Home Boxing History Puncher from the Past: Heavyweight Jose Manuel Urtain

Puncher from the Past: Heavyweight Jose Manuel Urtain

Jose Manuel Urtain
Birth Name: Jose Manuel Ibar Azpiazu
Born: 14 May 1943
Died: 21 July 1992 aged 49
Record: 68+ fights 53 wins (38 by KO/TKO), lost 11 ( 6 by KO/TKO), 4 draws.
+ Urtain had three “Neo pro” fights winning the first in July 1968 on a knockout in 17 seconds. At the time both Spain and France had a system where fighters could have neo-professional “test” bouts before deciding to go on to fight professionally or return to the amateurs and these bouts are not included in the fighter’s record even if they do then fight as professionals.
Titles: European heavyweight champion April 1970 to November 1970 and December 1971 to June 1972. Spanish heavyweight champion 1971/72 and 1975

Beat: Peter Weiland, Juergen Blin, Jack Bodell, Vicente Rondon**, Jan Lubbers, Richard Dunn*, Danto Cane
Lost to: Henry Cooper*, Gregorio Peralta*, Jose Roman*, Giuseppe Ros, Alfredo Evangelista, Jean Pierre Coopman*
Drew against: Mariano Echevarria, Jose Roman*
** Future or former holders of a version of a world title
*Former or future challengers for a version of a world title

Urtain’s first pro fight was in Paris on 22 December 1968 and he won on a knockout after 20 seconds. He fought again on 28 December winning in 48 seconds.
1969-Had 19 fights winning them all 18 inside the distance. The first round kayo of Victor Chapelle in January was changed to a disqualification as Chapelle was believed to have simulated the knockout and his purse was withheld. Urtain’s opponents were invariably sub-standard or inexperienced

1970-Had 12 fights winning 10. In April he knocked out Peter Weiland to win the European heavyweight title and in June made a successful defence outpointing Juergen Blin a good level German heavyweight who had beaten Giulio Rinaldi and Gerhard Zech. In August his winning run was ended. Initially his opponent Alfredo Vogrig was counted out in the third round but the result was changed to a disqualification win for Vogrig as the knockout punch was ruled to have been low. That ended a run of 28 wins for Urtain 26 by KO/TKO. In November he lost his European title being stopped in nine rounds by Henry Cooper

1971-He had seven fights winning five. In January he stopped Everett Copeland in four rounds but that was changed to a disqualification win as the “knockout” was ruled suspicious. He won the Spanish title in May then drew with Mariano Echevarria in a Spanish title defence in September. In October he lost to Gregorio Peralta. He had floored Peralta in the second round but was stopped in the ninth. He rebounded by regaining the European title with a second round stoppage of Jack Bodell who had won the title with a points victory over Joe Bugner in September

1972- Had 5 fights. He drew with very modest Leroy Caldwell, lost on points to future WBA/WBC title challenger Jose Roman and to Juergen Blin in a European title defence but outpointed former WBA light heavyweight champion Vicente Rondon.
1973/77- Continued active drawing with Roman and beating Jan Lubbers and Richard Dunn but losing inside the distance to Rocky Campbell and Alberto Lovell. He gained revenge with a kayo of Vogrig but it was another fight where an opponent was considered to have gone down too easily. He won and defended the Spanish title but lost to Giuseppe Ros and was stopped by Alfredo Evangelista. In March 1977 he was knocked out in four rounds by Jean Pierre Coopman in a fight for the vacant European title and did not fight again.

Urtain’s Story
Urtain was born in the small hamlet of Urtain in the Cestona region of Spain and was the second born of ten children in his family. He worked on their small farm and followed in the footsteps of his father a famed competitor in the sport of Rock-Lifting a popular sport in the region. Urtain’s feat of lifting 400lbs above his head with two hands and 220lbs with one gained him national recognition and a good living. He had no real interest in boxing and the training regime that boxing required but his advisors saw boxing as a way to capitalise on the huge following his Rock-Lifting exploits had attracted. After three neo-pro fights, the first of which drew a crowd of 15,000 and was held in a football stadium, he crammed in 21 fights in his first twelve months as a pro. As his winning run continued he was mobbed in the streets wherever he went even featured on the front page of the July 1970 issue of Ring Magazine. Spanish dictator Franco named Urtain the new “El Cid” and it was reported that the Spanish Government was willing to offer Joe Frazier a million dollars to defend his title against Urtain in Spain. He was a national celebrity comparable to the fame of bullfighter El Cordobes in past years and Rafael Nadal today and when Muhammad Ali came to Spain to fight an exhibition against Goyo Peralta Urtain entered the ring and lifted Ali above his head.

By October 1970, Urtain was European champion with a 31-1 record but his house of cards was about to collapse. Juergen Blin was the only fighter of any standing he had faced with most of his victims being sub-standard. He had developed basic skills but was slow with a poor defence relying heavily on lunging attacks using his tremendous strength and power to bludgeon opponents to defeat.
His moment of truth came in London in November 1970 when he put his European title on the line against Henery Cooper a former European champion. Cooper had height and reach over Urtain and a wealth of experience against the best heavyweights in the world. At 36 Cooper was nearing the end of his career but handled the cruder Urtain with ease banging jabs through Urtain’s defence and tying Urtain up inside to blunt his attacks. By the ninth round Cooper had won every round Urtain had a bad cut over his left eye and his right eye was closed forcing the referee to stop the fight.
Urtain continued to fight for another seven years but there were few highlights to offset losses to modest opposition such as Rocky Campbell, Alberto Lovell, Jose Antonio Galvez, Giuseppe Ros and Alfredo Evangelista. After a fat vastly overweight Urtain lost to Jean Pierre Coopman his career was over.

He struggled to deal with life after his retirement. Having come from a poor farming family he was overwhelmed by the wealth boxing brought him. He loved to party and partied often and wildly, bought his brother’s Mercedes and changed his car every three or four months. He was already drinking heavily late in his career and after retirement, he tried many things but alcohol came out the winner every time. His second wife had left him and taken the children, he had run up many debts and the owner of the apartment building where he was staying was on the point of having him evicted. On the 21 July 1992 at the age of 49 he fell to his death from the tenth floor of the building. No one was there to witness what happened in the apartment but many felt that it was not an accident but the tragic suicide of a man who had experienced the heights and plumbed the depths of life.