedule on BoxRec will often yield no less than a dozen separate boxing cards throughout the week in Buenos Aires alone. The nation’s history in the sport boasts some true legends of the sport and Hall of Famers including Carlos Monzon, Pascual Perez, Nicolino Locche, and Victor Galindez.
Monzon’s fame back home was equal to that of more modern soccer players Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi. Perez became Argentina’s first boxing world champion in 1946. Since then, the number has grown to fifty-three. Argentina was riding a golden era in boxing just a few years ago with such hot commodities as Sergio Martinez, Marcos Maidana, and Lucas Martin Matthysse to name several, but that period has drastically cooled. At present, Brian Castanos, a name you will not even see on this list, holds an interim version of the super welterweight title, which equates to a number one contender position. In December, Jesus Andres Cuellar was dethroned of a full world title at featherweight.
At present, the following four boxers are the best of their nation’s pugilistic hopes for future world championships.
4.) Jonathon Victor Barros, 41-4-1 (22), lost the opportunity to advance his career this past weekend when his scheduled world title bout with Lee Selby was scratched twenty-four hours before the opening bell due to a failed medical exam. Barros owned an alphabet title at 126 pounds when he won a vacant title back in 2010. He defended it twice with career best victories over Miguel Roman, who now contends a division above, and former two-division world champion Celestino Caballero. Barros lost his belt in a rematch to Caballero. He also has two failed world title attempts against Yuriorkis Gamboa and Juan Carlos Salgado. Barros, 32, may have seen his last world title try slip away from him, but as recent as 2016, he has proven himself still capable of defeating world class opposition with a split verdict over Satoshi Hosono in Japan. The Mendoza native may be running out of options, but a showdown with fellow countryman, and number three on this list, Jesus Andres Cuellar would still be quite meaningful and winnable. At this stage, Barros has still only been defeated by elite class fighters.
3.) Jesus Andres Cuellar, 28-2-0 (21), lost his version of the featherweight title to Abner Mares in December 2016. At present, Cuellar holds number nine rankings in the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and at SecondsOut. The hard-hitting southpaw has built a credible career since losing by seventh round TKO to Oscar Escandon in 2011. He outpointed Claudio Marrero and Rico Ramos before scoring a well-publicized second round KO over Juan Manuel Lopez. A stoppage over a used up Vic Darchinyan is the most salient victory on his ledger. Cuellar’s next moves in the division will be interesting as he attempts to rebound. An Escandon rematch would show character if he were able to reverse the outcome. Cuellar’s style is favorable for televised action, so he will get another shot sooner rather than later. However, his title hopes are not much greater than Barros’ outside of a "gimme" match-up.
2.) Juan Carlos Reveco, 37-3-0 (19), has thrice held alphabet titles in two-divisions. At present, the Mendoza resident is one win removed from a stoppage loss to Kazuto Ioka. He still rates favorable at SecondsOut and TBRB holding at third and fourth respectively. Although Reveco, 33, lost twice in 2015 to Ioka, the first contest was hotly contested and unofficially scored in his favor by SecondsOut. Since 2009, Reveco as recorded respectable victories experienced veteran Francisco Rosas and Ronald Barrera. He also owns a decision over Karim Guerfi, which earned residual income following the Frenchman’s defeat of the late Alejandro Gonzalez Jr. Other notable wins include stoppages over heavy-handed spoiler Ulises Lara and top-ten rated Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep, currently rated six at SecondsOut and TBRB. Reveco also outpointed Felix Alvarado during his latest alphabet reign. Reveco has at least one more good win in him and no contender or champion should sleep on the body punching flyweight.
1.) Omar Andres Narvaez, 46-2-2 (24), remains active and in the hunt for a third divisional title at bantamweight. Still a defensive master and a world class grinder, Narvaez’ stock took a hit after being stopped in two rounds by Naoya Inoue back in December 2014. However, Inoue’s "monster" status makes the defeat forgivable. Narvaez will meet young Puerto Rican hopeful Emmanuel Rodriguez at Barclay Center in March. Narvaez is 28-2-1 in world title fights and although he is probably a little undersized for a full-scale assault on the bantamweight division, his greatest detraction is age. At forty-one, Narvaez is beyond long in the tooth for a lighter weight fighter, but he has never absorbed a prolonged beating. He was dismissed early by Inoue and was outpointed by Nonito Donaire in 2011, but put on a first class display of defense reminiscent of Locche. Narvaez has not been in deep in his three outings since the loss to Inoue, but since 2013 he has been able to defeat younger contenders in Felipe Orucuta twice and David Carmona. Narvaez’ resume will always lend itself to quantity over quality, but the skilled Argentine is the most experienced veteran still active at the top from Argentina by way of Chubut. Narvaez’ alphabet history will likely steer him toward Marlon Tapales’ version of the bantamweight crown and victories over him or co-titlist Lee Haskins are not exactly far-fetched.
Honorable mentions or potential alternative choices include middleweight Jorge Sebastian Heiland, who has avenged two of his four defeats and Cesar Rene Cuenca, who ran his record to 48-0-0 (2) before back to back TKO losses to Eduard Troyanovsky.
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January 30, 2017