Next Monday the 17th will be the 80th anniversary of the birth in Louisville, Kentucky, of Cassius Marcellus Clay, known since 1967 as Muhammad Ali, "The Greatest", and one day later, that is, on Tuesday the 18th, it will be celebrated in Venezuela Boxer's Day, instituted in commemoration of the date, 57 years ago, in which Carlos "Morocho" Hernández from Caracas conquered the first world crown for a national, that of super light weight or Jr welterweight. (140 pounds, 63 kilos and a few grams) of the World Association and the World Council through a controversial split decision, against the American Eddie Perkins in the New Circus, the main stage for boxing and bullfighting in those distant days.
In this column today, we will give priority to Morocho's triumph, for obvious and understandable reasons ("To yours with reason or without it", says the proverb). Next week we will deal with Muhammad Ali and his 80th birthday.
That distant Monday in January, the fighter from La Pastora took over the two belts with the vote of local judges Dimas Hernández (143-142) and Santos Arismendi (146-142). The "third man", Henry Armstrong, one of the most illustrious fighters in history, leaned for his compatriot 150-139.
"Morocho" is conceptualized, without any discussion, the greatest boxer born in Venezuela. That historic Monday, at the age of 26, and with a record of 35-4 (1), 23 knockouts, he battled for 15 rounds against the skillful 28-year-old rival -who four years ago had taken his undefeated record- who went up with 48-9- 5, 11 KO and 1 against. The Venezuelan had become nationally known 6 years earlier when he won the featherweight title in the prestigious and now defunct Diamond Belt amateur tournament held in Mexico, in which his teammates Ricardo Salas (bantamweight), Félix Liendo (lightweight ), Enrique Tovar (welterweight) and Fidel Odremán (middleweight) were also crowned,
Shortly after Mexico, Hernández made the leap to professionalism and on January 26, 59, he debuted with a three-round knockout of Félix Gil, who was followed in a row by seven others killed in the same way, including Cubans Pedro La Barrera, Ángel Chapman and Francisco Serrano, in Santa Clara the first and in Havana the other two, in their first foray into renting outside Venezuela.
THE KO TO DAVEY MOORE
With a record of 8 knockout wins and draws against the Antilleans Ángel Robinson García and Douglas Vaillant and 2 wins on points, one of them against the American Luke Easter at Madison Square Garden in New York, the Venezuelan would achieve notoriety before the world of boxing with a resounding and surprising victory over then world featherweight champion Davey Moore.
On February 14, 1960, at the New Circus in Caracas, both in the super featherweight category, a right hand of the shepherd shook and fractured the jaw of the American, who was finally crushed in round seven when he was unable to respond to the call of the bell. That victory turned "Morocho" into a nascent idol for a crowd hungry for a stellar figure to follow, after the withdrawals of the featherweight Víctor Adams, Sonny León on the ring, and Ramón Arias from Zulia, this the first Venezuelan to discuss a world belt, that of the flyweight, against the Argentine Pascual Pérez on April 4, 19 at the Nuevo Circo and who retained the crown (Pérez, we mean) on points against a courageous applicant who could not stop the trot of the so-called León de Mendoza, one of the greatest Latin American fighters of any era.
PERKINS ON THE ROAD FOR EVIL AND FOR GOOD
"Morocho" continued his successful path between April '60 and March '61, with victories over Gil Cadillac (DU); the Mexican Alfredo “Canelo” Urbina (DU); in Los Angeles); his friend Vicente Rivas (KO1); the American Baby Ros(TKO6); Cuban Ángel “Robinson” García (2 times, by UD); a draw with Kenny Lane in NY and a decision against the “gringo” Len Mathews, 5th in the ranking (against whom he offered a masterful technical exhibition), and with an unblemished record, the Caracas knockout saw himself for the first time against Eddie Perkins , a fox of the ring, who appealed to his tricks and experience to end the undefeated Hernández through a decision without discussion with the New Circus again as the stage, in June '61.
After the setback against Perkins, the first of a brilliant career so far, “Morocho” (led by his manager and promoter Rafito Cedeño, with Juan Medina –Juancito for his friends– his usual coach in his corner), he resumed the road.
By then they had already begun, at a moderate pace, the nights of revelry, alcohol and women, of detachment from the gym, which over time would become routine and would diminish the immense flow of boxing attributes that he possessed, disorders that would prevent him from reaching much taller, the seat for which that 1,78 tall boxer seemed destined, uncommon for those of his weight, with a lethal punch and refined boxing. A boxer, in short, called to climb the highest peaks in the profession if it weren't for that.
We said, before the digression, that Morocho resumed his path in the ring after the setback against Perkins, against whom he would meet again three years later in his consecration fight.
To get there, the Venezuelan boxer scored 10 knockouts and 5 decisions in 18 more fights, of which he lost two on points with Kenny Lane and Paul Arsmtead and another by TKO against Cuban José Ángel "Mantequilla" Nápoles, who got up from a fall and knocked him out standing up in 7 laps, at the New Circus, on June 22, 1964. Seven months later the second clash with Perkins would come, cause and reason for this column today, an event that we will abbreviate in the few lines that will follow these:
That historic Monday, at 26 years old and 35-4 (1), 23 knockouts, “Morocho” Hernández battled 15 rounds against the rival 2 years older and who came up with 48-9-5, 11 KO and 1 against. The fight was a repeated copy and certainly of few alternatives, boring, in two plates, throughout the journey with Perkins without stopping moving around the ring and suddenly stopping to place his fists in bursts, pursued relentlessly and uselessly. by a "Morocho" confused and unable to find the path that would lead him to the final demolition of the adversary.
When the fight concluded, the fans that filled the ancient venue waited in silence, expectantly and without much hope for the verdict and burst into jubilation, repeated in the rest of the country, when the announcer announced the ruling issued by Hernández and Arismendi. After that very controversial victory that raised him to the long-awaited world title that the fans had dreamed of since the days of "Pollo" Simón Chávez, in the years 30-40, Hernández defended the double belt against Colombian Mario Rossito (KO4) in Maracaibo on May 15, '65 and against Percy Hayles (KO3) in Kingston, Jamaica, in July of the same year and lost them in April '66 with the Italian Sandro Lopopolo by DU, in Rome, on April 29 of the following year..
Three years later, in May, he fought at Luna Park in Buenos Aires for the title with the Argentine Nicolino “El Intocable” Locche and succumbed by an overwhelming decision. His last fight was against Scotsman Ken Buchanan, former lightweight world champion, who knocked him out in 8 rounds at Wembley, London, on May 11, 71.
In a career developed between 1959-71 he added 60 wins, 44 by KO, 12 losses, 5 KO's against and 4 draws. No other Venezuelan boxer has knocked out so many. The always remembered “Carlos “Morocho” Hernández was born in Caracas on April 22, 1939 and died at the age of 74, on July 2, 2016. Perkins died in Chicago, Illinois, in May 2012 at the age of 75, from senile dementia and diabetes. Between 1956-75 he fought 97 times for 74-20-3, 27 Ko and only 1 against.
Six years later, in 1971, the “Morocho” was joined as world champions by Vicente Paúl Rondón in light heavyweight, Alfredo Marcano in super featherweight, Antonio Gómez in featherweight and Betulio González in flyweight.
But this is another story...