The following is an excerpt from Don Stradley’s book, A Fistful of Murder: The Fights and Crimes of Carlos Monzon.
Bennie Briscoe was such a badass that Monzon deliberately changed his style for their November 11, 1972, bout in Buenos Aires. To avoid Briscoe’s brute strength, Monzon became a slash-and-move artist, slipping around the ring with surprising elegance, raking Briscoe with counter shots and combinations. Briscoe finally caught Monzon in the ninth, landing a short right that stunned the champion and made him hold on. Other than that, and an instant in the fourteenth when Briscoe landed another good right, the night was Monzon’s. He put on a gorgeous display of boxing and earned a unanimous fifteen-round decision. “Monzon is a great champion,” Briscoe said. “He clearly won.” Indeed, Monzon had painted a masterpiece.
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“To me it proved Monzon’s greatness because he was able to neutralize Bennie,” said Briscoe’s Philadelphia promoter, J Russell Peltz.
More than four decades later, the fight is still memorable for Peltz. “It was the first weigh-in I’d been to that turned into a mob scene. There were two or three thousand people, and a police barricade. I couldn’t believe it. Then, for some reason Monzon took his finger and made circles around Bennie’s nipples. He was just being silly. Bennie would’ve punched a guy for doing that, but I think Bennie was intimidated by the situation. And in the fight, he was intimidated by the referee who kept warning him.
“I was in that corner when he hurt Monzon, and the entire first row, Sabbatini and those people, looked like they were going to swallow their cigarettes. And Monzon, I could see him clearly from where I sat; he looked like he might throw up. But who knows what would’ve happened if Bennie knocked him out. Maybe we wouldn’t have gotten out of there.”
The fight had been a kind of Argentine happening. Even Argentine president General Alejandro Lanusse got involved in the hype, inviting the fighters to have lunch with him at the presidential palace and posing with them for photos.
Yet this was also the fight that created some suspicion of Monzon in America, with stories of Argentine officials protecting their champion, even confiscating a jar of cut salve from Briscoe’s corner, and forcing Briscoe’s handlers to sit a full eight feet from the ring. Referee Victor Avendano was another point of controversy. Not only did the Argentine promoter employ him, but he’d once been spotted carrying Monzon’s bag. “People said the officials were all working for Monzon, and the scoring was ridiculous. I don’t think they gave Bennie the ninth when he had Monzon hurt,” said Peltz. “But there was no doubt Monzon won.”
The shame of the accusations was that Monzon hadn’t needed protection. He fought a beautiful fight. Even Briscoe remained an admirer. “He was a very good fighter, tall and hard to hit,” Briscoe said. “There weren’t many guys who could box as well as Monzon.” Monzon, not one to praise opponents, never missed a chance to compliment Briscoe. “My God,” Monzon once said. “What a head of stone—and a big heart!”
As 1972 turned into 1973, Monzon presented himself to the world as a doting father and a proud family man. He’d also embarked on a sort of mad spending spree, determined to erase his past as a poor boy sleeping on the floor of a shack. He owned a 1,750-acre ranch in San Javier, complete with cattle, sheep, and horses, plus a collection of expensive firearms imported from Italy. He bought houses for his parents and his wife’s parents. He owned eight apartments in Buenos Aires, and four in Santa Fe. He owned a Fiat 128, and a yellow and black Lutteral, a custom-made Argentine sports car with a klaxon horn (or, as it’s better known, an “ahooga” horn). He was also building a new home in Santa Fe. He had closets filled with expensive suits, hundreds of custom-made shirts and neckties, and allegedly a pair of shoes for every day of the year.
To the outside world, Monzon had it all.
Then his wife shot him.