Carlos Monzon is often a fighter that gets talked about as the greatest Middleweight of all time. I guess the main argument is due to the fact Argentine held the undisputed world middleweight championship for 7 years. And successfully defended his titles 14 timesagainst 11 different fighters which was a record at the time. At the time the man who called himself ‘Escopeta‘ (shotgun) simply ruled the division until he retired in 1977.
Having fought 100 times going through 761 rounds in his pro career. He finished with a record of 87 (59 KOs) 3 defeats 9 draws and 2 NC where he would avenge all his defeats.
Despite his impressive achievements, I think most look past his tremendous boxing ability in the ring due to what a horrible man he was outside the ring if I’m being frank.
In this article, I’m going to take a deeper look at what made him successful in the ring.
You can watch my video version or continue reading below:
First up I do want to give you a brief background on Monzon.
He came from humble beginnings as he grew up in the slums in the Santa Fe region in Argentina. It was here he would leave the school, where he would work for very little pocket money so he could pursue his hobby of boxing.
Turning Pro in the 60s Monzon would build up his record in South America under the tutelage of hall of fame trainer Amilcar Brusa who led him to the top of the sport.
He would get his first title fight in his 81st fight against the great Italian world champion and Olympian Nino Benvenuti in Rome, winning by devasting knockout. He was considered a big underdog as no one really knew of him outside Argentina. This fight would also be named The Ring Magazine Fight of the Year for 1970.
It was from this point Monzon would reach stardom as he would’ve never imagined. During his run of being the middleweight champion, he partied with celebrities in Paris, dated Argentine Actress Susan Gimenez, and even starred in Movies himself including El Macho, The Last Round, and La Mary.
His Middleweight run in the 70s was very successful overall as he successfully defended the title against Benvenuti, Emile Griffith (twice), Denny Moyer, Jean-Claude Bouttier (twice), Tom Bogs, Bennie Briscoe, and Cuban star Jose Napoles.
He would finish his career with two fights with the great Colombian, Rodrigo Valdez. Before finally hanging up the gloves.
Monzon’s insecurities inner rage, and a tendency toward violence to people outside the ring was something that happened all too often. As he was arrested a ridiculous amount of times in his life. He beat his girlfriends and wives, the paparazzi, or anyone that so-called disrespected him. Years later after his career, he would be charged with killing his wife and sent to prison.
It’s because of these evil actions outside the ring that he has in a way been brushed under the carpet by some and maybe rightly so.
But still, I see a lot of people talk about him and who are curious to know what made him successful in the ring.
Monzon’s Boxing Style
Now although Monzon is quite often depicted as a Monster by some. In the ring, he was actually very calculating, intelligent, and efficient.
But if I’m being honest, watching him fight at first, he can look a bit awkward and underwhelming. Though once he warmed into a fight this is when you get to see what he was all about.
If I had to put him in a category of style overall I’d probably say he was a Boxer Puncher due to his roughness and punching ability. But more often than not he would mainly like to fight as an out-boxer trying to control and maintain the distance.
The reason I say this is because he very much took advantage of his size (6ft) and reach of 76 inches.
In most cases, he was a lot bigger than most of the opponents he faced. So he very much knew and took advantage of this by using his accurate jab to pick off his opponent.
He would then fire a straight cross down the middle, before releasing hooks when he had them on the ropes. He was very accurate and unwasteful with these punches making sure he would land them.
I like to think of him as a flat-footed version of Wladimir Klitschko. In a way, he would actually use very similar tactics to Monzon.
The Argentine would also like to take his time for the most part. He was quite a slow starter as he would use the opening rounds to work out how his competitors would approach the fight.
He would much rather break you down over many rounds and take you distance as he clearly had incredible stamina to take you out further down the line.
However, a lot of opponents would come to try to take the fight to Monzon. They would close the distance on him and he would have no choice but to fight on the inside, but he did have some crafty ways in there which I’ll discuss later.
In terms of weaknesses, he was certainly not the fastest. And like I said earlier as much as he came across as he would destroy anyone, he wasn’t the biggest puncher in the world. After his career, many would say he didn’t face top opposition and fought smaller guys that came up in weight. But sometimes you can only fight guys that are in your era.
I do wonder how Monzon would do against other all-time great modern middleweights like Hagler, Golovkin, Hopkins, or even someone like Thomas Hearns. I’ll leave you to decide that.
Now let’s take a closer look at some of these individual areas that made his style.
Now as just discussed Monzon had a very accurate jab, which he would mostly use to keep opponents off him.
He would mainly throw to the head but would mix it up by throwing multiple jabs. It was a punch he would almost always start with before anything else.
It also helped that he had such a big reach for the weight, and took full advantage of this with many opponents struggling to get past it, or having to take shots as they came in trying to close the distance.
He also would also use this very much as a distance finder too as if his jab was landing, it would mean his right hand would be in range. In a way, he reminds me of how Alexis Arguello would also try to set up his backhand too.
Check out Monzon’s Jab in action below:
Simple Accurate Combinations
‘Escopeta‘ certainly wasn’t a fighter you would call flashy in any way with his combination punches. As you see many try to do these days on the mitts flowing between each shot.
The Argentine took a much more straightforward approach. Firing simple accurate combinations for the majority of the time including
- Jab-Cross (1-2)
- Jab-Cross-Hook (1-2-3)
- Cross-Hook (2-3)
- Jab-Right-Uppercut (1-6)
- Hook-Cross-Hook (3-2-3)
Even when Monzon has you hurt, he wouldn’t panic and throw a barrage of hooks and uppercuts. He would instead take his time to an extent by making sure he landed his punches.
As well, he would also throw these traditional punches from different unorthodox awkward angles at times. Especially his left hook which he would throw from a lower angle.
Personally, I think he is a great example of using the simpler combinations to great effect and not trying to overcomplicate what punches to throw.
He is a brilliant example to study if you are a fighter who is taller/longer fighting against smaller fighters.
Check Escopeta using some of these combinations below:
Arm Control & Inside fighting
The other veteran move Monzon would like to use was his forearm or lead hand to control his opponent. Due to his long reach, he would extend out his arm to hold opponents in place before firing that laser-like cross.
To change this up he would also use a lead left hook off this too. Now holding in boxing is of course illegal boxing. But I feel Monzon was very subtle while doing this. He would pause his shot just long enough to be able to hold the opponent’s head in place before throwing a heavy shot!
In terms of fighting on the inside, this wasn’t Monzon’s preference, but he was certainly tough enough to handle himself in this area. Sometimes he would use this as an opportunity to land a sneaky right hook or uppercut to the body.
Check out some of his arm control and inside fighting below:
Now you don’t have 100 fights without having some sort of defense and this is an area probably most don’t really associate with Monzon. Overall he would very much prefer to box you from a longer to mid-distance, by keeping you off with the jab. Many find it difficult to get to him due to his use of his reach itself.
‘Escopeta‘ couldn’t always be able to box from a distance, however, as he would face come-forward aggressive pressure fighters. So you would actually see Monzon use a lot of upper body rolls and pullbacks while getting behind his lead shoulder or moving back with footwork.
He wouldn’t also necessarily have his hands in a higher position to block shots either. But would use the backhand to block and parry with his right backhand.
Smart Defense & Durable
He would also take advantage of the ropes quite often bouncing off them so he could change direction to get off them. Or he lean as far back as he could before tying up his challenger. If he did get caught on the ropes he would try to move out to his left pivoting and throwing check left hook before he started throwing shots again. Something you’ve no doubt seen the likes of Floyd Mayweather use.
One of the more predictable defensive maneuvers was just to tie you up on the inside and stop you from getting any work down. This would help him able to reset back into the distance as the ref would have to break. Obviously, this is something that fans despise, but from the fighter’s perspective…it can work to your advantage.
There was also no denying he had a very good chin and was very durable. Considering he only hit the canvas once since his debut year. Until his 100th and final fight vs Rodrigo Valdez.
Monzon also used to train with fellow countryman Nicolino Locche ‘The Untochable‘, (pictured above) who of course is considered the greatest defensive boxer of all time, so he no doubt picked him up a thing or two from him.
See some of Monzon’s defensive skills in action below:
Now Monzon’s footwork wasn’t necessarily the best in the world, but it seemed to work for him. The Argentine was of course orthodox, but he preferred a much more flat-footed traditional stance where he would look to shimmy forwards and backward.
Quite often he would get pushed back in straight lines looking like he would lose balance. But Escopeta would usually look to then throw a sharp catch left hook while pivoting at the last minute to left.
He would also cross over his feet at times while moving to get out of range, which is not recommended. Somehow though he made this awkwardness work for him.
A Patient Finisher
Now although Monzon may have not been the biggest middleweight puncher 59% KO rate. It wasn’t like we couldn’t hurt you. Some guys he fought were very durable like himself, especially when he became champion.
So instead he would look to take his time, over many rounds. But when the opportunity would arise he could be very spiteful!
One thing is for sure! You wouldn’t want to be on the end of his punches. Some of my favorite Knockouts from Monzon have to be against Emile Griffith in their first fight. However, you can’t look past his knockout win over Benvenuti to become the undisputed Middleweight Champion.
As I said at the start of this article, I feel you do have to separate the art from the artist. Monzon was someone who clearly had many inner demons, a man who could struggle to communicate his emotions and took it out on those closest to him.
However, you can’t deny his talent in the ring. He was incredibly efficient, with a very hard style to fight against due to reach, durability and boxing IQ. There is no denying he will go down in boxing history as one of the best.
If you are a fighter that has a longer reach and recommend you study and watch his fights. If you want to find out more about Monzon’s story check Rich the Fight historian documentary in him on youtube or there is also Netflix series on him.
Want more content like this? Why not check out more of my boxing breakdowns and articles of these fighters from the 70s & 80s below:
- Mavin Hagler Boxing Style Breakdown
- Alexis Arguello Boxing Style Breakdown
- Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing Style Breakdown
- The Ferocious Four – Chacon, Limon, Boza-Edwards & Navarette
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