by: José A Maldonado, MFA
Replacements in boxing are often seen as an afterthought. These are the guys who fill in for the ones we’d rather see. The no names who will most likely lose anyway, thus setting up the real event later on. Funny thing is, sometimes people forget to tell them this. The replacements aren’t “filled in” (pun intended) on the big picture and, as a result, they put on a performance that no one expected.
On Saturday we witnessed this rare occasion as underdog Josesito López of Riverside, CA stopped Victor Ortiz, who was originally slated to face Andre Berto in a rematch of a hellacious first encounter. Plans were for Ortiz to put the naturally smaller López away to facilitate an Ortiz-Canelo Alvarez fight on Mexican Independence weekend. This is a bit ironic since Ortiz himself would be acting as a replacement for both Paul Williams and James Kirkland, Alvarez’ original opponents. What happened instead was that Ortiz had his jaw broken, thus putting an end to all talks (literally) between Ortiz’ camp and Golden Boy’s Alvarez.
In honor of this huge upset victory, let’s take a look at a few other notable instances in which the guys coming off the bench pulled off the unlikely win.
Ron Redrup W10 Charles Colin – May 20, 1958 – Earl’s Court Empress Hall Kensington, London, UK
Ron Redrup came into this bout on short notice to replace injured former champ Randy Turnpin, who had upset the great Sugar Ray Robinson a few years earlier. It was such late notice, in fact, that programs for the event still listed Turpin and made no mention of Redrup. He was taking on Charles Colin, who held the French light heavyweight title on and off throughout his career. Colin came into the bout with a record of 43-5 with 5 draws while Redrup was only 7-3 with 2 draws. Redrup took the bout to Colin in a spirited performance and came away with a decision win. Colin would retire 4 fights later; Redrup, meanwhile, retired with a record of 23-25 and this would prove to be his best win by far. Neither fighter would ever face Turpin.
Mike Hunter W12 Tyrell Biggs – January 17, 1993 – Las Vegas, NV
Known as “The Bounty Hunter,” Hunter replaced Tony Tubbs, the former WBA champ who failed a drug test when cocaine was found in his system. Hunter had previously served time in prison for armed robbery and would take full advantage of this huge opportunity. Briggs was a 1984 gold medalist who was favored to win. Both 32 at the time, Hunter claimed the vacant USBA title with the win. Biggs would go on to fight Tubbs afterward anyway. He lost that bout too and never became the heavyweight many expected. Biggs soon squandered his career to drugs, a demon that continues to haunt him as he works his way toward rehabilitation. Hunter’s career would also decline soon after due mostly to his own drug addictions. In 2006 Hunter was killed by two police officers in Los Angeles during a buy-and-bust sting. His son, Michael Jr., no doubt inspired by his father’s short but relatively successful career, is also a boxer. Though he failed to make the 2008 Olympics in Beijing as a super heavyweight, he will represent the US at the 2012 Olympics in London as a heavyweight.
Oleg Maskaev KO8 Hasim Rahman – November 6, 1999 – Convention Hall Atlantic City, NJ
Just two years before his monumental upset knockout of Lennox Lewis, Rahman was a victim of his own shocking loss. Rahman was originally supposed to face Croatian contender Zeljko Mavrovic, who pulled out of the fight owing to injury. Maskaev was seen as a safe fight for Rahman, who came into the bout on a two-fight winning streak after his stunning knockout loss to David Tua, a fight the Baltimore native had dominated before being rocked at the end of the 9th and eventually stopped in the 10th. This bout would end in similar fashion. In the 8th, Maskaev hit Rahman with a devastating blow that knocked Rahman out of the ring. Steve Smoger, who was sitting ringside as a replacement referee (ironic, huh?), was struck in the head by a chair that was thrown by an angry fan. The fan was later arrested. The two would face each other 7 years later, with Maskaev taking Rahman’s WBC title via 12th round TKO.
Manny Pacquiao KO6 Lehlo Ledwaba – June 23, 2001 – MGM Grand Las Vegas, NV
Lehlo, short for Lehlohonolo, was one of the most promising super bantamweights at the time. He was originally supposed to defend his title against Enrique Sánchez. What he got instead was a 23 year old Pacquiao. Ledwaba, 30, had successfully defended his title 5 times before facing the relatively unknown Pacquiao, who was coming in on 2-weeks’ notice. Ledwaba was a skilled boxer and many expected him to outclass the still raw Filipino. Pacquiao, however, absolutely dominated the champion, landing punishing blows and dropping the South African several times before the bout was stopped. Ledwaba went 3-4 afterward, picking up two minor titles before retiring. Pacquiao, of course, would go on to win titles in 4 more weight classes, becoming, in the opinion of many, one of the best fighters of his generation.
Humberto Soto W12 Rocky Juárez – August 20, 2008 – Allstate Arena Rosemont, IL
This bout was for the interim WBC featherweight title, a belt that was all for Rocky Juárez’ taking. He was coming into the fight with a 23-0 record and a stellar amateur career in which he took the Silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. To top it off, he was facing a replacement fighter in Soto, who took the place of the tough In-Jin Chi. Soto came in with a record of 25-5, but had recently earned impressive victories over Zahir Raheem and Guty Espadas, Jr. Soto took the fight on only two-weeks’ notice but outworked the seemingly overmatched former Olympian. Juárez is considering retirement now that he is on a 6 fight losing streak. Soto, on the other hand, followed up this performance by winning several multiple titles before losing this past weekend to Argentine Lucas Matthysse at 140 pounds.
José A Maldonado is senior staff writer at punchrate.com