When Oscar Bonavena of Argentina started his professional career in 1964 he met tough opponents like Tom McNeely and Dick Wipperman. In his first bout in 1965 he was overmatched and defeated by veteran contender Zora Folley. Oscar then left New York and returned to Argentina. He defeated Gregorio Peralta and American import Billy Daniels. When he returned to New York in 1966 he outpointed the equally rugged George Chuvalo.
Oscar was then matched with 1964 Olympic Gold Medal winner Joe Frazier. The fight was classic. Oscar had Joe down twice but Frazier came back to win a close decision. In 1967 Oscar was entered in the World Boxing Association eight man elimination tourney to determine the defrocked Muhammad Ali’s successor. In his first match Oscar traveled to Germany and trounced southpaw Karl Mildenberger. In his next bout Bonavena was floored twice and soundly beaten by the eventual tourney winner Jimmy Ellis. Oscar regrouped in 1968 beating Folley in a rematch and also the respected Leotis Martin. He was then matched again with Joe Frazier for the New York State version of the heavyweight crown. Oscar fell behind early but he came back strong only to drop the fifteen round verdict.
Bonavena would remain a mainstay in the talent rich rankings until the untimely end of his career. Two years after his loss to Frazier, Oscar would face Muhammad Ali who had returned from exile. It would be one of the most grueling fights of Ali’s career. The “Greatest” came out on top stopping a dead game but exhausted Oscar in the fifteenth and final round.
In 1971 Bonavena won by disqualification over Al “Blue” Lewis. In 1972 he met former world champion Floyd Patterson. Oscar lost a very debatable decision. Two years later Ron Lyle defeated Bonavena. This loss pretty much pushed Oscar out of the title picture. Bonavena was still a rated contender when on May 22,1976 he was shot and killed at a brothel in Reno, Nevada.
Filed under: Boxing