Undefeated welterweights Joel Julio and Carlos Quintana invade Las Vegas on Saturday for a chance to capture the boxing fans’ interest the same way two other legendary fighters did 25 years ago.
Colombia’s Julio and Puerto Rico’s Quintana (22-0, 18 KOs) meet at Caesars Palace on Saturday in a fight card promoted by Main Events. It’s the same location where Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns put welterweights on the map a quarter of a century ago. The fight will be televised by HBO and the winner moves on to fight for the WBA title.
“I’m ready to see what he has,” Julio (27-0, 24 KOs) said of his undefeated opponent Quintana. “I know he’s a good counterpuncher.”
Julio, 21, has amassed 27 wins with a blend of power and determination that seems rare in a weight division filled with many skillful and powerful fighters. This is the first major step for the Colombian who is trained by Buddy McGirt.
Quintana, 29, has quietly rolled to 22 victories without a defeat. The southpaw has 18 knockouts and has yet to meet an opponent as dangerous as Julio. Both fighters are crossing the line to another level on Saturday.
“I don’t have no pressure,” said Julio who is native to Monteria, Colombia but now trains in Florida. “It’s not about who hits the hardest, but who moves better for 12 rounds in the ring.”
Few of Julio’s matches last longer than a few rounds, but the young Colombian who stands 5-10 expects a stiff challenge with the Puerto Rican southpaw.
“His (Quintana’s) camp doesn’t believe I know what to do,” says Julio, who has failed to knock out only three of 27 opponents. Most of the knockouts came by the fourth round. “I think the winner is going to be whoever manages himself well in the ring.”
Hearns and Leonard
It was 25 years ago that two other undefeated welterweights met at Caesars Palace named Tommy “Hit Man” Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard. That fight set the benchmark for welterweights.
Hearns had crushed Mexico’s Pipino Cuevas a year earlier for the WBA welterweight world title and looked to be unbeatable at 6-1 in height, with long arms and shocking power. But arriving at the same time was 1976 Olympic gold medal winner Leonard.
Leonard had already endured two wars with Roberto Duran and was coming off a surprising knockout win over Ayub Kalule for the junior middleweight world title. It was a meeting that had to take place, like two runaway trains on the same track.
“Thomas Hearns was such a great fighter. His speed was phenomenal,” Leonard said when in Riverside a few years back. “And he has these long arms.”
Leonard and Hearns met on Sept. 16, 1981 at Caesars Palace for the undisputed welterweight world title and their contest was televised nationally. Fight fans witnessed a contest where each boxer’s superiority shifted back and forth with Leonard hurting Hearns early, then the Detroit fighter using his height, reach and speed to outbox the former Olympian for much of the fight. But in the 14th round, Leonard hurt Hearns once again and stopped him at 1:45. Hearns was ahead on all three scorecards at the time. The RING magazine called it the Fight of the Year. It’s considered by many to be one of the greatest welterweight fights of all time.
WBA welterweight title
The winner between Julio and Quintana is expected to meet Paul Williams for the WBA welterweight world title held by Ricky Hatton (who might be moving back down to junior welterweight). He’s also undefeated and recently erased Walter Matthysse’s undefeated record with a knockout in the 10th round last May.
Julio witnessed the fight on television and was impressed.
“He’s (Paul Williams) a good boxer. But I think that fight’s in the future. Right now I’m concentrating on June 24, says Julio. “The future we’ll see who is the greater welterweight champion. He’s well ranked but wait till June 24 to see who the next champion is.”
Other welterweights worthy of world title shots are Riverside’s Mark Suarez, Brazil’s Anthony Mesquita who fights out of Las Vegas, and former titleholder Luis Collazo.
Other great welterweight fights in history:
Henry Armstrong vs. Barney Ross
Hammerin’ Hank had grabbed the featherweight world title seven months earlier against Petey Sarron. Then, on May 31, 1938, he decided to move up all the way to welterweight where he challenged the Chicago boxing machine Barney Ross. The fight took place in Long Island and Armstrong, who was at his peak, had his way in winning a 15-round decision. Armstrong later said he could have knocked out Ross but did not want to embarrass the great fighter who never fought again.
Ted “Kid” Lewis vs. Jack Britton four-part epic collisions
Not many people today know about these two pugilists. Lewis, a native of London, England, and Britton, from upstate New York, fought four world title fights against each other. But also collided a total of 20 times in the ring. From 1915 to 1921 these two were like gasoline and fire. Britton had more than 340 professional fights while Lewis had more than 280. During that period of time boxing records were not accurate and some of the fights may not have been recorded. Who knows if Britton and Lewis fought another dozen times?
Barney Ross vs. Jimmy McClarnin trifecta
“He couldn’t hit you real hard but he was a terrific boxer,” McClarnin told Peter Heller about Ross in his book In This Corner. “He could stab you real good, make you look like a nickel, very embarrassing. But he was quite an attraction.” Ross and McClarnin battle three times from May 28, 1934 to May 28, 1935 with the Chicago fighter taking the first and third encounter by decision. McClarnin took the second fight by decision. All three were held in New York.
Kid Gavilan vs. Johnny Bratton
The Cuban slickster was at the height of his power in 1951 when he met Bratton for the welterweight title in New York City. Gavilan was on his biggest roll and Bratton was defending his title for the first time. The bolo punching Gavilan was just too much for Bratton. They fought three times and the best Bratton could get was a draw in their non-title bout in Chicago. They fought again in 1953 in Chicago, but Gavilan won another 15-round decision.
Carmen Basilio vs. Tony DeMarco
It was like the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees. DeMarco from Boston had knocked out Johnny Saxton in 1955 and was meeting New York’s rough and tumble Basilio two months after capturing the world title. The heavy-handed DeMarco was stopped by Basilio in Syracuse, New York and again in Boston five months later. DeMarco never won another world title and Basilio moved up to win the middleweight title.
Emile Griffith vs. Benny “Kid” Paret
They were bitter enemies. Paret had won the title by decision over Don Jordan in 1960 and was defending it for the second time against Griffith. Paret was stopped in the 13th round. In the 1961 rematch, Paret scored a decision win against Griffith in New York City. But in the third meeting held in March 24, 1962, Paret died 10 days later from injuries sustained from Griffith.
Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad
It was the undefeated Mexican-American facing the undefeated Puerto Rican on Sept. 18, 1999. The Mandalay Bay arena was packed with supporters of De La Hoya and Trinidad who combined had a total of 66 pro fights and 54 knockouts. A knockout was expected but what occurred was a display of boxing skill by the East L.A. fighter and some bad advice. He gave away the final three rounds and with it the decision to Trinidad. There were no knockdowns but plenty of debate. It’s still going on.
Fights on television
Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Joachime Alcine (26-0) vs. Javier Mamani (28-4-1).
Fri. Telefutura, 9 p.m., Victor Ortiz (13-1) vs. Lenin Arroyoa (14-5-1)
Fri. Showtime, 11 p.m., Robert Guerrero (17-1-1) vs. Gamaliel Diaz (20-5-2).