|Real name||Oscar Natalio Bonavena|
|Height||5 ft 10 1⁄2 in (1.79 m)|
|Reach||73 in (185 cm)|
|Born||September 25, 1942|
Buenos Aires, Argentina
|Died||May 22, 1976 (aged 33)|
Sparks, Nevada, U.S.
|Wins by KO||44|
|Losses||9 (1 KO)|
Oscar Natalio "Ringo" Bonavena (September 25, 1942 – May 22, 1976) was an Argentine heavyweight professional boxer with a career record of 58 wins, 9 losses and 1 draw. A rugged, wild-swinging puncher, he was nicknamed "Ringo" because of his Beatles haircut, and enjoyed professional success in both Argentina and the United States. He is most famous for giving both Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali tough battles.
Life and pro career
Oscar Natalio Bonavena was born in Buenos Aires to two Italian immigrants. He was a professional boxer, Argentinian and South American champion. He also participated in several Argentinian TV programs such as the Pepe Biondi Show.
His pro debut was on February 1, 1964. He soon racked up a quick string of early knockouts, but was overmatched early, sometimes fighting twice a month, and lost by a decision in February 1965 to then highly rated Zora Folley. Bonavena was in only his 15th contest and was far too inexperienced to then really tackle a top veteran like Folley. It was a one sided contest with Bonavena getting up off the deck from a wicked right hand. Even courageous Oscar looked discouraged and shaken at times in the later rounds. However, three years later with far more experience and training he won their rematch by decision.
After that, he returned to Argentina, where his winning and knockout streak continued. But in mid 1966 he was enticed back to New York for a match with rugged contender George Chuvalo.
The free-swinging Bonavena soon ran into trouble outside the ring. He called Muhammad Ali a black kangaroo and even a chicken for draft dodging. Ali was furious. Oscar was one of the few people to upstage Ali in pre-fight press conferences. When, much later, he saw Ali seated ringside at the George Foreman–Ken Norton fight, he went over and started a big slanging match. In his pre-fight press conference with Frazier, Bonavena needled effectively by implying that Frazier had a personal hygiene problem. He would start sniffing and grimace. Lawsuits were brought about by reporters with broken cameras; and other such "colorful" behavior. He was always volatile, as trainers soon discovered.
Big name contests, Chuvalo and Frazier
Bonavena first came to wide public attention after a fine performance defeating rated contender and Canadian champion George Chuvalo, boxing technically better than expected and later going the distance against the young hard-hitting great Joe Frazier. In this their first fight, Bonavena had the future champion down twice in the second round before Frazier rallied to win by decision in the 10th round.
WBA elimination contests
In 1967, after the World Boxing Association stripped Muhammad Ali of the title for refusing to be inducted into the U.S. military, Bonavena participated in that sanctioning body's 1967 tournament to crown a new heavyweight champion. In a strong performance he decked favoured European champion Karl Mildenberger four times, winning by a decision in Frankfurt, West Germany. But he was himself knocked down twice and clearly outboxed by eventual tournament winner Jimmy Ellis in the semi-finals in Louisville, losing by unanimous decision in an upset. Many deemed it the best win of Ellis's career. Incidentally, Bonavena had been scheduled to fight Ali in Tokyo in May 1967, but the bout was not to be when Ali was stripped of his title. They'd match later.
World Title shot, the Frazier rematch
The following year, in 1968, after outpointing Leotis Martin, he got a rematch with Frazier for the heavyweight title in Philadelphia. After a grueling fifteen rounds Bonavena lost the rematch by decision, fighting more defensively than previous. He did leave with a seriously battered face photographed in the Ring magazine. However, he had won respect.
In December 1970, he fought Ali at Madison Square Garden, in the former champ's second bout after his three-year layoff. Bonavena absorbed punishment throughout but fought well, getting through with various head and body punches. With just under 1:30 left in the 15th and final round, Ali caught Oscar rushing in and decked him with a perfectly placed left hook. Bonavena got up, but was clearly not fully recovered. Ali decked him twice more, and the fight was automatically stopped under the three knockdown rule, giving Ali a TKO (technical knockout). The ending was somewhat controversial, as Ali stood over Bonavena as Bonavena was getting up, never going to a neutral corner as the rules of boxing require, which allowed Ali to quickly knockdown Bonavena twice more and automatically end the fight. After the second knockdown, the referee appears to be attempting to guide Ali to a neutral corner, but Ali brushes the referee's arm away and pursues a wobbly Bonavena. The knockout by Ali was the only time in Bonavena's career he lost by a knockout.
After the loss to Ali in 1970 he had a brutally tough match with underrated Alvin Lewis. Bonavena fought intermittently for the next few years. A gregarious party man, he enjoyed life fully.
Eventually losses to Floyd Patterson in 1972 and Ron Lyle in 1974 effectively put him to lower ranking contender status, although he did well enough in both these matches. In the Patterson fight he broke his left hand early, possibly after decking Patterson in the fourth, and remained an advancing threat to the final bell. It was around 1973 a possible match with a then on the rise Ken Norton was being planned but, unfortunately for fans, it never materialised.
Joe Conforte, owner of the Mustang Ranch brothel near Reno, Nevada, brought Bonavena to Reno in 1975 to promote a series of fights and to train on the 440-acre (1.8 km2) property. Bonavena became friendly with Conforte's wife Sally Burgess, 26 years Bonavena's senior, and the two flirted openly. A later investigation concluded that they began an affair. He signed a contract making the former madam his manager, although she had never managed a fighter before. He gained weight and his condition deteriorated.
The ranch had been burned down by apparent arson some months earlier, and had been rebuilt, with over 100 bedrooms and fancy suites that included a "Blue Room". Joe Conforte was not present at the grand reopening in early May 1976, but Bonavena circulated among the 4000 guests, smoking big cigars and greeting some with "How you like my new joint?"
Conforte banished Bonavena and Burgess from the ranch two days later. They were warned to stay away, and guards were ordered to stop them if they tried to re-enter. Conforte moved out of the family house in town he shared with Burgess, and into the Blue Room. Willard Ross Brymer, Conforte's ex-convict personal bodyguard and security guard at the ranch, was recalled from a trip. Brymer cleaned out Bonavena's trailer, and burned his papers and clothes in the street. At the family house, Burgess was plagued by utility shutoffs and other harassment.
On May 19, Burgess and Bonavena complained to the county sheriff about the harassment and drove to San Francisco (about 230 miles) to replace Bonavena's burned passport. They stayed overnight, taking adjoining rooms, and returned to Reno the next day.
At 6:00 a.m. on Saturday May 22, Bonavena drove up to the locked gate at the Mustang Ranch and rang the bell. He exchanged words with an unarmed guard and demanded to see Conforte. Brymer stepped through the kitchen door with a high-powered rifle. The guard at the gate told Bonavena to leave. As Bonavena stepped behind his car, someone said "freeze" and Bonavena was shot through the heart, either by Brymer or from a rear guard tower. A snub-nosed .38 revolver was found in his boot. Four days later, Burgess returned to the ranch and took over, firing the armed guards and the ex-convicts.
An investigation concluded that Bonavena was having an affair with Burgess and had bragged about taking over the Mustang Ranch, and that guards had orders to shoot Bonavena if he showed up. Originally charged with murder, Brymer pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and served only 15 months in prison.
Bonavena's body was returned to Argentina to lie in state at the Luna Park sports arena in Buenos Aires, where 150,000 people filed by. He is buried in the La Chacarita Cemetery in Buenos Aires.
Professional boxing record
|58 Wins (44 Knockouts), 9 Defeats, 1 Draw|
|Win||58-9-1||Billy Joiner||UD||10||1976-02-26||Reno, Nevada|
|Win||57-9-1||Reinaldo Gorosito||PTS||10||1975-11-01||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Win||56-9-1||Mani Vaka||TKO||5 (10)||1974-11-12||International Center Arena, Honolulu|
|Win||55-9-1||Oliver Wright||KO||9 (10)||1974-10-18||Rome|
|Win||54-9-1||Bob Mashburn||KO||2 (10)||1974-09-21||Rome|
|Win||53-9-1||Larry Renaud||KO||3 (10)||1974-07-13||Rome|
|Win||52-9-1||Larry Middleton||UD||12||1974-05-21||Capital Centre, Largo, Maryland|
|Loss||51-9-1||Ron Lyle||UD||12||1974-03-19||Denver, Colorado|
|Win||51-8-1||Terry Sorrell||TKO||2 (8)||1973-11-20||Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|Win||50-8-1||Lou Bailey||UD||10||1973-08-15||Denver, Colorado|
|Win||49-8-1||Roy Wallace||TKO||6 (10)||1973-08-06||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|Win||48-8-1||Leroy Caldwell||TKO||2 (10)||1973-07-23||Circus Circus Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada|
|Loss||47-8-1||Floyd Patterson||UD||10||1972-02-11||Madison Square Garden, New York City|
|Win||47-7-1||Alvin Lewis||DQ||7 (10)||1971-10-04||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Loss||46-7-1||Muhammad Ali||TKO||15 (15)||1970-12-07||Madison Square Garden, New York City||NABF Heavyweight title fight.|
|Win||46-6-1||Luis Pires||RTD||8 (10)||1970-10-29||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Win||45-6-1||James J Woody||KO||5 (10)||1970-07-04||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Win||44-6-1||Manuel Ramos||KO||1 (10)||1970-05-09||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Win||43-6-1||José Menno||KO||2 (8)||1970-04-24||Montevideo, Montevideo|
|Win||42-6-1||Santiago Lovell||KO||7 (10)||1970-03-21||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Loss||41-6-1||Miguel Angel Paez||DQ||7 (10)||1970-01-10||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Win||41-5-1||Santiago Lovell||TKO||8 (10)||1969-12-13||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Draw||40-5-1||Gregorio Peralta||PTS||10||1969-08-08||Palacio Peñarol, Montevideo, Montevideo|
|Win||40-5||Wilhelm Von Homburg||TKO||3 (10)||1969-06-20||Sportpalast, Berlin|
|Win||39-5||Luis Pires||RTD||8 (10)||1969-03-05||Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires|
|Loss||38-5||Joe Frazier||UD||15||1968-12-10||Spectrum, Philadelphia||NYSAC Heavyweight title fight.|
|Win||38-4||Jim Fletcher||KO||1 (10)||1968-11-09||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Win||37-4||Leotis Martin||UD||10||1968-09-07||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Win||36-4||Zora Folley||MD||10||1968-07-06||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Win||35-4||Roberto Davila||UD||10||1968-06-01||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Win||34-4||Lee Carr||KO||3 (10)||1968-04-20||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Win||33-4||Alberto Benassi||KO||3 (10)||1968-03-08||La Rioja, La Rioja|
|Win||32-4||Felipe Pedro Marich||TKO||6 (10)||1968-02-16||Córdoba, Córdoba|
|Loss||31-4||Jimmy Ellis||UD||12||1967-12-02||Freedom Hall, Louisville, Kentucky||WBA Heavyweight title eliminator.|
|Win||31-3||Karl Mildenberger||UD||12||1967-09-16||Waldstadion, Frankfurt, Hesse||WBA Heavyweight title eliminator.|
|Win||30-3||Carlos Vazquez||TKO||3 (10)||1967-08-05||General Roca, Río Negro|
|Win||29-3||Luis Pires||RTD||6 (10)||1967-07-22||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Win||28-3||Pablo Sagrispanti||KO||2 (10)||1967-06-23||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Win||27-3||Hubert Hilton||TKO||10||1967-04-08||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Win||26-3||Jose Giorgetti||KO||9 (10)||1967-01-21||Estadio Bristol, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires|
|Win||25-3||Roberto Veliz||KO||4 (10)||1966-12-01||Asociación Mendocina de Boxeo, Mendoza, Mendoza|
|Win||24-3||Alberto Benassi||TKO||5 (10)||1966-11-18||Rosario, Santa Fe|
|Win||23-3||Amos Johnson||UD||10||1966-10-22||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Win||22-3||Alberto Benassi||KO||5 (10)||1966-10-07||Estadio Bristol, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires|
|Loss||21-3||Joe Frazier||MD||10||1966-09-21||Madison Square Garden, New York City|
|Win||21-2||George Chuvalo||MD||10||1966-06-23||Madison Square Garden, New York City|
|Win||20-2||Jose Giorgetti||UD||10||1966-04-16||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Loss||19-2||Jose Giorgetti||DQ||8 (10)||1966-03-12||Estadio Bristol, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires|
|Win||19-1||Bruno Segura||KO||2 (10)||1966-02-12||Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires|
|Win||18-1||Billy Daniels||KO||1 (10)||1965-11-13||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Win||17-1||Hector Wilson||KO||2 (10)||1965-10-22||Concepción, Tucumán|
|Win||16-1||Pablo Sagrispanti||TKO||1 (10)||1965-10-09||Rosario, Santa Fe|
|Win||15-1||Gregorio Peralta||UD||12||1965-09-04||Luna Park, Buenos Aires||Won Argentinian Heavyweight title.|
|Win||14-1||Alberto Gonzales||KO||2 (10)||1965-08-06||Comodoro Rivadavia, Chubut|
|Win||13-1||Eduardo Cartelli||KO||1 (12)||1965-07-23||Córdoba, Córdoba|
|Win||12-1||Rodolfo Diaz||TKO||4 (10)||1965-06-26||Luna Park, Buenos Aires|
|Win||11-1||Rogelio Gregorutti||KO||2 (10)||1965-05-28||San Miguel de Tucumán, Tucumán|
|Win||10-1||Carlos Vazquez||KO||3 (10)||1965-04-30||Salón de los Deportes, Bahía Blanca, Buenos Aires|
|Win||9-1||Rene Sosa||KO||2 (10)||1965-04-16||Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires|
|Loss||8-1||Zora Folley||UD||10||1965-02-26||Madison Square Garden, New York City|
|Win||8-0||Billy Stephan||TKO||6 (10)||1964-12-18||Madison Square Garden, New York City|
|Win||7-0||Dick Wipperman||UD||10||1964-11-13||Madison Square Garden, New York City|
|Win||6-0||Tom McNeeley||TKO||5 (8)||1964-08-21||Madison Square Garden, New York City|
|Win||5-0||Byron Stoimenides||KO||1 (8)||1964-05-29||Madison Square Garden, New York City|
|Win||4-0||Leslie Borden||TKO||3 (10)||1964-05-05||Sunnyside Garden, Queens, New York|
|Win||3-0||Wendell Newton||TKO||5 (6)||1964-03-10||Sunnyside Garden, Queens, New York|
|Win||2-0||Everett Copeland||KO||1 (6)||1964-02-04||Sunnyside Garden, Queens, New York|
|Win||1-0||Lou Hicks||TKO||1 (4)||1964-01-03||Madison Square Garden, New York City|
- actual fight video & commentary on Utube
- Brunt, S., Facing Ali: The Opposition Weighs in, ISBN 0-676-97351-5
- Sport: Two Down, One to Go, Time
- Ring Mag & online boxing records
- Ring magazine
- on line boxing archives
- Farrell, Barry (July 26, 1976). "The Killing At the Notorious Mustang Ranch". New York. pp. 41–49. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- Joe Conforte's Legal Tangles, Los Angeles Times
- Rogers, Thomas (May 23, 1976). "Bonavena Is Slain; A Top Heavyweight". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
Oscar Bonavena of Argentina, once a serious contender for the heavyweight boxing championship, was shot to death yesterday at a brothel a few miles east of Reno, Nev. He was 33 years old.
- Bonavena Fatally Shot Outside Nevada Brothel
- Man who killed Oscar Bonavena dies, Las Vegas Review-Journal
- Oscar Bonavena's Professional Boxing Record. BoxRec.com. Retrieved on 2012-03-18.
- Nevada's Most Infamous Brothel, Mustang Ranch, Back In Business, Fox News
- Woman Who Operated Mustang Ranch Dies, Spokesman-Review, September 9, 1992