The Bull and the Hurricane

By Clarence George on April 8, 2015
The Bull and the Hurricane
Armstrong retained his championship by belting out a technical K.O. over Montanez.

We all know about Henry Armstrong, as indeed we should, but Pedro Montanez is another in an interminable line of neglected boxers. Unacceptable…

“The wounds received in battle bestow honor, they do not take it away.”—Don Quixote

I recently came across a press photo of the welterweight championship bout between Henry “Hurricane Hank” Armstrong and Pedro “El Toro de Cayey” Montanez that took place at Madison Square Garden on January 24, 1940. The slug, titled “Going Down,” is boxing writing as it should be — direct and declarative: “Referee Billy Cavanaugh drags Henry Armstrong away from his prey as Pedro Montanez drops against the ropes for count of seven in bloody fourth round of tonight’s welterweight championship bout at Madison Square Garden. Henry retained his championship by belting out a technical K.O. over Pedro. Cavanaugh stepped in to stop the slaughter in 47 seconds of the ninth round.”

Well, perhaps a bit sparse, amplified by The New York Times: “For savagery and bruising fighting, virtually all of it displayed by the irrepressible Armstrong, this was a fight that has seldom been excelled. No welterweight, no man near Armstrong’s inches or poundage could have survived the blistering firepower.” Armstrong rendered his “plucky Puerto Rican foe,” reported the Associated Press, “a bloody, helpless figure.” This despite Montanez having prepared “for this battle more seriously than for any other bout in his impressive career,” said the Chicago Tribune.

We all know about Armstrong, as indeed we should, but Montanez is another in an interminable line of neglected boxers. Unacceptable. The Puerto Rican fought from 1931 to 1940, racking up a massively impressive record of 91 wins, 50 by knockout, eight losses, only two by knockout, and four draws, and averaging between 11 and 12 fights a year.

Davey Day was the only man besides Armstrong to stop Montanez, taking him out by eighth-round TKO at the Garden on May 23, 1939.

The other men who beat, but didn’t stop, the Bull were Hector Chafferdet, Firpo Zuliano, Felipe Andrade (twice), George Martin, who outpointed Montanez in his last fight, at the Broadway Arena in Brooklyn on October 29, 1940, and Lou Ambers.

Pedro didn’t have much in the way of luck against guys nicknamed Hurricane. Ambers, “The Herkimer Hurricane,” successfully defended his lightweight title against Montanez, winning by majority decision at the Polo Grounds in New York on September 23, 1937. “The shifty, unorthodox Ambers was the master,” reported the Times.

Ambers-Montanez was one of four title bouts on promoter Mike Jacobs’ “Carnival of Champions” fight card. The others were Barney Ross vs. Ceferino Garcia for the welterweight championship (Ross winning by unanimous decision), Harry Jeffra vs. Sixto Escobar for the bantamweight championship (Jeffra winning by unanimous decision), and Fred Apostoli vs. Marcel Thil for the International Boxing Union middleweight championship (Apostoli winning by 10th-round TKO).

Save for a draw against Saverio Turiello in Milan on April 15, 1935, Montanez won 50 in a row (32 by knockout) from the time he stopped Felix Perez by seventh-round TKO in Barcelona on March 7, 1934, until his loss to Ambers. Except for a draw against Tommy Cross at the Arena in Philly on April 24, 1938, he won his next 22 (14 by knockout) before being stopped by Day. One of these luckless opponents was the legendary Jack “Kid” Berg, whom Montanez stopped by fifth-round TKO at the Hippodrome in New York on March 10, 1939.

It’s true that Montanez never won a world title, but neither did Sam Langford. His greatness was acknowledged by the International Boxing Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 2007 (11 years after his death at age 82).

Despite the induction, the Bull continues to be neglected, if not outright forgotten. As Martin Mulcahey wrote several years ago for “This honor does make up for some of the unintended slights history brought upon him. Unfortunately, since his underreported induction, Montanez is again judged more for a lack of titles, than a lack of talent.”

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  1. Clarence George 01:31pm, 04/18/2015

    Thanks very much, Joe, and great post.

    Montanez never having become champ must, at the very least, be a significant factor in his being so neglected, in combination with most of today’s boxing fans knowing little or nothing of the sport other than what’s coming on May 2.

    I’ve had similar experiences.  When I asked one guy about fighters like Sugar Ray Robinson and Henry Armstrong, following his smug assertion that Mayweather is TBE, he said that “Mayweather is the best of all time today.”  Another who held the same opinion never heard of Armstrong or Harry Greb.

    Mike Tyson is a mixed bag, to say the least, but one of the things I respect about him is his genuine knowledge and appreciation of the sport’s history.  Absolutely key.  If you don’t know history, you don’t know anything.

  2. Joe G (R.I.P Alexis Arguello) 09:26am, 04/18/2015

    Only reason Pedro Montanez will never be considered the best Puerto Rican fighter of all time is the fact that he never won a world title. Simple. Sad to say. Thank you Clarence George for your article. True boxing history at it’s best. A 17 year old wanted to argue with me that Cotto is the best Puerto Rican fighter of all time and I didnt disagree with him although I do. I just simply asked him if he knew of Wilfredo Gomez, Edwin Rosario, Esteban Dejesus, Carlos Ortiz, Wilfred Benitez, or Hector Camacho (obviously leaving Trinidad out) to which he responded by only knowing one which was Camacho. He did say he had a friend on the island named Carlos Ortiz though lol. Boxing history is so important for trainers and fighters alike. Most fans too if they are going to form ignorant opinions. Like Mayweather being the best of all time. Thanks again Clarence George. It is much appreciated.

  3. Clarence George 04:13am, 04/11/2015

    Delighted you liked it, Bob.  Who was it who called the masses “them asses”?  Barnum?  Though that hardly pertains to the readers of

    As a fellow lover of old movies, you may get a kick out of this.  Last night, Teddy Atlas made one of his wonderfully and only seemingly irrelevant references, talking about the Boris Karloff version of “The Mummy” from “the ‘60s or ‘70s” (maybe he was thinking of Christopher Lee, though that’s from 1959).  Francisco Salazar was understandably confused, wondering what Brendan Fraser had to do with anything.  I explained that Teddy was referring to the Universal Pictures classic of 1932.  I have no illusions of having shed any light, but it at least gave me the opportunity to plug a great movie and actor.

  4. Bob 03:07am, 04/11/2015

    Clarence: Thanks for making the Bull known to the masses. These guys should never be forgotten and you bring them to life so eloquently. Always a joy to read another CG “find.”

  5. Clarence George 12:28pm, 04/10/2015

    Thank you, Bikermike…I think.

  6. bikermike 11:30am, 04/10/2015

    to Clarence George….

    although I can’t say I always agree with your point of view….nor the meandering style you seem to engage in , with your articles.. I always read them.
    Somehow…you always choose topics that are very interesting…..and trigger knowledgeable readers to respond.

    That alone, makes you a good author.

  7. bikermike 11:25am, 04/10/2015

    I always read the posts of ‘IRISH FRANKIE’
    He knows of what he speaks….and he has compassion.

  8. bikermike 11:21am, 04/10/2015

    see…....not too many of us around today that saw Pedro Montanez…nor Henry Armstong…at ringside.

    Like any media…..coverage favoured Armstrong..for obvious reasons…and Montanez ....‘never got a dinner’

    Montanez made guys like Armstrong…check him out.

  9. Clarence George 08:34pm, 04/09/2015

    Post away, Beaujack, by all means.  I, too, rate Williams higher than Jack…but not by much.

  10. beaujack 08:22pm, 04/09/2015

    I have seen the great lightweights of the 1940s such as Ike Williams, Beau Jack, Bob Montgomery, Sammy Angott, Willie Joyce, Freddie Dawson, Tippy Larkin etc, and though I rate Ike Williams UNCUFFED as the best LW of my time, Beau Jack when at his best was the most action packed LW I ever saw ringside. as for the greatest LW Benny Leonard was the best my dad saw and was rated as a LW every bit as good as Ray Robinson was as a WW. I hope to post an interesting afternoon where the once great LW sensation Ruby Goldstein raved about Bennah !

  11. beaujack 08:10pm, 04/09/2015

    Thanks Jim. Except for my enemy Art Ritis, I don’t feel my age mentally, but there are few boxing fans still licking that I can discuss the fighters of my youth in the glorious 1940s… I am so old now that my Social Security number is in Roman numerals !!!
    Funny you should call Billy Arnold as “your favorite fighter”... Billy Arnold was such a phenomenal young ko artist from Philly that he was called
    “the new Joe Louis”...He flattened just about everybody til we saw him fight the grizzled gentleman Sir Fritzie Zivic who outsmarted the powerful Billy Arnold in 8 rounds. A few weeks later at old MSG my dad and I saw Billy Arnold fight a wild muscular grenade thrower named Rocky Graziano who I had seen several times before in the NY Arenas, who was an 1-8 underdog against Billy Arnold. Well in the eirst round Arnold unloaded on Rocky to the point where the referee was looking to stop the slaughter, but the brave Eastside Kid survived the first round. In the second round Arnold resumed his bombardment on Graziano and the referee was looking to stop the fight when Graziano unloaded his patented right hand grenade on Arnold’s jaw and proceeded to give Billy a terrible beating and the wild crowd went berserk when Arnold was helpless in the 3rd round. This sensational knockout made Rocky Graziano the greatest new drawing card in America, and Billy Arnold went DOWNHILL after this ko and soon retire..I still recall Vice President Harry Truman introduced from the audience. WOW what a night, and what a bomb thrower was Rocky Graziano before his 3 wars with Tony Zale…cheers J.

  12. Clarence George 08:08pm, 04/09/2015

    Nicolas:  That’s a great Ambers anecdote.  While Montanez retired young in years, he did have more than 100 fights.  The Wikipedia entry on him is replete with errors.  It says, for example, that his loss to Ambers was the first of his career, which just isn’t true.  They’re also wrong about his twice fighting Armstrong, though he did have two fights with Ambers, winning the first.

    Thank you, Irish.

  13. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:00pm, 04/09/2015

    Clarence George-You’re right, two late round KOs by Ortiz and another by Saddler after grueling fights…another very early in his career in the Philippines.

  14. nicolas 07:16pm, 04/09/2015

    Amazing that Montanez had his last bout when he was 26 years and a half. On Wikipedia it is stated that many observers felt he won this fight with Ambers, but the same article claims that he had fought Armstrong before in a title fight, and yet could not find any record of this.

  15. nicolas 06:57pm, 04/09/2015

    Regarding Lew Ambers. In about 1991 Ambers was asked the question how would he do against today’s lightweights. He replied to the effect that he thought that if he were boxing he would be ranked around number 20. The interviewer looked shocked. Ambers said something like this, “you have to remember I’m in my late 70s now.

  16. Clarence George 12:45pm, 04/09/2015

    Eric:  Although also internationally recognized, and older than the IBHOF, the WBHF (which I think is in California) isn’t taken very seriously.  Was it a matter of timing?  Marketing?  I don’t know.  In addition, many states have either a sports or boxing hall.  Some wag once said that the requirement for getting into New Jersey’s was to have visited the state at least once.  Surprisingly, New York’s only had one for two or three years.  And the WWE also has one.  Andre the Giant was the first inductee.  Others include Mike Tyson…and Pete Rose!  So the next time someone tells you Rose isn’t in the Hall…sure he is!

    Irish:  Ortiz is class.  Who else stopped Elorde?  Sandy Saddler, right?  But I think there was someone else…can’t remember.  Kinda surprisingly, Ortiz and Montanez are among only a few Puerto Ricans in the IBHOF.

  17. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:47am, 04/09/2015

    Clarence George-Which reminds me….Carlos Ortiz totally distracted as he goes through the motions of the post fight interview and celebration in the ring after brutal KO of Flash Elorde….. returning again and again to slowly recovering Elorde to make sure he was going to be OK….no pretense…..clearly genuine concern for fallen foe.

  18. Eric 08:16am, 04/09/2015

    Clarence… Thanks for the 411. I had no idea that boxing had more than one “HOF.” Damn, boxing has to even have multiple HOFs too.

  19. Clarence George 08:01am, 04/09/2015

    Delighted you liked it, Jim.  Yes, Beaujack’s reminiscences are gold.

    Johnson’s in the World Boxing Hall of Fame, but that’s nowhere near as prestigious as the IBHOF.

  20. Eric 07:03am, 04/09/2015

    Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl but it certainly didn’t hurt his ranking among the all time great quarterbacks, and Eli has more Super Bowls under his belt than Peyton, so “titles” aren’t everything. Leon Spinks captured the heavyweight title, Jerry Quarry never did, but no one would acknowledge that Neon Leon was anywhere near as talented as Quarry. Speaking of neglected and forgotten, I noticed that 3-time light heavyweight champ, Marvin Johnson, hasn’t been inducted into boxing’s HOF. Johnson deserves some serious consideration. Johnson and Matt Franklin aka Saad Muhammad fought two of the 70’s most memorable bouts. Johnson, like Quarry, seems to be more remembered for the bouts that he lost instead of the bouts that he won.

  21. Jim Crue 04:49am, 04/09/2015

    another great story CG. Thank you
    Beaujack, you are my hero! You saw Robinson and Armstrong and Graziano , Billy Arnold. My favorite fighters along with Kid Gavilan. There can’t be many guys around today who saw the great fights you did.

  22. Clarence George 12:40am, 04/09/2015

    Great post, Beaujack, per uje.  I agree that Montanez was indeed “most likely the greatest fighter Puerto Rico ever produced.”  My favorite, at the very least.  It’s nothing short of astonishing how little known he is, even among Puerto Ricans.  I guess it comes down to his never having won a world title, but that’s not a very satisfactory explanation.  Yes, too many of these guys, including the great Lou Ambers, are nowhere near as well remembered as they should be.  As I believe you know, Beau Jack is my favorite lightweight, though I rank Benny Leonard the best.

    I see what you mean about Ortiz, Irish, though I think Montanez was beefier.  He was indeed quite the traveler, and knew exactly when to say adios, which is as rare among boxers as it is among entertainers. 

    Very glad you liked it, Bikermike, and thanks for your great posts.  I particularly agree with you about frequency, a quality integral to boxing.  That it’s lacking today, that most boxers step into the ring only twice a year, is why boxing is, in a very real sense, no longer boxing.  I can’t get my mind around Andre Ward being considered an active fighter, when active is the last thing he is.  My God, Henry Armstrong defended his welterweight title three times in one month!

  23. bikermike 09:59pm, 04/08/2015

    .....I noticed some quotes //prior to to the body of this article…

    I ‘d like to insert a quote…to put balance into this well written essay…..

    Immediately before the phrase, beginning with ‘I recently….’

    insert…“damn that hurt…..and again….and again….
    ...gotcha u smbitch…one out of ten

    Chuvalo…who took on a fight with Champion Ali….in seventeen days notice

  24. bikermike 09:47pm, 04/08/2015

    they don’t allow guys like ‘Homicide Hank’ anymore…..he was the last of the LAST MAN STANDING   concept of prize fighting practice if not rule of the day

  25. bikermike 09:41pm, 04/08/2015

    in some places….in the late fifties and early sixties….you could see six LIVE fights a week…..including Sugar Ray Robinson…sometimes

  26. bikermike 09:38pm, 04/08/2015

    easy to make weight in those days….as after a beating could only eat soup for thee days anyway next fight…..Saturday night…undercard

  27. bikermike 09:30pm, 04/08/2015

    in order to eat as a fighter…..‘stead of topping up a wage…..was to fight every week….
    unlike Tennis..where all you have to do is rest up after a defeat…and in Boxing….yu gotta re grow some rib matter…make sure your eyes still track…and realize just how unprepared yu were to face competition of this calibre

  28. bikermike 09:26pm, 04/08/2015


    always read your posts…..and let me say it this way…..
    First…I look forward to your next article

    Next… Dad said this once…when I broke a window in 1957///
    It sounds better the way I tell it….

    Dad paid for the window….and… did I

  29. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:30pm, 04/08/2015

    Clarence George-He reminds me of Carlos Ortiz…maybe not so much in style but physically, I guess. Looks like he spent the early part of his career as a world traveler….started out in Puerto Rico then fought the early part of his career in Venezuela then on to Spain, France. Italy and the UK before coming here. Thanks for shining the light on this fighter’s great career…. who apparently in addition to everything else, had the good sense to know when it was time to hang’em up.

  30. beaujack 08:18pm, 04/08/2015

    Ah, Pedro Montanez. A name from the distant past. Clarence you honored most likely the greatest fighter Puerto Rico ever produced. He was a little before my time, but my dad would talk about Montanez as a great swarming fighter who was unlucky to come along the same time as the irrepressible Henry Armstrong then in his glorious prime…Years later I saw a faded Henry Armstrong losing a one sided decision to Ray Robinson, who “carried” ole Henry, not wishing to hurt Armstrong his idol at MSG.About this time I saw the frenetic Beau Jack then in his prime outspeed Armstrong who was past his peak…A fighter that was one helluva great lightweight those days Lou Ambers, beat both Montanez and Armstrong, both in their primes is sorely forgotten today…Shame…

  31. Clarence George 06:23pm, 04/08/2015

    Much too kind, KB.  No, no, I am merely a humble advocate of the oppressed.  Well, not the oppressed exactly; more the neglected.

  32. Kid Blast 04:22pm, 04/08/2015

    New info for me. Thanks CG, you are fast becoming the resident historian and on this site that is no small compliment.

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