Boxing in the 1970s

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During the 1970s, boxing was characterized by dominating champions and history-making rivalries. The decade had many superstars, who also had fierce rivals. Alexis Argüello, for example, who won the world Featherweight and Jr. Lightweight titles in the '70s, had to overcome Alfredo Escalera twice before the decade was over.

At least six divisions had world champions who could be considered dominant: The Bantamweights had Rubén Olivares; the Super Bantamweights, (a division created in 1976) had Wilfredo Gómez winning the title in 1977 and keeping it until he left it vacant until 1983; the Lightweights had Roberto Durán, who won the title in 1972 and vacated it in 1979 to seek championships at other weights; the Jr. Welterweights had Antonio Cervantes, who reigned twice; the Middleweights had Carlos Monzón, sometimes referred to as King Carlos because of his seven-year reign as champion; the Light-Heavyweights had Bob Foster. The Heavyweights, of course, had Muhammad Ali, who ruled twice between 1974 and 1979.

Another aspect of boxing in the 1970s is that the decade is considered by a few to be the best ever for the Heavyweight division: Ali returned in 1970 from his forced retirement, and Joe Frazier was world champion when Ali returned. Former world champions Jimmy Ellis and Floyd Patterson as well as George Foreman, Oscar Bonavena, Jerry Quarry, Earnie Shavers, Leon Spinks, Ken Norton, as well as Larry Holmes, Ron Stander, Chuck Wepner, Jose King Roman, Light Heavyweight champ Foster, John Tate, Jimmy Young, Ron Lyle, Joe Bugner, Scott LeDoux and many others added intrigue to the division. Don King surged as a leading boxing promoter, and champions Duran, Monzon and Ali had historic rivalries with Esteban De Jesús, Rodrigo Valdez and Frazier, respectively.




  • January 15- Joe Frazier retains his world Heavyweight title with a five round knockout of Terry Daniels in New Orleans.
  • April 7- Bob Foster recovers the WBA world Light-Heavyweight title, unifying it once again with his WBC championship, knocking out Vicente Rondon in two rounds at Miami. Rondon had become the second Latin American world Light Heavyweight champion when the WBA recognized him after Foster refused to defend the championship against him, but the WBC had kept Foster as world champion.
  • May 26- Joe Frazier retains his world Heavyweight title with a five round knockout over Ron Stander in Omaha.
  • June 26- Roberto Durán wins the first of four world titles, knocking out WBA world Lightweight champion Ken Buchanan in thirteen rounds at New York. The fight has a controversial ending: many believe that the blow with which Duran ended the fight was actually low and that he should have been disqualified.
  • June 27- Muhammad Ali knocks out Jerry Quarry in the seventh round of their Las Vegas rematch.
  • September 20- Muhammad Ali beats Floyd Patterson by a knockout in round seven of their rematch, held at New York. It is Patterson's last professional fight, he retires with a record of 55-8-1 with 40 knockouts.
  • October 28- Antonio Cervantes wins the WBA world Jr. Welterweight title for the first time, with a tenth round knockout of defending champion Alfonso Peppermint Frazer in Panama City, Panama.
  • November 17- Esteban De Jesús begins his trilogy of fights with Roberto Durán by defeating the world Lightweight champion by a ten round unanimous decision in New York. Durán suffers his first career defeat in the non-title fight.


  • January 22- George Foreman becomes world Heavyweight champion, defeating Joe Frazier by knockout in round two at Kingston, Jamaica. It is the first fight televised on HBO Boxing.
  • January 24- WBA world Flyweight champion Masao Ohba dies after his car collided with a truck in Tokyo, Japan. He left a record of 35 wins, 2 losses and 1 draw, with 15 knockouts.
  • March 31- Ken Norton becomes the second boxer to defeat Muhammad Ali, breaking Ali's jaw en route to a twelve round split decision in San Diego.
  • May 5- Eder Jofre wins the WBC world Featherweight title three years after his first retirement from boxing, defeating world champion Jose Legra by a fifteen round majority decision in Brasília, Brazil.
  • May 19- Antonio Cervantes retains his WBA world Jr. Welterweight title with a five round knockout of Alfonso Peppermint Frazer, in their Panama City, Panama rematch.
  • June 2- Carlos Monzón retains his world Middleweight title with a fifteen round unanimous decision over Emile Griffith, at their rematch, held in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
  • July 2- Former world Heavyweight champion Joe Frazier returns to the ring, beating Joe Bugner by a twelve round decision at London.
  • September 1- George Foreman retains his world Heavyweight title with a first round knockout over Jose King Roman, who becomes the first Puerto Rican to challenge for the world Heavyweight championship, in Tokyo.
  • September 10- Muhammad Ali avenges his loss to Ken Norton, beating Norton by a twelve round split decision in Inglewood, California.
  • November 3- Arnold Taylor survives four knockdowns to knock out WBA world Bantamweight champion Romeo Anaya in fourteen rounds, winning the world title in Johannesburg, South Africa, in what boxing writer Chris Greyvenstein called probably the most murderous and dramatic (fight) in South African history.
  • December 1- In the first boxing fight pitting a Black man against a White man in South African history, Bob Foster, an African-American, retains his world Light Heavyweight championship with a fifteen round unanimous decision over Pierre Fourie. It was, in addition, Foster's second fifteen round decision win over Fourie.



  • March 24: The fight that inspired the movie Rocky: With a young Sylvester Stallone sitting at home and watching, Muhammad Ali retains his world Heavyweight championship with a fifteenth round knockout over underdog Chuck Wepner, but not without suffering a ninth round knockdown first, in Cleveland.
  • March 30- José Nápoles retains his world Welterweight title with a highly controversial and suspicious twelve round technical decision over Armando Muniz in Acapulco, Mexico. Although no one knew for sure when Nápoles' facial cuts (which caused the fight to be stopped) happened, it was decided that they were probably the result of a headbutt in round three. Therefore, instead of giving the world title to Muniz by technical knockout, it was decided to check the judge's scorecards, and Nápoles was ahead on points, making him the winner by technical decision.
  • April 26- George Foreman stages a boxing exhibition against five different boxers, including former Joe Frazier challenger Terry Daniels. He beats the five men by knockout in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  • May 16- Muhammad Ali retains the world Heavyweight title with an eleventh round knockout of Ron Lyle in Las Vegas.
  • May 17- Antonio Cervantes retains his World Boxing Association (WBA) world Jr. Welterweight title with a fifteen round decision over Esteban De Jesús in Panama City, Panama.
  • June 20- Rubén Olivares wins the World Boxing Council (WBC) world Featherweight title, knocking out Bobby Chacon in the second round of their second of three fights, in Inglewood.
  • June 28- Ángel Espada wins the vacant WBA world Welterweight title that had been stripped from José Nápoles after Nápoles refused to fight him, by beating Clyde Gray with a fifteen round decision in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • June 30- Muhammad Ali retains his world Heavyweight title with a fifteen round unanimous decision over Joe Bugner in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • July 12- José Nápoles retains his world Welterweight title with a fifteen round decision over Armando Muniz in their Mexico City, Mexico rematch.
  • July 15- With only two previous professional bouts, Thailand's Saensak Muangsuring makes history by winning the WBC world Jr. Welterweight title, knocking out world champion Jose Fernandez in Bangkok. Muangsuring becomes the fastest boxer to reach a world championship after his debut.
  • August 23- The first world Junior Flyweight world championship fight sees Jaime Rios beat Rigoberto Marcano by decision in fifteen rounds at Panama City to become the WBA's world champion.
  • September 20- David Kotey becomes Ghana's first world champion, defeating Rubén Olivares by a fifteen round decision to win the WBC's world Featherweight championship in Inglewood.
  • September 30- The Thrilla in Manila: Muhammad Ali retains his world Heavyweight title in his third fight with Joe Frazier, by TKO in round fourteen in Manila. Ali compared this bout to being next to death.
  • December 6- José Nápoles' last fight, as he loses his WBC world Welterweight title to John H. Stracey in Mexico City, Mexico.


  • January 24- George Foreman recovers from two four round knockdowns and beats Ron Lyle by a knockout in the fifth round at Las Vegas. Lyle had also suffered a knockdown in round four, which was picked round of the year by The Ring, publication that also selected the fight as fight of the year.
  • March 17- Wilfred Benítez becomes, at age 17, the youngest world champion in boxing history and wins his first of three world titles, defeating WBA world Jr. Welterweight champion Antonio Cervantes by a fifteen round split decision in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • April 3- The first Jr. Featherweight world title bout in history, as Rigoberto Riasco knocks out Wainunge Wakayama in ten rounds at Panama City, Panama to win the WBC vacant title.
  • April 30- Muhammad Ali retains the world Heavyweight title with a highly disputed fifteen round unanimous decision over Jimmy Young at Landover.
  • June 26- Carlos Monzón re-unifies his WBA world Middleweight title with the WBC one by defeating WBC champion Rodrigo Valdez with a fifteen round unanimous decision at Monte Carlo, Monaco. (The WBC had stripped Monzon in 1974 for failing to defend the title against Valdez)
  • September 28- In the last chapter of their trilogy, Muhammad Ali retains the world Heavyweight championship with a disputed fifteen round unanimous decision over Ken Norton, at New York's Yankee Stadium.



  • January 21- The third and final chapter of the Duran-De Jesus trilogy, as Roberto Durán re-unifies his WBA world Lightweight championship with the WBC one, defeating Esteban De Jesús by a knockout in round twelve at Las Vegas. Duran had been stripped of his WBC belt for failing to meet Itshimatzu Suzuki in a world championship bout, Suzuki later won the WBC title and lost it to De Jesus.
  • January 28- Alexis Argüello wins the second of three world titles, knocking out WBC world Jr. Lightweight champion Alfredo Escalera in thirteen rounds in Bayamón, Puerto Rico.
  • February 15- Leon Spinks, a novice who had had only had seven professional fights, wins the undisputed world Heavyweight championship, defeating Muhammad Ali by a fifteen round split decision, in Las Vegas.
  • March 18- Recognition of World Heavyweight Champion Leon Spinks is withdrawn by the World Boxing Council after Spinks elected to fight Muhammad Ali in a rematch rather than face the organization's #1 contender, Ken Norton. In an unprecedented step, the WBC immediately announces its recognition of Norton as champion, and orders him to fight the highest ranked contender available (Larry Holmes) not later than June 17.
  • April 15- Eusebio Pedroza begins his record-setting championship run as WBA world Featherweight champion, knocking out Cecilio Lastra in thirteen rounds at Panama City, Panama.
  • May 20- José Cuevas retains his WBA world welterweight title with a first round knockout of former world champion Billy Backus in Inglewood.
  • June 9- Larry Holmes becomes the WBC's third World Heavyweight champion in four months by defeating Ken Norton by a fifteen round split decision.
  • September 15- Muhammad Ali makes history, becoming the first boxer to be world Heavyweight champion three times, by beating novice Leon Spinks by a fifteen round unanimous decision at their New Orleans rematch.
  • October 28- In an eagerly anticipated bout, Wilfredo Gómez delivers what many consider the greatest victory ever by a Puerto Rican boxer, knocking out Carlos Zarate in five rounds to retain the WBC world Super Bantamweight title, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • November 10- Larry Holmes retains his WBC world Heavyweight title with a seventh round knockout over Uruguayan Alfredo Evangelista, in Las Vegas.