Argentine boxing had its debut in the spotlight with the now legendary heavyweight title fight between champion Jack Dempsey and challenger Luis Angel Firpo back in 1923, in which the Wild Bull of the Pampas famously punched the Mannassa Mauler through the ropes and onto a typewriter in press row only to be KOd a few minutes later after visiting the canvas a total of seven times. But it was not until a fight took place in Italy in 1970 featuring a then-unknown lanky challenger to the middleweight crown that the world learned that something big was happening in the southernmost part of the world.
As good as the many champions and contenders that came before (Pascual Perez, Nicolino Locche, Horacio Acavallo, Oscar Bonavena) and after him (Victor Galindez, Santos Laciar, Juan Coggi, Jorge Castro and more), it is clear now that the famous one-two knock-out combination fired by Carlos Monzon in Rome against Nino Benvenuti became the defining moment in which Argentine boxing served notice that an all-time great in the making was ready to pick up where Firpo had left off.
This year, Argentina will bring that one-two punch to another level when its two most distinguished fighters engage in two separate events that could very well become the biggest fights of the year. And whether those clashes do reach that status or not, they will certainly be the two most important bouts in Argentine history since Firpo-Dempsey, with the possible exception of Ali vs Bonavena in 1969. And if both Argentine fighters manage to win, it will definitely be a banner year for a country that is enjoying an already historic run with several dominant champions leaving their mark in the world of boxing today.
A force of nature, times three
Russia may have its own “triple G” in Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin, but Argentina has its own Triple M in Maidana, Martinez and Matthysse, three of the most exciting and talked-about Latino fighters in the past two years. All three of them will be busy in the next three months in what looms as the most memorable year in the country’s illustrious boxing history.
First off, a classic slugger vs. stylist matchup will take place on May 3rd in Las Vegas, when boxing’s undisputed pound-for-pound king Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather will square off against Marcos Maidana, one of the most devastating power punchers in the game today.
At the last-minute, it was rumored that the fight was about to be moved from Las Vegas to New York, but the best possible scenario could just as easily have been Montreal. That’s where a young, slick former Olympian in Sugar Ray Leonard attempted to defend his welterweight belt against the most destructive Latino slugger of his era in Roberto Duran back in 1980, in the quintessential boxer vs. puncher matchup. The expected tactical chess match failed to materialize as Leonard moved in to outmuscle Duran, one of the toughest specimens the boxing world has ever produced, and the American gold medalist paid a high price for his bravery with a painful decision loss in a memorable event, which in turn spawned a legendary trilogy.
The chances of that situation repeating itself on May 3rd are slim, as Mayweather, one of the smartest and most gifted athletes in boxing history, will probably abstain from engaging Maidana in the short-range (unlike Leonard, who felt he had something to prove to his critics by trying to ‘out-macho’ Duran, an impossible task). But one thing is certain: if there was ever a Mayweather opponent who could turn a fight around with only one punch, that’s Maidana, and that threat will hold true during the entire duration of the bout. Maidana’s destruction of Mayweather-wannabee Adrien Broner is a relatively weak but still powerful testimony of how Mayweather could react once he feels the numbing power of Maidana’s hands.
In the undercard of that event, a yet-unconfirmed fight could turn this one-two of Argentine boxing events into a smashing one-two-three in a year that will still have another six months to look forward after the Martinez-Cotto fight.
Lucas Matthysse, a former world champion in his own right and regarded as one of the most dangerous punchers in the game even after his loss against Danny García last September, is rumored to be pitted against unbeaten Keith Thurman Jr. in a terrific matchup that may very well decide the next opponent for the winner of Mayweather-Maidana. Matthysse had a quiet ride to the top that exploded in 2013 with his demolition of Lamont Peterson and then subsided with the Garcia loss, but he can explode at any minute to regain his status as one of boxing’s must-watch fighters.
And then, on June 7th, big time boxing returns to the Madison Square Garden with a historic event when another former Olympian and multiple world champion in Miguel Cotto, one of Puerto Rico’s greatest fighters in recent years, will be attempting to become the first Boricua to win a title in a fourth different category when he takes on Sergio Maravilla Martinez , the undisputed middleweight champion of the world, in a fight that has been brewing for quite some time with Martinez notoriously trying to get under Cotto’s skin, to no avail so far. Still, three months is a long time, and Martinez will have multiple chances to cause Cotto’s zen-like attitude to surrender in favor of a more belligerent approach.
Regardless of whether he achieves it or not, the event promises to be one of the most emotional fights of the year, with thousands of fellow Puerto Ricans cheering Cotto on to reach a new record and Maravilla putting his mojo to the test in yet another big fight abroad, away from his country, as it has been the case with so many of his most successful outings ever since he wrestled the 160 lb crown away from Kelly Pavlik in 2010.
It’s not every day that two Argentines battle the odds to go up against two future Hall of Fame inductees. The mere realization of these three exciting fights will mark a historic year for Argentine boxing, and it will be the ultimate achievement of a whole generation of terrific fighters that also includes Jorge Barrios, Omar Narvaez, Juan Pablo Chacón, Juan Carlos Reveco and many more.
But if these three fighters manage to win it all in dominant fashion, then 2014 will be remembered as the year in which Monzon’s old 1-2 took on a life of its own and inspired a new generation to aim for even bigger and better things.