Carlos Monzon was what the Holywood studios were made for. When you read his life story, it is almost unbelievable. Apart from the fact that he was the undisputed world middleweight champion, made 14 defences, was adored as a national hero in his homeland of Argentina, murdered his girlfriend Alicia Muniz, was shot in the back by his wife, went to prison (11-year sentence) and died in a car crash he is also regarded as one of the greatest boxers ever.
If you think it's hard to win a boxing world title in this day and age then give a thought to the fighters of Monzon's era. Monzon had to travel to Rome, Italy in 1970 to face their idol and Olympic gold medalist Nino Benvenuti. He was given very little chance, mainly because no-one really knew who he was. Now, Monzon was fighting for the 80th time as a professional. Yes, that's right, his first crack at a world title came after 79 pro bouts. It's very rare for a fighter to complete an 80 fight pro career today, so fighting for a world title in your 80th fight is ridiculous by today's standards. Coincidentally, this was also Benvenuti's 80th professional outing.
Benvenuti lost his title by a brutal 12th round KO. He lost again in a rematch 6 months later in Monte Carlo this time in 3 rounds. In between these two titles fights Monzon won three 10 round non-title fights in Argentina. Can you imagine this schedule happening today?
A 14th round stoppage of all-time great Emile Griffith followed 5 months later. In total Monzon defended the title 14 times against Denny Moyer, Jean-Claude Bouttier (x2), Tom Bogs, Bennie Briscoe, Jose Napoles, Tony Mundine, Tony Licata, Gratien Tonna and Rodrigo Valdez (x2).
Monzon was tough and uncompromising inside the ring but in his private life, he was no different. We all wish our heroes were perfect but they very rarely are, that's why they are so special at one thing, in Monzon's case, it was boxing.
The facts surrounding the death of Alicia Muniz are open to interpretation. Monzon and Muniz both fell from a second-floor balcony during a bout of heavy drinking and argument. Monzon only suffered a minor injury but the fall killed Muniz. A statement made by a single witness was enough to ensure an 11-year sentence for the Argentinian superstar. Monzon protested his innocence until the end.
In 1995 while on a weekend furlough from prison, Monzon crashed the car he was driving killing both himself and a friend, as well as injuring his sister-in-law.
But where does Monzon belong in boxing history?
Historians rarely place him above Sugar Ray Robinson in the all-time middleweight rankings and Marvin Hagler seems to be most people's third best. But while Robinson and Hagler were stars of their times neither were national superstars in the mould of Monzon. It would be fair to say that Carlos Monzon was as popular in Argentina as Roberto Duran was in Panama.
Another thing that stands out about the Argentinian is how dominant his reign was. Robinson won and lost the title on five occasions and while Hagler's ownership of the middleweight belts was also dominant he suffered a controversial draw against then-champ Vito Antuofermo in his first challenge for the title as well as a title losing defeat to Ray Leonard at the end of his career. Monzon never lost a title fight and ran up an 81 fight unbeaten streak before retiring.
Sugar Ray Robinson deserves his place at the top but do we believe that Monzon wasn't capable of beating a peak Robinson on his day?
Robinson lost to Randolph Turpin, Carl "Bobo" Olson, Gene Fullmer, Carmen Basilio, Paul Pender, Joey Maxim and others, but none of these names would be compared to Monzon in a conversation about the best middleweights.
Argentina has a rich and proud boxing history but Monzon stands alone as the No 1.