By Jim Amato

With the recent hoopla for the respected Bernard Hopkins and his adding to  the legacy of great Philly fighters. The great city of  Philadelphia has produced an array of world class middleweights over the years.  Hopkins has brought great pride to the long line of Philly middlewights who came  before him. Tough guys like Stanley “Kitten” Hayward,  Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Willie “The Worm” Monroe and  possibly he toughest of them all, “Bad” Bennie Briscoe.

When people talk  of Bernard Hopkins now they compare him to Stanley Ketchel, Harry Greb, Sugar  Ray Robinson and his more recent contemporaries, Carlos Monzon and Marvin  Hagler. However many people often forget a classy and fine middleweight named  Rodrigo Valdez (63-8, 43 KO’s).

Valdez was a world class fighter who  suffered from the “De Jesus” syndrome. That is, like the outstanding Estaban  DeJesus he was overshadowed in his career by the skill of Roberto Duran. So too  was Rodrigo Valdez overshadowed by Carlos Monzon (87-3-9, 59 KO’s). However, if  you take Duran and Monzon out of the picture, then DeJesus and Valdez probably  would be in the Boxing Hall Of Fame.

Born in Columbia in 1946, Rodrigo  Valdez turned pro in 1963. He racked up an impressive record in his homeland and  then invaded the US in 1969. In 1970, he dropped decisions to fringe contenders  Pete Toro and Ralph Palladin.

In 1971, Valdez moved into the big time by  stopping the rugged Bobby Cassidy in seven rounds. In 1972, he scored a big win  over the clever boxer Carlos Marks.

In 1973, Valdez outscored the  always tough Jose Gonzalez. Later in the year Valdez took on the dangerous  Bennie Briscoe (66-24-5, 53 KO’s). Valdez won an upset twelve round verdict and  entered the elite of the middleweight division.

In 1974 the WBC decided  to no longer recognize Carlos Monzon as the middleweight titleholder. Instead  they paired Valdez and Briscoe in a match for the vacant title. In a shocker  Valdez scored a one punch seventh round KO over the usually unstoppable Briscoe.  He may not have been the real champion (Carlos Monzon was considered to be the  real middleweight champion) but this victory and how he achieved it  established Rodrigo as Monzon’s number one threat.

Valdez would defend  his version of the crown four times turning back Gratien Tonna, Ramon Mendez,  Rudy Robles and Max Cohen. Finally on June 26, 1976 Valdez stepped into the  ring in Monte Carlo to meet the great Carlos Monzon.

In this well  contested battle Monzon proved to be just a little too much as he won a close  decision to unify the title. Still Valdez’s showing was so good that the two  would meet again thirteen months later. This bout produced a classic between the  two best middleweights in the world at that time. “King” Carlos Monzon picked  himself off the floor in the second round and rallied to pull out a very close  decision to retain his title.

After two wars with Valdez and the effects  of Father Time, Carlos Monzon decided to retire. Again Valdez was matched with  the aging but still potent Briscoe for the vacant title. Once again, Valdez  would prove to be Briscoe’s master by taking a hard earned points call and the  championship.

It has been said over the years that a fighter can get old  overnight. Even the great ones. This seemed to happen to Valdez. Maybe after the  two wars with Monzon and a trilogy with Bennie Briscoe the wear and tear began  to set in. Anyway a slick boxer from Argentina named Hugo Corro outspeeded  and outboxed Valdez to win the title. Their rematch seven months later saw that  youth was again served as Corro outscored a very old looking Valdez.

How  can I not have the utmost respect for Rodrigo Valdez? This man took Carlos  Monzon to hell and back not once but twice. Bennie Briscoe was one of my all  time favorite fighters but Valdez owned him. As far as I’m concerned, Valdez has  not received the recognition that is due to him.

Bernard Hopkins has made  a believer out of me. We’ll never know if he could have defeated Greb, Zale or  Monzon. I’ll say this, win or lose he would have had his hands full with a boxer  named Rodrigo Valdez.

Jim Amato

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