Armando “El Hombre” Muniz – Olympian and HOF Inductee!
Interview by Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Dec 1, 2010)
In 1968 Armando Muniz out of Los Angeles, was defeating Philadelphia’s Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts at the Olympic trials on national television. Muniz would make the Olympic team that year along with George Foreman among others. Being from outside of Philadelphia I thought someday they will have a rematch. Muniz would win the 1969 and 1970 AAU championships after the Olympics while serving in the Army.

Well, Muniz and Watts did meet again and it was the same outcome in 1970 for Muniz 4-0 and Watts 7-1 at the Olympic Auditorium, in Los Angeles. The only difference was they fought for 6 rounds instead of 3. The outcome was the same with Muniz taking the decision. “I got knocked down in the trials and it cost me the fight. I felt the fight as professionals was a different story,” said Watts. “Bobby Boogaloo Watts, what a fighter”, said Muniz.

“My trainer throughout my amateur and pro career was a very nice man named Louie Jauregui. He spent most of his life as a produce worker for the Teamsters union near downtown L.A. and the teamsters had a gym in the basement of the Hall and there is where I learned with Louie.

Louie trained many boxers, and many were very good, but in boxing like many other sports and other ventures, being good is not enough. One has to be dedicated and determined and have vision in order to win. I guess I had a little of that!

My first manager was Jake Horn. His son and I played football and wrestled at Artesia H.S. together. Jake had been involved in boxing many years past and “knew” the game. Vic Weiss was my second pro manager. When Jake was having problems with the strains of having diabetes Vic stepped in.

Muniz then beat Walter Charles, 10-2-1, Victor Manuel Basillo, 3-0, and Crispen Benitez, 6-4. Benitez was in the main event when Muniz turned professional in July of 1970 in a 6 rounder stopping Joe Adams, 6-6-1. It was the first 10 rounder for Muniz who skipped the 4’s and the 8’s. Muniz would go onto defeat James Caffey, 11-1, in a main event and Mike Seyler, 26-9-2, on the undercard of Ken Buchanan and Ruben Navarro for the lightweight title.

In May of 1971 with only a 12-0 record Muniz was put in with Oscar “Shotgun” Albarado, 36-4, at the Olympic Auditorium. After 10 tough rounds the decision ended in a draw. “We had 25% of the gate as my pay that night. It had to be 90% full while holding 10,000. My paycheck specified I was paid on 4200 in attendance with me grossing $7200, my biggest payday to date. Something was not right. Jake got mad and promoter Eileen Eaton kicked us out,” said Muniz. It would be 2 years before he would fight there again. “Don Fraser was with Eaton and broke away and formed his own promotional company in association with the L.A. Forum. He took with him, Mickey Davies, who was Eaton’s matchmaker. Thank God the forum was there after Eaton kicked us out of the Olympic,” said Muniz.

In July Muniz won a close fight over veteran Chucho Garcia, 84-18-3, by majority decision, at the Civic Center, in Santa Monica. In his seventh fight of the year in August he stopped Gil King, 30-2 at the same venue. This win set the stage for Muniz to fight for the NABF welterweight title.

Canada’s champion Clyde Gray, 29-1-1, held the title. Muniz suffered a cut under an eye but knocked out Gray in the ninth round to win the NABF title. In his next fight his management took a giant step matching him with the former welter and middle champ Emile Griffith, 72-12. Muniz was not ready for Griffith and lost for the first time in 18 fights (16-1-1). “The best fighters I ever faced were Griffith and Napoles,” said Muniz. Two world title fights with Napoles would come down the road.

Just 6 weeks later Muniz was put in with Peter Cobblah, 43-45-4, of Ghana, in the main event, taking an easy 10 round decision. In May Muniz lost to Raul Soriano, 53-23-1, by majority decision at the Forum, in Inglewood. He would win 4 in a row including stopping former contender Percy Pugh, 46-28 in 2 rounds, in an NABF title fight.

In November of 1972 Muniz was upset by Jose Martin Flores, 9-4-3, in only his second fight out of CA, this taking place in Las Vegas. Less than 3 weeks later he defeated Adolph Pruitt, 44-11-2, by stoppage in 8 rounds. Pruitt had just lost in his previous to WBC/WBA champion Jose Napoles. Pruitt would announce his retirement after fighting Muniz.

Muniz would lose his NABF title in his next fight against Eddie Perkins, 67-16-2, by split decision. Perkins held the junior welterweight title before retiring and entering the Hall of Fame. They would meet 14 months later and the decision went to Perkins again. “Perkins was a craftsman in the sport of boxing and a good one but I thought I won the second fight. The first fight was in Denver, CO, not a big boxing city, but I will admit Perkins was the better boxer. Boy was he shifty. In the second fight in Tucson, AZ, those judges were looking the other way,” said Muniz.

Between his rematch with Perkins Muniz had defeated Manny Gonzalez, 59-27-6, and Ernie “Indian Red” Lopez 48-10-1, stopping Lopez in 7. “We needed a big fight with Lopez and Vic was able to work with Eaton on this,” said Muniz. The previous fight is when Weiss became his manager. In the first of 2 bouts with Zovek Barajas, 14-2, Muniz was upset by split decision.

Muniz would start off 1974 defeating Dave Orpeza, 45-4-1, who was unbeaten in his previous 17 fights (16-0-1), and then Muniz lost in the rematch to Perkins. He then stepped up to 154 and lost to Marcos Geraldo, 28-11. In July he went to San Juan, PR, in the dead of summer losing to Angel Espada, 30-6-4. He would come back with a pair of wins including defeating Hedgemon Lewis, 51-5, who had just lost to world champion Jose Napoles in his previous fight. “Hedgemon Lewis was hard to corner and hit,” said Muniz. This earned Muniz his first world title bout with Napoles, in Mexico, in Mach of 1975.

This will go down as one of the most blatant robberies in the history of boxing. Muniz was deprived of winning the WBC/WBA world welterweight titles when the referee Ramon Berumen halted the action at 1:27 of the twelfth round in favor of Napoles. It was ruled that an accidental head butt caused a bad cut on Napoles in the previous round 11. There had been no warnings or stoppage’s when this occurred in that round. “I cannot believe Napoles threw 12-14 intentional low blows and that alone should have disqualified him,” said Muniz.

After Napoles had his eye worked on between rounds the bell sounded with the referee having his back toward both boxers leaning through the ropes talking to the commission for several seconds while the boxers continued fighting. It is suspected at this point he was told to stop the fight at a certain time and go to the scorecards in the following round. At the halfway point that is exactly what the referee did. Since there was no warning given in the eleventh round by the referee the fight when stopped in the twelfth should have been awarded t o Muniz by technical knockout. Instead it was awarded to Napoles by technical decision.

In May of 1975 Napoles gave up his WBA title but held onto the WBC title. He gave Muniz a rematch in July in Mexico City. “This was my toughest fight due to the altitude,” said Muniz. This time Muniz found himself on the canvas in round 8. The scores all went to Napoles who retained his WBC title.

Muniz would win his next 4 fights including winning the US Welterweight title defeating Jimmy Heair, 46-9-1, in June of 196. I would be 6 months later that he would fight Carlos Palomino, 20-1-3, for the WBC title at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles in January of 1977.

“This was the first time 2 college graduates fought each other for the world title. I’m glad God gave me the opportunity to get an education,” said Muniz. After 14 rounds the judges had the fight even at 133-132 Muniz, 135-133 palomino and 133-133 a draw. Referee John Thomas stopped the fight at 2:23 of the fifteenth round in favor of Palomino. It was the first time in 52 fights Muniz lost without going the distance.

In June Muniz had his second meeting with Zovek Barajas, 19-5-1, who he lost to in October of 1973. This time it would be Muniz getting the win when the referee stopped the bout in round 4. Something strange happened in August when he lost to underdog Jose Palacios, 5-8-1. Based on this win despite his poor record Palacios would get a title bout with Palomino losing in 13 rounds. For Palacios to fight for a world title with a 6-8-1 record may have been a first.

At the end of the year Pete Ranzany, 36-1-1, who hadn’t lost in his last 31 fights (30-0-1) was being groomed for a title bout with Palomino when he took on Muniz. The fight was held in the hometown of Ranzany in Sacramento. Muniz upset the apple cart stopping Ranzany on cuts in round 6. This would earn him a rematch with palomino in May of 1978. Muniz hadn’t made 147 since their first meeting some 16 months previously. “I had a hard time making weight,” said Muniz. Palomino would retain his title.

At the end of 1978 Muniz would have his final fight against the Olympic gold medalists “Sugar” Ray Leonard, 16-0, in Springfield, MASS. Muniz was unable to continue after the sixth round due to tendinitis in his left arm. This was only the second time in 59 fights he was stopped. It was quite a career for the popular Muniz who ended up 44-14-1, with 30 knockouts.

Today, Muniz is president of the World Boxing Hall of Fame since 2005. He spent 21 years as wrestling coach at Rubidoux H.S. He had wrestled at UCLA. In 1988 at the age of 42 he started teaching until 2008. He taught Math and English.

Muniz would be inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993. At a later induction in 2007 he entered the California Hall of Fame. At Joe Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia this writer asked Frazier’s legendary trainer Eddie Futch about his fighter Hedgemon Lewis fighting Muniz (1974). “Oh, Armando was very tough and a very nice young man,” said Futch. I believe what was said by Futch says it all about Muniz. He was very tough in the ring and very nice out of the ring!

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