This is the first in an occasional series of posts looking back at the Ring Magazine Fights of the Year from 1970 to 2009.
In 1970, Nino Benvenuti defended his unified (WBC & WBA) Middleweight championship against Carlos Monzon, then ranked #10 in the world. The fight ended via TKO in the 12th round, when Benvenuti’s corner rushed into the ring to stop the fight after a brutal knockdown. This was a necessary stoppage; although Benvenuti was able to stand after the fight was waved off, he did not have his footing, and staggered into the ropes.
The fight was a very rough affair; either hitting behind the head wasn’t a foul in 1970, or these guys simple didn’t care. The match followed a pretty regular pattern: The boxers would trade at middle distance for a little bit, then get tangled in a clinch, then hit each other behind the head, then the referee would break them. Monzon usually got the better of the exchanges: I saw him winning every round except the 5th on the basis of clean, effective punching — he simply hit harder, in my view.
Both men seemed to favor looping power shots; Monzon’s punches might have been a little straighter. Obviously, neither had great defense or counterpunching, or those long shots would never have landed. On the other hand, both fighters employed a good variety of punches, and split their attacks well between the body and head.
The general tenor of the fight was that of a contest that began evenly, and began to tip more and more towards Monzon. The 10th was the last competitive round, with both boxers landing hard shots, though it seemed to take more out of Benvenuti; Benvenuti started the 11th aggressively, but quickly entered a decline that saw him chased across the ring, against the ropes, and KO’d in the 12th.
I’m a little surprised that this was a FOTY. The outcome never seemed that much in doubt (though if it had gone to a decision, home cooking could have robbed Monzon), and though there was plenty of action, it wasn’t a very graceful match. (All those clinches and illegal blows aren’t very pretty.) I suppose it was elected because it was such an upset; absent that context, it’s a good fight, but not a great one.