When Things Get Queasy – When Orlando Salido and Francisco Vargas went toe-to-toe in a back and forth war on June 4, the pulsating action was getting close to the point where someone might have to be saved from himself. Fights like the “Thrilla in Manila,” Pemberton vs. Sheika, Gatti-Ward I, Alvarado vs. Rios, and Bradley vs. Provodnikov resonated and like those, this one was making everyone just a bit uneasy, if not queasy.
However, the fight that really resonated — at least for me — tracked back to January 1995 and involved “Prince” Charles Williams vs. Merqui “El Corombo” Sosa. It was both unique and historic.
Williams had fought three grueling bouts in an 11-month span between July 1994 and June 1995. A TD (draw) with the rugged and talented Dominican “El Corombo” was book-ended by a malefic KO loss to James Toney and then a dangerous stoppage to Sosa in a rematch where the Prince was stretchered out of the ring. However, it was the remarkable draw that stands out in the memory of boxing fans.
The fight was held at Bally’s Park Place Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. At stake was the vacant NABF light heavyweight title. The highly regarded Sosa was 24-4-1 at the time while The Prince was 36-6-3 coming in. Both guys had fought at the top level; both were primed for war. In fact, Sosa, a come-from-behind type, had lost a razor thin SD to James Toney, and had a point not been deducted in the tenth round, he would have prevailed. He also held a UD over rugged Glen Johnson. For his part, Williams had thrilling TKO wins over Bobby Czyz, a prime Frankie Swindell, and James Kinchen, among others. The Prince was seldom in a dull fight.
Referee Ron Lipton could sense that this would be a torrid battle. Looking back, Lipton wrote:
“In the ring I know this is going to be hot, and Sosa meets Charlie in mid ring for the instructions … I tell them the same thing I tell them all, ‘Respect each other, obey my commands, and let’s keep this strictly professional.’ My words are over and Sosa says growling at him, ‘Aqui, Jungle.’ This is going to be a Jungle now.”
What ensued is still being talked about in boxing circles as the two combatants, both old school types, engaged in one of the most savage fights ever—one in which there was no safe quarter as both men were hurt at different times over the course of the seven rounds .The exchanges of body and head shots had the crowd gasping in amazement. First one shot would hit flush and spray sweat and blood all over the ring; then one in return would do the same. There were few clinches for Referee Ron Lipton to worry about as he kept a close eye on the hellacious mayhem being waged. Neither guy was about to quit though Sosa seemed to be getting the ever-so-slight edge.
Finally, after seven rounds of mind numbing punishment, the ringside doctor Frank B. Doggett and referee Lipton had seen enough. To save both fighters for another day; the fight was stopped. Clearly, neither warrior could continue the mutual bloodletting (though Sosa complained bitterly that he was still ready to go). It was a rare “double knockout,” which officially was ruled a technical draw. Sosa, with blood-soaked trunks, suffered a fractured cheekbone while The Prince sustained an ugly orbital eye cut. “I absolutely stand by the doctor’s decision,” Commissioner Larry Hazzard said. “The health and safety of the fighters is first and foremost. I’m not going to overrule the doctor.” Hazzard lived up to his reputation for being a boxer’s official first and foremost.
Here is the ending: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4RGYdGUu-s
This YouTube delves into Merqui’s psyche and, in its own way, is a bit uncomfortable to watch as well as he discusses his fight against Roy Jones, Jr in 1996: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-tAPDqHByg
Williams was never the same. After his rematch with “El Corombo,” he had one more fight and called it quits. Merqui Sosa finished with a 34-9-2 slate going 10-5 after the first Williams fight.
As for Vargas and Salido, hopefully they are able to continue at the top level, but time will tell whether they too absorbed too much punishment.
Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active power lifters and holds several records. He enjoys writing about boxing.
When Things Get Queasy