Jose Nápoles in Juárez

By Robert Ecksel on September 24, 2012
Jose Nápoles in Juárez
"He didn't know where all the blows were coming from. I spread mantequilla on him."

“When you quit the ring, if you’re a big success, you’re only a few thousand dollars in debt and only a little brain-damaged.”—Art Aragon

Those who wonder what became of Jose Nápoles need wonder no longer. A reporter for the El Paso Times recently found him in Juárez, Mexico, and not surprisingly he is “down and out – physically and financially.”

According to the article, “These days, instead of dazzling crowds in the ring, Mantequilla can be found sitting on a bench outside his home in downtown Juárez.” He “sleeps from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. At night, he plays Solitaire and watches television.”

Jose “Mantequilla” Nápoles was one of the greatest welterweights of all time. His combination of speed, elegance and power thrilled fans during his Hall of Fame career. He won the WBC/WBA welterweight titles in 1969 and successfully defended the crown many times.

After losing to John H. Strachey by TKO6 in 1975, Nápoles retired with an 81-7 record with 54 knockouts. That was when he moved to Juárez. That was where he met his wife, Bertha Navarro, “a thousand years ago…I saw her and said, ‘Que güerita tan chévere!’ I invited her to dinner and then all the merequetengue happened.”

Nápoles said that he visited his family in Santiago de Cuba recently, but his wife said the trip never happened.

“He has gotten this idea of having gone to Cuba,” she said. “He thinks that he took me there, but I have never been to Cuba.”

A few years ago Mantequilla was in a car accident. After that, things have never been the same.

“Since then,” said Navarro, “he started falling down. He can’t go outside by himself because he gets lost. Furthermore, he doesn’t have pupils to train and with all the violence, he was not able to sell boxing gloves (like he used to do). All the doors started closing for him.

“I bathe him. I dress him. I shave him. He is a very nice person. He is not aggressive or rude. He is very tolerant, too.”

The Mexican telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim, according to Forbes the world’s richest man, charitably gives Jose Nápoles $384 a month, barely enough to cover his basic needs.

Lorenzo Soberanes, Mantequilla’s close friend and Latin America medical coordinator for the WBC, put Nápoles ’ situation in perspective.

“It is a common story,” he said. “When they are famous, everybody pampers them, everybody want to be their friends. But when they are not famous anymore, nobody cares about them.”

Nápoles is not quite wandering in his own special twilight, but he is not especially talkative. With a little prodding he remembered the fight with Curtis Cokes at the Forum in Inglewood, California, where he won the welterweight title. “He didn’t know where all the blows were coming from. I spread mantequilla on him and he didn’t see me.”

Now, fewer people than ever see Jose Nápoles.

“I don’t get into trouble,” he said with a touch of pride. “I don’t harm anybody. And when it is my time, the ring bell will sound.”

(Full article can be read here)

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José "Mantequilla" Napoles vs. Curtis Cokes I [Round 1]

José "Mantequilla" Napoles vs. Curtis Cokes I [Round 2]

José "Mantequilla" Napoles vs. Curtis Cokes I [Round 3]

José "Mantequilla" Napoles vs. Curtis Cokes I [Round 4]

José "Mantequilla" Napoles vs. Curtis Cokes I [Round 5]

José "Mantequilla" Napoles vs. Curtis Cokes I [Round 6]

José "Mantequilla" Napoles vs. Curtis Cokes I [Round 7]

José "Mantequilla" Napoles vs. Curtis Cokes I [Rounds 8-9]

José "Mantequilla" Napoles vs. Curtis Cokes I [Rounds 10-11]

José "Mantequilla" Napoles vs. Curtis Cokes I [Round 12]

José "Mantequilla" Napoles vs. Curtis Cokes I [Round 13]

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  1. Jim McNewman 08:39am, 10/08/2012

    I saw Napoles fight a few times at the Forum in Inglewood.  I also saw him training in Downtown LA,  at a ballroom in a hotel converted to a gym.  Napoles was a great champion but at his prime, he drank too much.  He gambled and womanized and ran with a bunch of women and hangers on that just wanted his money.  Cuco Conde and Kid Rapidez were there to help him but they couldn’t protect Napoles from his biggest opponent,,,,,himself.  He reeked of alcohol while sparring,,,,his story is not unlike many fighters, and that is sad.

  2. Jethro's Flute 06:17am, 09/25/2012

    I’ve got some Jose Napoles fights on tape and the guy was brilliant. A genuine king of his division.

    I’m really sorry to hear that he’s in such a bad way.

  3. Mike Casey 12:39am, 09/25/2012

    So glad that you have reminded people of the skill of Eddie Perkins, Jim. He was indeed a great boxer from a great era. Johnny Coulon, the legendary bantam champ, was largely responsible for turning Eddie into a world class operator. We need more of that talent now in the way of trainers and boxers.

  4. Jim Crue 02:20pm, 09/24/2012

    Very sad. I saw Napoles fight Ernie Indian Red Lopez at what was then the Inglewood Forum in LA. Napoles was smooth as butter with Angelo Dundee in his corner that night. As was his usual style Sugar Ray Robinson was not introduced in the ring before the fight but he waited until the fight had started. In about the 2nd round I heard this great roar from the crowd and when I turned Robinson was walking down the isle between the press section and ringside seats waving to the crowd. Completely stole the show for a couple of minutes. I had a ringside seat that cost $40!
    On another note I saw Clyde Gray fight the great Eddie Perkins in Chicago at the Aragon Ballroom later in 1970. Title challenger Gray did not lay a glove on Perkins for 10 rounds. No wonder Perkins was overlooked. He was too good.When Perkins fought Naploes in Mexico and lost a decision Ring Magazine called it the worst decision they had ever seen.
    Thanks for a wonderful article.

  5. mike schmidt 11:05am, 09/24/2012

    Great fighter—unique—hands at high chest area, just the right distance and then striking with that hook to the body and overhand right—FANTASTIC—saw him live up here against a pretty darn good welter in his own right—always the bridegroom…Clyde Gray at Toronto Maple Leaf Gardens—nice article Sir Robert.

  6. Mike Casey 11:01am, 09/24/2012

    Very sad story, Robert. I read a good few years ago that Jose was singing for beer money in bars and clubs. Like Olivares, Jose was a ferocious drinker even in his prime.

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