Friday, October 29, 2010

The Legacy Of Mexican Boxing Great Carlos Palomino

By Ross Everett

Vince Lombardi once said "Winning isn't everything, its the only thing". For most of the mainstream sports media, that couldn't be more true. Countless hours on sports talk radio are spent deriding NBA players like Charles Barkley and NFL players like Dan Marino for never winning a championship. Simply stated, no one remembers the runner up and the mainstream sports media helps reinforce this 'frontrunner' mentality.

While frequently maligned by the mainstream sports media, the sport of boxing more than any other sport lives by the how you play the game mantra. Serious boxing fans talk more about great fights than in terms of who wins or loses. The greatness of fights like the Ward-Gatti trilogy, the Barrera-Morales trilogy, Hagler-Hearns, Hagler-Leonard and, most recently, the Morales-Pacquaio classic from March 2005 are almost exclusively about how the game was played. Most of these fights were very closely contested, but even in the event of a decisive victory like Hagler-Hearns much credit is given to the opponent for making the fight great. Perhaps the best case in point is the first fight between Manny Pacquaio and Juan Manuel Marquez, which was at or near the top of most serious boxing journalists fight of the year lists for 2004. Despite the fights wall to wall action, the official decision was a draw.

Fighters can even be criticized for not having any losses on their record. While the highest level fighters like Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Rocky Marciano are certainly exceptions, an undefeated record can often suggest a poor level of opponent as much as it does fistic superiority. A glossy won/loss record alone isn't enough to cement a legacy of greatness in the glorious history of boxing--that has to be earned inside the ring with heart, skill, toughness and character.

For a combination of accomplishment and championships, along with class and humility, few fighters can match welterweight great Carlos Palomino. A native of Sonora, Mexico, Palomino held the welterweight title for two years during the late'70's. While he was champion, he earned his college degree from Long Beach State University in California and in the process became the first reigning world champion to do so.

Palomino immigrated from Mexico as a child and began to train in boxing as a teenager. He showed a lot of promise as an amateur, but delayed his professional debut until'72 in order to serve in the US Army. While enlisted, he became All Army Welterweight Champion and won the national AAU championship. After turning pro, he worked his way up the ranks steadily until he finally won the title in June'76. Palomino scored a TKO victory over Englishman John Stracey in London, England and would defend his belt seven times before dropping the title via split decision to another first rate champion in Wilfred Benitez. He lost his next fight to yet another great in Roberto Duran, and decided to retire from the ring. He posted a credible 4-1 record during a late'90's comeback before deciding to retire for good.

Palomino got into acting after his boxing career came to a close, and has worked steadily both in television and film. He's also done a number of commercials, most famously the early Miller Light Beer 'tastes great/less filling' TV spots.

As a fighter, Palomino was much more technical and deliberate than the 'blood and guts' stereotype of a Mexican fighter. He had deceptive power, and a left hook that could end a fight, but would more often break his opponent down over the course of a fight with a punishing body attack and relentless pace. While he might not fit the mold established by men like Julio Cesar Chavez and Erik Morales, Palomino no doubt rates among them as one of the greatest fighters in the proud history of Mexican boxing legends.

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