When I think of some of the best fighters in recent years who never won a title. I can not help but think of Jerry Quarry and Yaqui Lopez. Pierre Fourie and “Bad” Bennie Briscoe also come to mind. Without a doubt another one is Armando Muniz. Born in 1947 Muniz turned professional in 1970 and won his first twelve bouts. In 1971 he drew with rugged Oscar “Shotgun” Albarado. Then came big wins over Gil King and Clyde Gray. Muniz suffered his first loss when he was out boxed by the great Emile Griffith in 1972. There were also losses to Raul Soriano and Jose Martin Flores but he closed the year halting Adolph Pruitt for the NABF welterweight title. In all Armando had eleven fights in 1972!
In 1973 Muniz lost the NABF title to cagey Eddie Perkins. He was also upset by Zovek Barajas. The following year saw Muniz lose again to Perkins. He also lost to the capable Marcos Geraldo. He blitzed Billy Lloyd in one round but dropped a verdict to smooth boxing Angel Espada. Armando ended the year on a big note though defeating the highly regarded Hedgemon Lewis. The win over Lewis earned him a shot at the great Jose Napoles and the world welterweight title. In a bout with a highly controversial ending a badly cut Napoles was a awarded a technical decision after twelve rounds. The details of this fight would make for a story in itself. The controversial ending led to a rematch and this time Napoles won a fifteen round decision. In between his two bouts with Muniz, Napoles gave up the WBA version of the title. Angel Espada would beat Clyde Gray to claim the vacant crown.
Napoles would eventually lose his title to England’s John H. Stracey. The Brit in turn would lose his title to Carlos Palomino. In 1977 Muniz would challenge Palomino for the WBC championship. In a great fight Palomino stopped Muniz for the first time in his career in the fifteenth and final round. Muniz stayed in the mix for a rematch beating Barajas in their return encounter. He was upset by Jose Palacios but he came back to stop the rated Pete Ranzany. Next came a 1978 rematch with Palomino and Carlos retained his title by decision. Sugar Ray Leonard was then looking to move up in the ratings and who better to fight then a four time world title challenger. Muniz was no longer the fighter he once was and Leonard was a rising superstar. Ray stopped Muniz ending his career. In 59 fights Muniz posted a 44-14-1 record with 30 KO’s.
Pipino Cuevas is inducted in the International Boxing Hall Of Fame. I was not sure if I agreed with that honor but when you look at his championship reign, one has to be impressed. He won the WBA version of the welterweight crown in 1976 when he upset Angel Espada in two devastating rounds. Until losing his title in two rounds to the fearsome Tommy Hearns in 1980, Pipino racked up eleven defenses. He was a crushing puncher with a wrecking ball left hook that left a trail of broken bones and victims. He was in a word, awesome.
What if…In the building of a possible unification showdown between Palomino and Cuevas, the Cuevas camp decided to meet Muniz and use him as a “measuring stick” so to speak. Let’s say the fight took place in 1977 after Armando’s first loss to Palomino. This would be for Pipino’s WBA title. This bout would have been a huge draw in Los Angeles. Who would have won ? Here is one possible scenario…
ROUND 1- Cuevas comes out fast and wastes little time introducing himself. Firing away with both hands he quickly has Muniz on the defensive. Armando is using all his guile to avoid the onslaught. Finally a big left hook drops Muniz to his hands and knees late in the round. Armando is up at “5″ but seems to be OK. The bell sounds before Pipino can follow up.
ROUND 2- Pipino is again going after Muniz in earnest. Some punches are missing but the ones that are landing hurt Armando. Muniz is just trying to weather the storm at this point. Again another Cuevas left hook drops Muniz on his side. This time Muniz takes the “8″ count and is able to ward off Cuevas until the bell.
ROUND 3- Cuevas is like a machine that never stops throwing punches. Most of them are bombs. Muniz is wobbled a few times but he keeps his feet. When possible Armando is digging in some body shots but Pipino is still in charge.
ROUND 4- The pattern of the fight is the same as Muniz has all he can do to hold off Pipino’s relentless attack. At this point Cuevas has a huge lead and it seems like only a matter of time before Muniz will cave in.
ROUND 5- For the first time in the fight Muniz has landed some meaningful punches. A left hook got Pipino’s attention and later a straight right. Cuevas has slowed down a bit but he is still very dangerous.
ROUND 6- There were some pretty good exchanges in this round and again Cuevas hurt Muniz. Armando managed to stay upright but Cuevas pulled out the round to add to his commanding lead.
ROUND 7- Muniz is mixing his punches well to the body and head and Pipino appears to be bothered. Cuevas is still winging away and draws blood from Armando’s nose. Still Muniz was the busier fighter this session and he is awarded the round.
ROUND 8- Cuevas is still launching bombs but now he is missing more then he is landing. Muniz is matching punch rate with Cuevas and his punches are more accurate now. A couple of nice combinations by Muniz jolt Pipino. Another round for Armando.
ROUND 9- The Cuevas corner is trying to fire up their charge. Pipino continues to come forward occasionally landing a good punch. At this point though his work rate has diminished and Muniz has landed some effective counters and is still working Pipino’s midsection.
ROUND 10- Although Muniz has rallied he is still far behind on the cards with three rounds left. Both men are showing the marks of a very intense battle. Cuevas appears to be tiring while Muniz seems rejuvenated. A hard straight right stuns Pipino after he missed a wide left hook. Armando then stepped in with his own left and Cuevas is down. Pipino is up at four but looks confused. The two are trading shots and Pipino’s legs buckle from another hard left but he does not go down. Finally the bell sounds as the crowd is in a frenzy.
ROUND 11- Muniz is looking to land another big shot but he is wisely not loading up. He is throwing short punches in nice combinations. He is now slipping most of Pipino’s arcing shots and countering well. A body shot seems to freeze Cuevas for a moment and a sharp left hook to the temple sends him staggering across the ring. Muniz follows with a flurry that drops Pipino to his knees. Cuevas is up at “6″ but he is in a bad way. Muniz is teeing off as Pipino is now defenseless. Just as the referee is jumping in Cuevas slides down the ropes. The referee waves it off at 2:03 of the eleventh round. The winner and NEW, WBA welterweight champion, Armando Muniz.
For whatever reason a unification fight between Carlos Palomino and Pipino Cuevas never took place. It should have. All the ingredients for a classic fight were there. I personally always thought that Palomino was the better man. One reason why is because he defeated who I thought at the time was the #2 welterweight in the world, Armando Muniz. There is a good chance that if Armando would have received a title shot with Cuevas he may have finally won that elusive world title.
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