Oscar Bonavena

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Oscar Bonavena
Real nameOscar Natalio Bonavena
Height5 ft 10+12 in (1.79 m)
Reach73 in (185 cm)
Born(1942-09-25)September 25, 1942
Buenos Aires, Argentina
DiedMay 22, 1976(1976-05-22) (aged 33)
Mustang, Nevada, U.S.
Boxing record
Total fights68
Wins by KO44
Losses9 (1 KO)
No contests0

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 remembered for giving Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali hard fought bouts.[citation needed]

Life and pro career[edit]

Oscar Natalio Bonavena was born in Buenos Aires to two Italian immigrants.[1] He was a professional boxer, Argentinian and South American champion. He also participated in several Argentinian TV programs such as the Pepe Biondi Show.

Early career[edit]

Bonavena began his early career in New York City under the management of World War II hero and dentist Marvin Goldberg.[citation needed]

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.[2]

After that, he returned to Argentina, where his winning and knockout streak continued. But in mid 1966 he was enticed back to New York and 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 ForemanKen 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.[3][4]

Big name contests, Chuvalo and Frazier[edit]

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.[citation needed]

WBA elimination contests[edit]

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,[5] 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.[6]

World Title shot, the Frazier rematch[edit]

Bonavena with actress Susana Giménez in 1970.

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 left with a seriously battered face photographed in the Ring magazine. In 1969, he got a draw in a rematch with talented Gregorio Peralta, who he'd outpointed four years earlier for the Argentine title.[citation needed]

Versus Ali[edit]

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.[7][8]

Other matches[edit]

After the loss to Ali in 1970, he had a brutally tough match with underrated Alvin Lewis, being decked multiple times but eventually winning by disqualification. Bonavena fought intermittently for the next few years. A gregarious party man, he enjoyed life fully, at the cost of his professional boxing career.[citation needed]

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.[9]

On February 26, 1976, overweight and sluggish Bonavena fought what would be his last fight, winning a ten-round decision over the unranked Billy Joiner in Reno.[10]


On 22 May 1976 Bonavena was shot dead at the age of 33 by a security guard at the Mustang Ranch near Reno, Nevada, after having become involved in a conflict with its owner.[10][11][12] His body was returned to Argentina to lie in state at the Luna Park sports arena in Buenos Aires, where 150,000 people filed by,[13] afterwards being buried in La Chacarita Cemetery in Buenos Aires.[14]

Professional boxing record[edit]

58 Wins (44 Knockouts), 9 Defeats, 1 Draw[15]
Res. Record Opponent Type Rd., Time Date Location Notes
Win 58-9-1 United States Billy Joiner UD 10 1976-02-26 United States Reno, Nevada
Win 57-9-1 Argentina Reinaldo Gorosito PTS 10 1975-11-01 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 56-9-1 Tonga Mani Vaka TKO 5 (10) 1974-11-12 United States International Center Arena, Honolulu
Win 55-9-1 Jamaica Oliver Wright KO 9 (10) 1974-10-18 Italy Rome
Win 54-9-1 United States Bob Mashburn KO 2 (10) 1974-09-21 Italy Rome
Win 53-9-1 Canada Larry Renaud KO 3 (10) 1974-07-13 Italy Rome
Win 52-9-1 United States Larry Middleton UD 12 1974-05-21 United States Capital Centre, Largo, Maryland
Loss 51-9-1 United States Ron Lyle UD 12 1974-03-19 United States Denver, Colorado
Win 51-8-1 United States Terry Sorrell TKO 2 (8) 1973-11-20 United States Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Win 50-8-1 United States Lou Bailey UD 10 1973-08-15 United States Denver, Colorado
Win 49-8-1 United States Roy Wallace TKO 6 (10) 1973-08-06 United States Las Vegas, Nevada
Win 48-8-1 United States Leroy Caldwell TKO 2 (10) 1973-07-23 United States Circus Circus Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
Loss 47-8-1 United States Floyd Patterson UD 10 1972-02-11 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City
Win 47-7-1 United States Alvin Lewis DQ 7 (10) 1971-10-04 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Loss 46-7-1 United States Muhammad Ali KO 15 (15) 1970-12-07 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City NABF Heavyweight title fight.
Win 46-6-1 Brazil Luis Pires RTD 8 (10) 1970-10-29 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 45-6-1 United States James J Woody KO 5 (10) 1970-07-04 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 44-6-1 Mexico Manuel Ramos KO 1 (10) 1970-05-09 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 43-6-1 Argentina José Menno KO 2 (8) 1970-04-24 Uruguay Montevideo, Montevideo
Win 42-6-1 Argentina Santiago Lovell KO 7 (10) 1970-03-21 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Loss 41-6-1 Argentina Miguel Angel Paez DQ 7 (10) 1970-01-10 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 41-5-1 Argentina Santiago Lovell TKO 8 (10) 1969-12-13 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Draw 40-5-1 Argentina Gregorio Peralta PTS 10 1969-08-08 Uruguay Palacio Peñarol, Montevideo, Montevideo
Win 40-5 Germany Wilhelm Von Homburg TKO 3 (10) 1969-06-20 Germany Sportpalast, Berlin
Win 39-5 Brazil Luis Pires RTD 8 (10) 1969-03-05 Argentina Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Loss 38-5 United States Joe Frazier UD 15 1968-12-10 United States Spectrum, Philadelphia NYSAC Heavyweight title fight.
Win 38-4 United States Jim Fletcher KO 1 (10) 1968-11-09 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 37-4 United States Leotis Martin UD 10 1968-09-07 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 36-4 United States Zora Folley MD 10 1968-07-06 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 35-4 Peru Roberto Davila UD 10 1968-06-01 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 34-4 United States Lee Carr KO 3 (10) 1968-04-20 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 33-4 Argentina Alberto Benassi KO 3 (10) 1968-03-08 Argentina La Rioja, La Rioja
Win 32-4 Argentina Felipe Pedro Marich TKO 6 (10) 1968-02-16 Argentina Córdoba, Córdoba
Loss 31-4 United States Jimmy Ellis UD 12 1967-12-02 United States Freedom Hall, Louisville, Kentucky WBA Heavyweight title eliminator.
Win 31-3 Germany Karl Mildenberger UD 12 1967-09-16 Germany Waldstadion, Frankfurt, Hesse WBA Heavyweight title eliminator.
Win 30-3 Argentina Carlos Vazquez TKO 3 (10) 1967-08-05 Argentina General Roca, Río Negro
Win 29-3 Brazil Luis Pires RTD 6 (10) 1967-07-22 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 28-3 Argentina Pablo Sagrispanti KO 2 (10) 1967-06-23 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 27-3 United States Hubert Hilton TKO 10 1967-04-08 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 26-3 Argentina Jose Giorgetti KO 9 (10) 1967-01-21 Argentina Estadio Bristol, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Win 25-3 Argentina Roberto Veliz KO 4 (10) 1966-12-01 Argentina Asociación Mendocina de Boxeo, Mendoza, Mendoza
Win 24-3 Argentina Alberto Benassi TKO 5 (10) 1966-11-18 Argentina Rosario, Santa Fe
Win 23-3 United States Amos Johnson UD 10 1966-10-22 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 22-3 Argentina Alberto Benassi KO 5 (10) 1966-10-07 Argentina Estadio Bristol, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Loss 21-3 United States Joe Frazier MD 10 1966-09-21 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City
Win 21-2 Canada George Chuvalo MD 10 1966-06-23 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City
Win 20-2 Argentina Jose Giorgetti UD 10 1966-04-16 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Loss 19-2 Argentina Jose Giorgetti DQ 8 (10) 1966-03-12 Argentina Estadio Bristol, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Win 19-1 Argentina Bruno Segura KO 2 (10) 1966-02-12 Argentina Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Win 18-1 United States Billy Daniels KO 1 (10) 1965-11-13 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 17-1 Argentina Hector Wilson KO 2 (10) 1965-10-22 Argentina Concepción, Tucumán
Win 16-1 Argentina Pablo Sagrispanti TKO 1 (10) 1965-10-09 Argentina Rosario, Santa Fe
Win 15-1 Argentina Gregorio Peralta UD 12 1965-09-04 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires Won Argentinian Heavyweight title.
Win 14-1 Argentina Alberto Gonzales KO 2 (10) 1965-08-06 Argentina Comodoro Rivadavia, Chubut
Win 13-1 Argentina Eduardo Cartelli KO 1 (12) 1965-07-23 Argentina Córdoba, Córdoba
Win 12-1 Argentina Rodolfo Diaz TKO 4 (10) 1965-06-26 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 11-1 Argentina Rogelio Gregorutti KO 2 (10) 1965-05-28 Argentina San Miguel de Tucumán, Tucumán
Win 10-1 Argentina Carlos Vazquez KO 3 (10) 1965-04-30 Argentina Salón de los Deportes, Bahía Blanca, Buenos Aires
Win 9-1 Argentina Rene Sosa KO 2 (10) 1965-04-16 Argentina Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Loss 8-1 United States Zora Folley UD 10 1965-02-26 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City
Win 8-0 United States Billy Stephan TKO 6 (10) 1964-12-18 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City
Win 7-0 United States Dick Wipperman UD 10 1964-11-13 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City
Win 6-0 United States Tom McNeeley TKO 5 (8) 1964-08-21 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City
Win 5-0 Greece Byron Stoimenides KO 1 (8) 1964-05-29 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City
Win 4-0 Canada Leslie Borden TKO 3 (10) 1964-05-05 United States Sunnyside Garden, Queens, New York
Win 3-0 The Bahamas Wendell Newton TKO 5 (6) 1964-03-10 United States Sunnyside Garden, Queens, New York
Win 2-0 United States Everett Copeland KO 1 (6) 1964-02-04 United States Sunnyside Garden, Queens, New York
Win 1-0 United States Lou Hicks TKO 1 (4) 1964-01-03 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fraga, Ruben (25 May 2018). "Cuando mataron a Oscar "Ringo" Bonavena". El Ciudadano. Retrieved 20 January 2020. Oscar Natalio Bonavena nació el viernes 25 de septiembre de 1942 en el barrio porteño de Boedo y fue el séptimo hijo de los nueve que tuvo el matrimonio de inmigrantes italianos formado por Vicente Bonavena y Dominga Grillo.
  2. ^ actual fight video & commentary on Utube
  3. ^ Brunt, S., Facing Ali: The Opposition Weighs in, ISBN 0-676-97351-5
  4. ^ Sport: Two Down, One to Go, Time
  5. ^ Ring Mag & online boxing records
  6. ^ Ring magazine
  7. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=YhofAAAAIBAJ&sjid=wqYEAAAAIBAJ&pg=2537,871414[dead link]
  8. ^ Arkush, Michael (2007-09-24). The Fight of the Century: Ali vs. Frazier March 8, 1971. ISBN 9780470178638.
  9. ^ on line boxing archives
  10. ^ a b Farrell, Barry (July 26, 1976). "The Killing At the Notorious Mustang Ranch". New York. pp. 41–49. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Man who killed Oscar Bonavena dies, Las Vegas Review-Journal
  13. ^ Associated Press newsreel film of Bonavena's funeral, 1 June 1976, published on Youtube 24 July 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6MUdiQ1Q8Y
  14. ^ Entry in Findagrave for Bonavena's grave (2019). https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/22433/oscar-natalio-bonavena
  15. ^ Oscar Bonavena's Professional Boxing Record. BoxRec.com. Retrieved on 2012-03-18.

External links[edit]