RODRIGO VALDEZ DEAD AT AGE 70 — Former world middleweight champion Rodrigo “Rocky” Valdez died today (March 15) at his home in Cartagena, Columbia. His death was attributed to a heart condition complicated by diabetes. He was 70 years old.
Born Rodrigo Valdes on Dec. 22, 1946, Valdez was two months shy of his 18th birthday when he made his pro debut in Cartagena. He went on to win the WBC middleweight title in 1974 and the WBC/WBA belt in 1977, which made him the undisputed middleweight champion in a day in which there were only two recognized world governing bodies.
Overshadowed during his career by Carlos Monzon, which hurt his legacy, Valdez retired with a record of 63-8-2 with 43 KOs. He was stopped only once, that coming early in his career when he was still a teenager.
Valdez made his U.S. debut in 1969 on a club show in Las Vegas, Nevada. The following year he took up residence in New York where he was a stablemate of Emile Griffith.
Valdez scored a big upset in 1973 when he outpointed Bennie Briscoe in a 12-round contest at New Caledonia. The pride of Philadelphia, Briscoe would come to occupy a prominent place among the great middleweights spawned in that city.
Valdez and Briscoe would meet twice more in world title fights. In the second meeting, Valdez KOed Briscoe in the seventh frame. History would show that Valdez was the only man to defeat Briscoe inside the distance. (Briscoe had 95 pro fights). In the third meeting, Valdez won a 15-round unanimous decision.
Valdez participated in 10 world title fights overall. He won six, losing twice to the great Carlos Monzon and twice to Hugo Corro when his career was winding down and rumor had it that he was suffering from hepatitis.
Valdez faced Monzon in 1976 and 1977. Both fights were staged in Monaco and both went the full 15 rounds. Although Valdez came out on the short end of both encounters, he had his moments. The second meeting was a bruising affair; arguably the most difficult of Monzon’s 14 successful title defenses. Monzon retired after the bout.
Upon hearing of Valdez’s death, Cartagena mayor Manuel Duque, a former sports journalist, called him “one of the greatest Columbian sportsmen in all history.” Taking to Twitter, Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Columbia, said: “Today we say farewell to Rocky Valdez, who with his courage in the ring filled the country with glory and triumphs.”
Rodrigo Valdez: 1946-2017. May he rest in peace.
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