Friday, September 12, 2008

Bill O'Neill on Ruben Olivares

Submitted by Bill O'Neill

The greatest fighter I ever saw, during my years of covering boxing for newspapers and magazines?

Without question, it was RUBEN OLIVARES. (Admittedly, I never saw Henry Armstrong or Sugar Ray Robinson, in their respective primes--though I did see them perform, later on, when they were on the downgrade.)

What most people have forgotten (or never knew) about Olivares is that at one point in his career, after he had won the world bantamweight title at AGE 19 by stopping the great Lionel Rose, Ruben was the UNDISPUTED champion at 118 pounds, with 71 wins and no losses, with KNOCKOUT wins over eight of the ten top-ranked contenders in his weight class! 

Never one to allow professional fighting to interfere with his having a good time, Playboy Ruben didn't stay on top as long as he should have. But when he was hot, he was HOT! And he fought on, as a world class featherweight and junior lightweight, ALMOST beating the great Alexis Arguello, long after his best bantamweight days were done.

Ruben had knocked out 70 of his first 72 opponents, with return-bout kayoes over the two guys who had managed to go the distance with him.   His legacy and reputation is somewhat diminished by the fact that like many great champions, he stayed around too long, lost to a few guys who couldn't have carried his jock in his best days, and faded away slowly.

Who can top THAT? Perhaps only Hammerin' Henry Armstrong, who defended the undisputed welterweight title FIVE TIMES in the month of October, 1939, scoring four knockouts, over world-rated contenders. (That, after he had already defended his title six times, earlier in the year!)

Quoting Casey Stengel: "Hey--you could look it up!" Five world title defenses, in ONE MONTH. (And today, boxers who fight more than three or four times a year are said to be "overworked.")

Bill O'Neill
Retired Boxing Writer-Historian
Riverside, CA


brian said...

Here's a real case of me being jealous of people living in LA;if you lived in LA when Olivares was at his peak,you had almost the only chance of seeing him fight in person.I don't remember any of his fights being televised-and if I remember right-his peak was when Ali wasn't allowed to fight.The first time I got to see him fight,was Olivares-Chacon II.My uncle,on maybe his first trip to LA,couldn't make the fight and assigned my aunt and cousin to film it(at gunpoint).

brian said...

...Olivares stopped Chacon in two..

Randy De La O said...

Olivares was always a top draw here in Los Angeles but I liked Chacon. If I remember correctly, Chacon really struggled with his weight for this fight. He literally had to sweat off several pounds in the sauna right before the fight. He also could only chew his meat but he wasn't allowed to swallow anything but the juices.

I'm not making excuses for him though. Training correctly is a fighters responsibility. If he blows it it's on his shoulders. Kinda like Sergio Mora on Saturday night. It's not a good enough excuse. Still, it was a tough loss for Chacon.

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