Los Vatos of Southern California
The California boxing connection is a strong one and the ex-boxers (like those in many other locales) meet regularly traveling on their own unique roadway…
“Hey vatos; Do you know who the best fighter in the world is pound for pound? Hands down, vatos, hands down! Los jabs, los hooks, los uppercuts…Mando Ramos!”—Edward James Olmos
“He was a man of many great qualities…He had the rough and tough outer exterior of a fighter. But inside, he had a pure heart and a gentle soul. He was a great champion in the ring, but he was an even greater champion in life. He helped a lot of inner-city kids.”—Mando Ramos Jr.
“He (Ramos) electrified Angelino fans with his talent, Corazon and macho – his willingness to mix-it-up, not just peck away from the outside, taking advantage of his height and reach.”—Karl Hegman
“He was some kind of attraction…He had the looks like De La Hoya and he was really a thrill provider.”—Don Chargin
The California boxing connection is a strong one and the ex-boxers (like those in many other locales) meet regularly traveling on their own unique roadway. When Mando Ramos suddenly and sadly passed away on July 6, 2008, the connection evidenced itself front and center. Superstars such as Alberto Davila, the Baltazar family, the Sandovals, Bobby Chacon, Frankie Duarte, Paul Gonzalez, Danny “Little Red” Lopez, Arturo Frias, Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez, Fernando Vargas and Oscar De La Hoya came together to express their shock and grief.
Many of these fighters came out of the Los Angeles Junior Golden Gloves tournaments. All became world-class professionals. Some became world champions. Frankie Baltazar (40-3-1) was one tough dude and so was his brother Tony “The Tiger” (38-7-1). Both, along with Carlos Palomino, were inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006.
Rudolfo “El Gato” Gonzalez finished with an eye-popping career mark of 81-7 (70 KOs) and won the WBC lightweight title in 1972 when he stopped rugged “Chango” Carmona in 13 rounds. “El Gato” was an immensely popular boxer who performed regularly to overflow crowds at the Olympic Auditorium.
John Montes Jr., teak tough and crafty Monroe Brooks, exciting bomber Jaime Garza, Ruben “The Maravilla Kid” Navarro, Raul Rojas, slick Paul Vaden, Raul Rojas, Alberto “Superfly” Sandoval, Ruben Castillo, Rene Arredondo, Andy “The Hawk” Price, Palomino, and others too numerous to list thrilled fans in the Los Angeles area for years—as did the late Keeny Teran, Frankie Crawford, and the original “Golden Boy,” Art Aragon. Oh yes, Randy Shields was a regular as well. Former world champion Arturo Frias was 16-0 while fighting out of the Olympic Auditorium.
Born in Mexico, Armando “El Hombre” Muniz (44-14-1) moved to the United States and fought for the U. S. in the 1968 Olympics. He was the prototypical Southern California fighter of the ‘70s and fought incredibly tough opposition including Sugar Ray Leonard, Hedgemon Lewis, Emile Griffith, and Eddie Perkins. He was a fan favorite at the Olympic in Los Angeles where he duked an astounding 23 times. Muniz beat Canadian Clyde Gray in 1971 for the NABF welterweight title, and would fight four times for a world title, twice against both Jose Napoles and Carlos Palomino. Although he lost all four matches, the 1975 Napoles fight was termed a “robbery” by many who witnessed it. For that reason, he is often called an “uncrowned champion.” After he retired, he was inducted into both the World Boxing Hall of Fame and the California Boxing Hall of Fame. He also was voted the new President of the non-profit World Boxing Hall of Fame which was founded in 1979.
Mexican-born Hector Lopez (41-7-1) won the Bantamweight Silver Medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Fighting as a professional from 1985-2000, he was one tough hombre and never gave an opponent an easy time. He fought in many different locales, but his favorite seemed to be at the Forum in Inglewood, California. He specialized in beating opponents who came in with stellar records—like Donald Stokes (27-0-1), Bernard Taylor (37-1-1), David Santos (19-1), Georgie Navarro (16-1), Ener Julio (10-0), Juan Carlos Ceferino Villarreal (32-2), Israel Cardona (24-0), and John Avila (23-2-1). He also duked with the likes of Carlos Gonzalez (45-3-1), Juan Laporte (whom he beat), undefeated Kostya Tszyu, and Juan Antonio Lopez (65-14).
In 1993, Lopez lost in a bid for the WBC lightweight crown against Miguel Angel Gonzalez (28-0 coming in). Much later, but after several high-profile wins, his attempt at the WBO light welterweight title in 1999 failed when he was stopped in the ninth round by Randall Bailey, the only time he would be halted which also signaled the uncommon power of Bailey. If it’s tough you want “Torero” more than fits the bill. If being a vato means being a guy who means business, then Hector Lopez was a vato.
“Mando was blessed with equal power from the left or right side, could box or slug, and had that unique gift of being able to switch from orthodox to southpaw and attack from angles. He would bound around the ring like a gazelle, jabbing with the left, crossing his right, doubling up with hooks to the body and head, finishing with a right and sliding out of range.”—Karl Hegman
“He was too young for all that attention.”—Don Chargin.
Mando Ramos was pure 100% Los Angeles fighter. He was L.A.’s answer to Boston’s Tony DeMarco or Chicago’s Bob Satterfield. Twenty-seven of his 49 fights were held in the storied Olympic Auditorium. There was something special about him; he was able to connect with and capture the hearts of Mexican-American boxing like few others. Enrique Bolanos, Art Aragon, Keeny Teran, Danny Lopez, and Bobby Chacon did it as well. And like Jerry Quarry, he had an abundance of charisma. Ramos became one of the greatest sports stars in Los Angeles. Lopez and Chacon and even Aragon before them were tremendous box-office attractions, but what was really incredible was that by the age of eighteen, Mando virtually owned the Olympic.
Managed by Jackie McCoy, Mando turned pro at 17 and ran off 17 straight wins before dropping a decision to Kang Il Suh. On February 18, 1969, Ramos avenged an earlier defeat by stopping Carlos Teo Cruz in the 11th round. The fight, coming three months after his 20th birthday, made him the youngest boxer in history to win the lightweight title. He affirmed his greatness when he beat the legendary Sugar Ramos by SD in 1970. A year later, he lost to Pedro Carrasco by DQ in Madrid, Spain (Carrasco‘s home town), after flooring Carrasco four times. Carrasco was an astounding 103-1-2 coming in. Mando won the rematch by SD in Los Angeles and then the rubber match in Madrid. Carrasco would win two more fights and finish out his career with a great mark of 106-3-2. In 1983, the WBC selected Carrasco in their list of 40 greatest boxers of the last 40 years.
Mando fought other notables like Frankie Crawford, Hiroshi Kobayashi, Ismael Laguna, Sugar Ramos, Ruben Navarro, Raul Rojas, Chango Carmona, and Tury Pineda, ending his great career with a mark of 49-11-1
The rest of the story reads like a rollercoaster ride and while it needs to be told, this is more about mourning the loss of someone special; someone who was a beloved member of Los Vatos. Suffice it to say that after checking himself into a rehabilitation clinic in the early ‘80s, he became clean and sober and remained so for the last 25 years of his life. He started Boxing Against Alcohol and Drugs (B.A.A.D.).
Armando “Mando” Ramos became the first Latin boxer to be inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in Los Angeles, California.
Many watched boxing before seeing Mando fight. After that, they became boxing fans.
There are new vatos fighting out of Southern California these days and their story will also be told. Stay tuned.