Jose Angel Napoles (born
April 13, 1940) is a Cuban boxer and former world welterweight
champion, who is frequently ranked as one of the greatest fighters
of all time in that division. After debuting professionally in Cuba,
Napoles fought out of Mexico where he was adopted as a national hero
and is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
debuted as a professional boxer on August 2, 1958 in Cuba, knocking
out Julio Rojas in the first round. Napoles' first 18 bouts were in
Cuba, against mostly unknown competition. He did beat Angel Garcia
and Leslie Grant, but lost to Hilton Smith (in his first defeat).
beating Enrique Carabeo in March 1961, Napoles found himself a new
challenge, outside of the ring; Cuban president Fidel Castro banned
professional boxing in Cuba, and Napoles soon found his career in
He found asylum in Mexico, where he soon found himself
back inside the ring, beating Enrique Camarena by a knockout in two
rounds on July 21, 1962. He won all four of his fights that year.
1963, he won seven bouts and lost two. He was defeated by Tony Perez
and Alfredo Urbina, both by decision, but he beat JC Morgan, by knockot
in seven rounds, in Venezuela.
1964 was a successful year for
Napoles. He travelled to Japan, where he beat Taketeru Yoshimoto by
knockout in round one, and he beat future world champion Carlos Moroch
Hernandez by knockout in round seven, this time back in Venezuela.
In addition to those wins, he avenged his loss to Urbina by knocking
him out twice, the first time in the first round and the second time
in the third.
He won three more fights in 1965, including another
win against Morgan, before seeing a raise in opposition quality when
he faced the former world Junior Welterweight champion Eddie Perkens,
beating him by decision in ten rounds. For his next fight, he met
his own future world title challenger, Adolph Pruitt, beating him
by knockout in round three.
In 1966, he won five fights, all
by knockout, and lost one, to arch-rival Morgan, who knocked him out
in round four. This would be his last loss in four years.
Napoles began a streak of 20 wins in a row, 13 of them before
challenging for the world's welterweight title. These included avenging
the loss to Morgan with a two round knockout. During this period,
Napoles also became a fan favorite in southern California, and, after
beating Fate Davis, on February 15 of 1969 in Mexico, he was given
an opportunity to win the world championship when he faced the current
champion Curtis Cokes in Inglewood, on April 18. Napoles beat Cokes
by a knockout in round 13 to become world welterweight champion, and,
as was becoming common place for him, he wore a sombrero after the
fight. On June 29, he retained the title in a rematch with Cokes by
a knockout in round 10 in his hometown of Mexico City, and on October
12, he outpointed former world champion Emile Griffith in 15, also
retaining the title.
Loss of title
Napoles began the 1970s, by
defeating Ernie "Indian Red" Lopez by a knockout in round 15 in front
of an audience that included former world champion Sugar Ray Robinson
on February 14, 1970. But after winning two non title bouts, he suffered
an upset when he was stopped due to being cut in four rounds by Carmen
Basilio's nephew Billy Backus, who took the world's Welterweight title
from Napoles on December 3 in Syracuse.