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March 21, 1952|
Carolina, Puerto Rico
|Wins by KO||31|
Early boxing career
Escalera had his first professional bout on September 4, 1970, against Bob Payzant, in Portland. He won by a knockout in round four. He would suffer his first defeat in his third fight, when faced against Doug McClendon, who beat him by a decision in six rounds on January 26, 1971, in New York. He won five bouts in a row, and then lost by decision in eight rounds to future world title challenger Edwin Viruet.
He began 1972 by losing to another future world title challenger, Diego Alcala, by knockout in round eight, but he won his three other fights that year.
In 1973, he began, once again, by losing to another future world title challenger, Miguel Montilla, by a decision in ten rounds. Before the year was over, however, he was able to avenge that defeat, defeating Montilla by a knockout in round eight, and he won seven of his eight other fights that year.
By 1974, he began climbing up the super featherweight rankings, going 8-2 that year. He beat his own future world title challenger Sigfredo Rodriguez by a knockout in round one, and former world champion Ricardo Arredondo by a disqualification in round eight.
Escalera became a household name in Puerto Rico during his tenure as world champion. He appeared in television commercials and was a popular public figure.
He defended his title ten times, including wins over Ray Lunny, Sigfredo Rodriguez and Tyrone Everrett. Most observers consider the Everett "win" as one of the worst decisions in boxing history, as it appeared that Everett clearly won. A rematch was being negotiated when Everett was murdered.
Escalera lost his title on January 28, 1978, to Alexis Argüello of Nicaragua by a knockout in round 13 in Bayamón. In this fight, Escalera suffered a broken nose and tooth, a cut on his tongue and above his left eye, and a closed right eye before submitting to Argüello. The first Arguello-Escalera encounter has been dubbed as "The Bloody Battle of Bayamon".
Escalera and Argüello had a rematch, on February 4, 1979, in Rimini, and Escalera held a small lead on the judges' cards after 12 rounds. However, he was knocked out in round 13 by Argüello. Shortly after drawing with Antonio Cruz in ten rounds in October of that year, he announced his retirement.
In 1980, Escalera dedicated himself to the sport of professional wrestling, competing on the Puerto Rican professional wrestling circuit. However, in 1981, he launched a boxing comeback. He lost to future world light welterweight champion Gene Hatcher in San Antonio, but he beat former world title challenger Maurice Termite Watkins at "The Battle of the Champions'" undercard in Miami, to complete his 1982 boxing campaign.
In 1983, he avenged his loss to Hatcher, dropping him in round six and scoring a ten-round unanimous decision win at the Roberto Durán-Davey Moore world title fight undercard in Madison Square Garden. On September 15 of that year he lost to future world title challenger Charlie White Lighting Brown.
After the Brown fight, Escalera announced his retirement from boxing once again. Shortly after, it was discovered that he had eyesight problems and had been fighting almost blinded for his last few fights.
The avid autograph signer left a boxing record of 53 wins, 14 losses and 3 draws, with 31 wins by knockout. His two fights with Argüello are considered by many to be boxing classics, Argüello-Escalera I making The Ring magazine's list of 100 greatest fights of all time at number 67, and Argüello-Escalera II making it at number 40.
| WBC Super Featherweight Champion
1 Jul 1975–28 Jan 1978