Puerto Rico Fights For Its Rightful Place In Boxing History

(Main image photo credit: Melfolio)

Saturday night Miguel Cotto made his return to the squared circle to face Australian Daniel Geale.

Cotto, who usually fights at Madison Square Garden when in New York City, took his talents across the river to Brooklyns Barclays Center. His high profile signing to Jay-Zs Roc Nation Sports is the obvious reason and the packed arena filled with proud, loyal Boricuas is proof that the tradition of Puerto Rican boxing is alive and kicking.

Actually, punching.

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(Photo credit: Melfolio)

With New York Citys famed National Puerto Day Parade only a weekend away, this fight was considered the unofficial kickoff to everything Boricua in the city and in boxing. But the rich tradition of Boricuas and boxing isn’t isolated to New York City as its roots have taken grasp beyond the Big Apple.

Down route 95, Philadelphias Danny Garcia reigns supreme as an undefeated Welterweight and Super Lightweight Champion, earning his last victory over Lamont Peterson at the Barclay’s Center this past April. With a record of 30-0 with 17 knockouts, “Swift” is a proud “Philly Rican” (as he told us last year in our “Driven: Danny Garcia” exclusive), one whose roots extend back to the island of Puerto Rico through his Father, Angel. With his victory last night, Miguel Cotto, who lives in Caguas, Puerto Rico, stands as the current WBC, Lineal and The Ring World Middleweight Champion; however, before these two young Champions emerged on the boxing scene, there were a trailblazing set of Puerto Ricans who opened the door and set the stage for their greatness.

The first was known simply as “Macho.”

When discussing the history of Puerto Rican boxing, one must start by discussing one of the greatest and most popular names in the sport- Hector Macho Camacho. His feats were legendary, his persona over the top and his abilities undeniable.

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Camacho began his career as a feared amateur, winning three New York Golden Gloves tournaments in the late seventies. Once he turned pro in 1980, Camacho tore through his first 38 opponents, primarily in the Felt Forum, which is now known as The Theatre at MSG. This helped establish Madison Square Garden as a key destination for both boxing fans and the Puerto Rican audience, a fact cemented with the career of another Boricua legend, Felix Tito Trinidad

Known for his speed and famously flamboyant style, Camacho held major championship belts in the Super Featherweight (WBC, 1983), Lightweight (WBC, 1985), and Junior Welterweight (WBO, 1989 and 1991) divisions. After earning minor titles in four additional weight classes, Camacho became the first boxer to be recognized as a Septuplet or 7x champion.

During his historic 30-year boxing career, Camacho fought trainer Freddie Roach, Olympian Howard Davis, Jr., Ray Boom Boom Mancini, Julio Cesar Chavez, Felix Trinidad, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya. He retired with an impressive record of 79-6-3 and passed away on November 24th, 2012 in Puerto Rico as a result of complications sustained from a drive by shooting.

Camacho’s rise to fame opened the doors for another legend from the island, and that legend was affectionately known as the previously mentioned “Tito.”

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Felix “Tito” Trinidad created a wave of success that is still virtually unmatched. After winning five National Amateur Championships in Puerto Rico, he made his professional debut at the tender age of 17.

In 1993, Tito won his first world championship by defeating Maurice Blocker for the IBF Welterweight belt, later holding the record for second most welterweight title defenses (15). In addition, Trinidad also holds the record for longest reign as Welterweight Champion with six years, eight months and fourteen days.

Trinidad was known to fight the best and during his career he fought and beat some of the best including Oscar De La Hoya, where he won the Lineal and World Boxing Council welterweight champion; Fernando Vargas in a unification fight where he won the International Boxing Federation’s light middleweight title and William Joppy for the World Boxing Association’s middleweight championship.

Trinidad began to fall into boxing obscurity after he lost to Bernard Hopkins at MSG (the first event at the venue after the horrific events of 9/11) by technical knockout and retired for the first time. Trinidad returned to action at MSG three years later in a fight against Ricardo Mayorga where he won the NABC Middleweight title. However, following his fight against Ronald Winky Wright the following year, he retired for a second time.

In 2008 he returned to the ring to fight Roy Jones Jr. at MSG once again, this time losing the contest by unanimous decision. Subsequently, Trinidad entered a five-year hiatus without clarifying the status of his career. But regardless of his last fight, Tito has always been recognized as an ambassador for Puerto Rican boxing lore.

The island’s rich history in the ring is both well documented and well demonstrated. Its list of International Hall of Fame inductees include Carlos Ortiz, Wilfred Benitez, Wilfredo Gomez, Jose Torres, Sixto Escobar, Edwin Rosario, Pedro Montanez, Herbert Hardwick and referee Joe Cortez. And with current stable of fighters such as the aforementioned Champions Garcia and Cotto, and rising superstars like Brooklyn’s Serrano sisters, the history will grow even stronger as boxing continues to expand its presence among the general masses.

Saturday night fans watched future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto go to work against tough Australian Daniel Geale, earning a fourth round TKO over the tough Australian; but more importantly, he further cemented the rich and dominant history of pugilism emanating from the island of Puerto Rico.

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(Photo credit: Melfolio)

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