Nicknamed “Escopeta” which means shotgun in English, the life of Carlos Monzon, had a scatter impact and imprint in all directions. Today he would have been eighty years old, but he died in a car accident aged 52, forever revered as a great middleweight champion, who controlled his aggression with precision genius in the ring, but simply couldn’t curb his explosive temper outside of it, try as he might.
Middleweight champion for seven years, he successfully defended his title fourteen times and retired…a feat which hasn`t been matched since. One hundred fights, including eighty-seven wins, fifty-nine KO`s, three losses-all avenged plus nine draws.
He was of Mocovi descent. A nomad indigenous people, who were skilled hunters, wandering across vast barren lands. Born in the dusty, desolate provincial town of San Javier in the State of Santa Fe on August 7th 1942, Carlos had twelve brothers and sisters. Back then a child spoke only when spoken to, food was scarce, flat bellies, hungry haunting eyes and children worked from dawn to dusk.
Carlos quit school early to become a shoeshine boy, a newspaper seller and a milk delivery boy. Every youngster was expected to defend his patch on the sidewalk with kerbstone ferocity or lose it and be utterly humiliated. Carlos also picked up some loose change by winning street fights, which paid fifty pesos a time.
He gravitated to amateur boxing to refine his brawling, with a record of 73-6-8, before turning pro in 1959. Trainer, mentor, and father figure Amilcar Brusa, who was an ex- wrestler, coached Carlos and trained him how to grapple in clinches, so he was just as tough close in, as at range.
Carlos turned pro aged twenty in 1963, recalling: “Initially, I couldn`t even afford boxing boots and got infections in my feet.” He tore through the ranks becoming middleweight champion of Argentina and then South America.
Doug “Dub” Huntley, who trained Daniel Ponce de Leon and lost to Carlos in 1968 by KO observed: “He trained very, very hard and he was very, very smart. He was six feet tall with a seventy- six inch reach and he well knew how to use it to his advantage. He got better and better until he became great.”
Bennie Brisco from Philly came to Luna Park in Buenas Aires and gave Carlos his toughest fight, nearly upending him in a torrid ninth and they fought hard to a draw.
No one gave Carlos much of a chance against the handsome, debonair, accomplished Nino Benvenuti, 1960 Gold Medallist and Val Barker trophy winner in the Rome Olympics and double world champion as a pro.
Impervious to punches or silky skills, Carlos dominated and Caught Nino with a blockbuster right to the chin in round twelve to KO him. He stopped Nino in three in their rematch. Nino was knocked down in the second and his corner threw in the towel after he was knocked down in the third. Carlos himself said: “All Argentina was proud of me. When I became champion, I was twenty-eight. I wasn`t a boy. I started to get big money,” and he prophetically added: “I could buy an expensive car.”
Carlos stopped Emile Griffith in fourteen rounds and then defeated him by decision in an all-time classic. For their second fight, Carlos had to run three miles and spar two rounds to reach the weight.
By the time of his ninth defence, when he fought Jose “Mantaquilla” Napoles in Paris, all the ring rough edges had been polished off Carlos Monzon. He towered over Mantaquilla and stopped him in seven eye-wateringly one-sided rounds. Napoles` Trainer Angelo Dundee praised Monzon, saying: ” Carlos Monzon is the complete fighter. He can box, he can punch, he can think and he`s game all the way.”
Tall and broad shouldered, if slim, Carlos still had to train extremely hard to reach the one hundred and sixty pounds limit. Don Jose Sulaiman, who went to Paris for the fight as WBC Commissioner, remembers the officials demanding a urine test from Carlos Monzon, following his triumph.
For one hour, the dehydrated, bone-dry Carlos tried to live up to his nickname, but couldn`t squeeze or shed a single drop. So, he finally popped the cork on a champagne bottle and wizzed some of its fizzy spume into the bottle, saying this would have to suffice. No one argued!
Carlos Monzon concluded his amazing career with back-to-back unanimous decision over tough and talented Colombian Rodrigo Valdez. Carlos hung up his gloves aged thirty five, and the remaining seventeen years of his life were restless, turbulent and unfulfilled.
An unsuccessful film, tele- novelas and two failed marriages. Carlos couldn`t adjust to a domestic life. Former WBC Executive Secretary Eduardo Lamazon, said of Carlos: “He was fine…until he had a drink. Journalist Carlos Irustra who also knew Carlos only too well said: “He drank a lot. I believe he was unable to express himself with words. The difference is in the ring it was his work.
Mike Tyson said: “He was a tough guy for real, a guy from the streets. He didn`t talk much. He didn`t need to. The ring belonged to him.”
He`d defeated Nino Benvenuti, Emile Griffith, Jean Claude Bouttier and Rodrigo Valdez twice, Jose Napoles, Tony Mundine, Denny Moyer, Tom Boggs and Gratien Tonna.
For one who`d floored so many, Carlos Monzon`s was flawed by his explosive temper, which was sometimes vented on the paparazzi. His fundamental strength was his daunting weakness and his ultimate downfall. He himself admitted: “People tell me to count to ten, but I can only reach two!”
On Valentine`s Day 1988, he argued with his second wife Alicia Muniz, threw her off a balcony and he also jumped. He survived but she did not. Carlos was jailed for eleven years. He said: “Me and my bad temper are responsible for this. I`ve killed the love of my life.”
In prison Carlos repented for his terrible crime. He turned to religion and prayed to God for forgiveness. On January 8th 1995, returning to prison after a weekend furlough to see his family, he was driving and the car overturned, killing him and passenger Geronimo Domingo Mottura. Carlos` sister in law Alicia Guadalupe Fessia was injured, but survived.
The World Boxing Council commissioned a statue of Carlos in his home State of Santa Fe. We don`t and never would condone domestic violence, but we recognize Carlos` sporting achievements, which are comparable to those of Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Juan Manuel Fangio.
Ultimately, no one judged Carlos Roque Monzon, as harshly as himself and belatedly he changed as a man. In his song about Carlos Monzon entitled: Puno Loco, Leon Gieco sang:
“I made the Heavens fall. I stopped the wind. I made them cry, with just one crazy fist.”