WATCHING Fernando Saucedo being totally outboxed by Rances Barthelemy at the weekend reminded me how boxing fans – and I include myself in that category – often attribute a certain style to boxers from a particular nation. Saucedo fulfilled the Argentina boxer stereotype: strong and fit, very game, but lacking the sport’s finer points.
With 60 fights (52-5-3) under his belt going into the Barthelemy fight, he boasted bags of experience – but with little power in his fists he was a never likely to unseat the rangy IBF super-featherweight champion. His style just wasn’t right.
Saucedo’s compact physique and experience brought to mind another Argentine of roughly similar poundage (just 4lbs lighter at feather) in Juan Domingo Malvarez. This boxer was involved in what former Boxing News editor Harry Mullan described to me when I first met him as the most exciting fight he had ever seen ringside. That subsequently changed a few months later when he attended Marvin Hagler v Thomas Hearns, but Malvarez’s 1978 fight with Danny Lopez was a worthy second and contest worthy of being better known.
It happened in September 1978, on the undercard of Muhammad Ali’s rematch with Leon Spinks in the New Orleans Superdome (it was one of four title bouts on that show, with Mike Rossman stopping Victor Galindez and Jorge Lujan outpointing Albert Davila). Lopez was originally from Utah but moved to Los Angeles to pursue his pro fighting career, establishing himself as a devastating banger. Malvarez was, on paper, a solid but unexceptional challenger for Lopez’s WBC half of the world 9st crown (in those days there were only two versions, the other being the WBA – and the WBA restricted itself to one champion at each weight, unlike today). Like Saucedo he was experienced, with 57 contests.
Scheduled for 15 rounds, Lopez-Malvarez ended just 45 seconds into the second, but it provided more excitement than many contests going the distance. I remember Mullan telling me that, “Either man could have won at any point in the fight”. As it was, Malvarez dropped the slow-starting Lopez in the first and landed plenty more solid blows – only for Danny to wreck him with a crunching right hand in round two. Mullan told me it left him trembling with excitement.
In stark contrast, Barthelemy-Saucedo was one of those fights that would have sent you to sleep if you watched it live, as opposed to on the replay the next morning. Lopez would eventually be dethroned by Salvador Sanchez while Malvarez would challenge for the WBA title, being knocked out in nine by another outstanding champ in Eusebio Pedroza. If Juan Domingo had been born a generation later he might have been a world title-holder – but although his Lopez challenge was brief, at least it left a lasting impression on the sport, unlike compatriot Saucedo against Barthelemy.