Interview with Armando Muniz - On Pacquiao vs Mayweather Prediction, Ricky Hatton, Erik Morales, Shane Mosley, Israel Vasquez, Robbery and much More By John Raspanti (Dec 16, 2009) Doghouse Boxing
It was little over thirty-four years ago when Armando Muniz was denied his dream of winning a world championship. The scene was the convention center in Acapulco Mexico; Armando was taking on the legendary Jose “Mantequilla” Napoles. He entered the ring a 6-1 underdog. Napoles seemed to agree as he didn’t look particularly concerned before the opening bell rang.
He should have been.
Armando was ready that night. He was in the best shape of his life…and he could see that the Napoles was not. As was his style, he stayed close to the champion and pounded him. Napoles fired back but by the middle rounds he was feeling his oats. Armando grew stronger; he was quicker then Napoles and repeatedly beating him to the punch. Napoles grew more desperate, in the 11th round he connected with 12 low blows. The referee that night, one Ramom Berumen, did nothing. No warning, no words, nothing.
Armando Muniz: “The 11th round? He must have thrown 12 to 14 INTENTIONAL low blows and the ref never saw one of them. THIS was never ever brought up! Boxers have been disqualified for this!!”
By the 12th round the champion was reeling. Referee Berumen was helping every way he could. He was engaged in a conversation with a ringside official as Muniz and Napoles swapped punchers. Napoles was beaten. Both his eyes were swelled up and cut badly. He needed to be saved, and as Berumen ended his conversation that’s exactly what would happen. Berumen stopped the fight; the ring physician had advised him that Napoles could not continue…
Armando had done it, he was the world champion. All the years of toil and time away from his family had finally paid off. The small paychecks and the bad decisions, none of that mattered anymore. His dream of winning the championship had finally happened. But no, things are sometimes not what they seem in the shady world of professional boxing. In an amazing scene that must have been shocking to all, referee Berumen grabbed the ringside microphone and declared that Napoles was the winner by “technical decision”. His cuts had been caused by Muniz butting him…
Armando Muniz: “Although both of us lowered our heads to avoid punches, the ref ONLY warned me, at one time even when I lowered my head after Napoles threw an intentional low blow. When he did this, it dawned on me. ‘WOW, it looks like I have to ‘fight’ against Napoles AND the refs bias.’ Anyway he never took points away or declared that his cuts were due to an illegal head butt.”
Look up the word “travesty” in the dictionary and you’ll see…make a mockery of…pervert…distortion…and the one word that probably describes that night in Acapulco perfectly…scam.
Armando was the 1968 AAU golden gloves champion while serving in the army. He turned professional in 1970 and quickly worked his way up the ratings. He won the NABF Championship from Clyde Gray in 1971 (in what was considered an upset) and held the title for two years. He defeated many fighters that the experts said he shouldn’t have. Recognized today as the uncrowned champion, Armando is also the President of The World Boxing Hall of Fame. In a wide ranging interview I asked Armando why he became a fighter, how different boxing is today compared to when he fought, what fighters he follows, Pacquiao and Mayweather and of course “that night” in 1975…
John Raspanti: Why did you become a fighter?
Armando Muniz: As a kid, I was actually a little "chicken". I have never had a street fight in my life! Basically I wanted to prove to my father that I was worthy of becoming a man. Sometimes I'd come home from school crying cause some kid would pick on me and I'd be scared to fight. My mother, who was an angel and the sweetest person on earth, would console me. She would tell me that fighting another human being would not prove anything and it would only cause unneeded pain. My father, who worked as a heavy equipment operator, on the other hand was a hard worker. He paid his dues. I admired him. He would get up at 4 in the morning to go to work and return at 5 or 6 most all the time. He supported all of us, my mom and 8 kids. I was oldest of the boys. I would watch the boxing matches on TV with my father and uncles and cousins and they would always root for the fighter who was the slugger. This is the days of Carmen Basilio, Gene Fullmer, and Gaspar Ortega! My father, along with the others would always say, "that's what you call a MAN. He can really dish it out as well as not running from the opponent. What a slugger." Up until the age of 14, I was afraid my dad would learn that I backed out of fighting someone else and I knew he would be disappointed in me. So one day I am reading the El Paso Times and I see in the sports section and announcement. All I remember was that it was 3 x 2 minute rounds and that the gloves seemed to weight 20 pounds each. But I was eager and the yelling of the crowd gave me lots of courage and I ”slugged" it out with Tony Ramos and although he beat me good, the crowd gave me the applause for "fighting" and not giving up. After the fight, my father waited for me at ringside and picked me up and gave me big hug and said, "That’s the way to go son, you fought like a man and everybody saw it. I am proud of you." That was the day I knew what I would do in my life.
JR: How different was boxing in your day compared to today
AM: The difference in boxing back in the 60's and 70's is that the work ethic was different. It shows in all areas of competition in the US in all sports and actually in all areas of our lives. Title bouts were 15 rounds. We weren't as spoiled as we are now. Athletes earned their way. There was less politics. Parents would respect coaches and let them do their jobs. Today many coaches are afraid to train the kids too hard for fear of parents complaining. I love the sport and there a few great champs out there, but boxing then compared to today is like the great TV programs of that era compared to some of these "reality" shows which draw so much attention from TV viewers!
JR: Speaking of today, is there one particular fighter you follow?
AM: I follow the likes of the Marquez brothers, Ricky Hatton, Erik Morales, Shane Mosley, Israel Vasquez, and the likes of them.
JR: If it happens…who wins…Mayweather or Pacquiao.
AM: I take Pacquiao over Mayweather, although Mayweather is VERY illusive. Mayweather's style is not good for the fighters like Pacquiao. He won't stay in front of a slugger like Manny. But to me Manny is "The Man".
JR: Were you robbed on March 29th 1975 when Jose ‘Mantequilla’ Napoles was awarded a technical decision victory?
AM: Without a doubt, I was robbed. "I could have been the champ!" If you see that fight, the only question one can ask is, were the judges LOOKING at this fight? When the doctor finally came on the ring I could read his lips, "ya no puede seguir!" (he can't continue). Now keep this in mind, the ref NEVER stopped and penalized me for butting (this is supposedly what caused the cuts under his eyebrows!). In the rule book this is automatically a TKO! I hope someday justice can be done.
JR: Was it difficult mentally to get over that fight?
AM: I was very saddened by verdict. It did change my life and for those close to me. I will never forget the look on my father’s face that evening in Acapulco. For that I think I could have killed someone! When I saw my mother, she just wanted to know if I was alright. I was perfect, totally unhurt, and she was happy. She said I would get over it. For a short time I did live through that "oh poor me syndrome" but I decided to go on with my life. Oh and my wife… I know she hurt inside for me, because she knew what it meant to me and she saw the sacrifices I made to reach that point in my career as a pugilist. The look on her face told me everything, but she did so much to make me feel OK about the fact everyone knew what had happened that night. And actually, I never broke down, because I wanted to show her that I did not lose that fight. She was my biggest and closest fan! Unfortunately, in boxing you are either on this side or that side. That side had all the connections, all the bets, and all of the kiss asses (sorry). I, we, did it right and do not "owe" anyone anything. This is too prevalent in the sport.
JR: Was Napoles the best fighter you ever faced?
AM: He probably was the best all around boxer. He was also a very, very hard puncher. He beat all the best of our era in the welterweight and lightweight division.
JR: You fought so many good fighters and had 44 victories. Of the 44 wins was there one that was the most satisfying?
AM: My fight with Clyde Gray for the North American Title was very satisfying. It was my 17th pro fight and he was ranked way above me in the ratings. He had a great jab and moved real well, but I guess not well enough. I KO'd him in the ninth round. I was very happy I got past Adolf Pruitt. He had just beaten Hedgemon Lewis a few months earlier and I knew he was tough. He was difficult to box OR fight against. Very unorthodox. Boy could he hit. I KO'd him in the 8th round. I think he got tired of hitting me! After the fight, I recall, the athletic commissions Joey Olmos came in and told me I would be suspended for 60 days. He thought that I took too many shots. Oh yes, Ernie "Indian Red" Lopez was supposed to knock me out too. I beat him in 7 rounds.
JR: Any regrets with your boxing career?
AM: Not really. I would like to have had 90+ fights on my record, but it wasn't meant to be. I got drafted into the US Army at 22, so I turned pro at 24. Most boxers are done by that time.
JR: Tell me something about Armando Muniz that most boxing fans don’t know.
AM: Well, I am proud of the fact that Carlos Palomino and I were the first (and maybe the last for a while) boxers to ever fight for a world title and both of us being college graduates. People might not know that I was a math and Spanish teacher in high school for 23 years. And since I wrestled at UCLA, I was also a wrestling coach at Rubidoux High School for 21 years. And probably most people don't know that one of the greatest moments in my life came when I received my Masters Degree in Administration.