Ranking the 10 Greatest Puerto Rican Fighters in Boxing History

Briggs Seekins@BriggsfighttalkFeatured ColumnistJune 2, 2014

Ranking the 10 Greatest Puerto Rican Fighters in Boxing History

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    When Miguel Cotto enters the ring at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night to face Sergio Martinez, he will represent a proud Puerto Rican boxing tradition. With a population of about 3.6 million, the tiny island nation is perhaps the greatest pound-for-pound boxing country in history. 

    Puerto Rico has produced top boxing stars in every decade since the 1930s. Carlos Ortiz was the top lightweight champion of the 1960s and Wilfredo Gomez emerged in the late 1970s as one of the great pound-for-pound punchers in the sport's history. 

    In the past 20 years, nobody has sold anywhere near as many tickets at Madison Square Garden as Cotto and Felix Trinidad. "Junito" will pack the house again this weekend when he takes on Martinez.

10. Edwin Rosario

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    Edwin Rosario was a top lightweight of the 1980s, holding different versions of the belt three times during the decade. Like many of the top stars of the era, he went down against the great Julio Cesar Chavez.

    The hard-punching "Chapo" lost a split decision to Hector Camacho and went 1-1 with Frankie Randall, Juan Nazario and Jose Luis Ramirez. 

    Other top fighters Rosario beat include Livingstone Bramble and Olympic gold medalist Howard Davis Jr.

    For his career, Rosario was 47-6 with 41 KOs.  

9. Wilfredo Vazquez

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    Wilfredo Vazquez was a three-division world champion during the 1990s. He held the WBA bantamweight, super bantamweight and featherweight titles. 

    Vazquez dropped the bantamweight title to Khaokor Galaxy by split decision in Galaxy's native Thailand. Moving up to super bantamweight, he won the title by stopping Raul Perez in the third round.

    The 122-pound division was Vazquez's best weight class, although he did go on to capture a belt at featherweight. Vazquez is among the most talented fighters on British star Naseem Hamed's resume. Vazquez lost to Hamed by Round 7 TKO. 

    For his career, Vazquez was 56-9-2 with 41 KOs. 

8. Hector Camacho

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    One of the most colorful boxers in the sport's history and one of the biggest stars of the 1980s and 1990s, Hector Camacho was tragically murdered by gunshot in 2012. During his 30-year career he compiled a record of 78-6-3 with 38 knockouts. 

    Camacho was a three-division world champion. He beat such stars of his era as Jose Luis Ramirez, Edwin Rosario, Ray Mancini, Freddie Roach and Cornelius Boza-Edwards. He sent Ray Leonard into permanent retirement and beat Roberto Duran twice late in Duran's career. 

    Camacho stayed active until 2010, fighting until age 48. 

7. Pedro Montanez

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    Pedro Montanez was an early Puerto Rican boxing star, emerging in the 1930s as a top-ranked contender at lightweight and welterweight. He is regarded as among the most talented fighters to never win a world title. 

    He came close to winning the lightweight title in 1937, when he lost by majority decision to Lou Ambers at the Polo Grounds. He had previously recorded a win over Ambers. 

    Montanez also fought all-time pound-for-pound star Hank Armstrong, losing by TKO.

    His career record was 91-8-4 with 50 KOs. 

6. Jose Torres

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    A silver medalist at the 1956 Summer Olympics, Jose Torres beat Willie Pastrano to capture the light heavyweight world championship in 1965. Torres' 1966 victory over Eddie Cotton was The Ring's Fight of the Year. 

    Torres was trained by Cus D'Amato, trainer to heavyweight champions Floyd Patterson and Mike Tyson, and he employed a similar, peek-a-boo style to close distance. He was a favored sparring partner for Muhammad Ali when preparing for Joe Frazier. 

    In addition to his Hall of Fame career in boxing, Torres was a noted columnist and author. He wrote important biographies of both Ali and Tyson. He also served as president of the WBO. 

    Torres' career record was 41-3-1 with 29 KOs.

5. Miguel Cotto

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    This Saturday night, Miguel Cotto will pack Madison Square Garden yet again, as he faces off with lineal and WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. A victory will make Cotto the first four-division world champion ever from Puerto Rico.

    Cotto has been one of the most popular boxing stars of the current generation. He was a dominant champion at light welterweight and a top fighter at 147 pounds, where he beat Shane Mosley and Zab Judah among others.

    Cotto is a skilled, versatile fighter and was able to give Floyd Mayweather some of his tougher rounds in recent years when they fought at 154.

    For his career, Cotto is 38-4 with 31 KOs.

4. Felix Trinidad

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    Felix Trinidad was a three-division world champion, capturing titles at welterweight, light middleweight and middleweight. He never lost a fight below 160 pounds. 

    Trinidad was a durable fighter with a legendary left hook. At welterweight he beat such greats as Hector Camacho, Pernell Whitaker and Oscar De La Hoya. He moved up to 154 and beat Fernando Vargas for the belt, then went up to 160 and became a champion there by beating William Joppy. 

    Trinidad's first career loss was a memorable one, by Round 12 TKO to Bernard Hopkins in a unification fight in Madison Square Garden. Trinidad ended his career with back-to-back losses to Winky Wright and Roy Jones Jr. 

    For his career, "Tito" was 42-3 with 35 KOs. 


3. Wilfredo Benitez

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    Wilfredo Benitez was the youngest fighter to ever capture a world championship, winning the WBA light welterweight title from Antonio Cervantes when he was just 17. At the time, Cervantes was a veteran of nearly 90 professional fights. 

    Benitez would go on to win world titles at welterweight and light middleweight.

    One of the great defensive fighters of all time Benitez gets unfairly overlooked, in historical terms, due to the era he fought during. Fighters like Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard take higher acclaim than the Puerican Rican legend.

    Benitez defeated Duran and lost in very competitive fights to Hearns and Leonard—by majority decision to the "Hitman" and by a TKO in the 15th round to Leonard. 

    For his career, Benitez was 53-8-1 with 31 KOs. 

2. Carlos Ortiz

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    Carlos Ortiz was a light welterweight world champion from 1959-1960, then moved down to lightweight and became the division's premier fighter of the 1960s, holding the world title from 1962-1965 and from 1965-1968. 

    A slick technical boxer, Ortiz recorded victories over fellow Hall of Famers Joe Brown, Flash Elorde and Sugar Ramos. He fought to a draw with junior welterweight champ and Hall of Famer Nicolino Locche.

    Ortiz retired in 1972 after losing by knockout for the only time in his career to rising star Ken Buchanan.

    His career record was 61-7-1 with 30 KOs. 

1. Wilfredo Gomez

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    Wilfredo Gomez is the greatest super bantamweight and one of the top knockout punchers of all time. He started his career with a draw in his first fight, then went on to win his next 32 bouts, all by stoppage. 

    After a dominant run at super bantamweight, Gomez stepped up to featherweight to face Mexican great Salvador Sanchez in a superfight. Gomez suffered the first loss of his career but still went on to capture a world title at 126 pounds when he beat Juan Laporte by unanimous decision.

    After losing his featherweight title to Azumah Nelson, Gomez moved up to 130 and became a three-division champion when he beat Rocky Lockridge by majority decision. 

    For his career, Gomez was 44-3-1 with 42 KOs.