A myth that turns 50: the pineapple that left Monzón groggy and paralyzed Luna Park

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He was defending his world crown for the 7th time and was in his second year as champion. His opponent was Bennie Briscoe and never before had the crowd seen him on the brink of knockout. It was the most critical moment of his career and the stadium experienced it with suspense and anguish

A myth that turns 50: the pineapple because it left Monsoon groggy and paralyzed Luna Park

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Cherquis Bialo< i class="i-share-btn print">The day that Bennie Briscoe almost knocked out Carlos Monzón

I remember it with the fidelity of a newborn; as if the fight had taken place last night and not half a century ago…

It was a singular twilight in the Buenos Aires heatwave. It was Saturday, November 11, 1972, and Luna Park would once again be the scene of an event that time would turn into a legend: the right cross that Bennie Briscoe hit Carlos Monzón in the middle of the jaw. That historic event is not remembered for the boxing action itself, typical of a fight in which the world champion belt was at stake. No, not at all… What survived from that evening – the fight was held at 6:30 p.m. so that it would arrive in Europe at 10:30 p.m. – was seeing for the first and only time Carlos felt, hesitant, groggy and about to fall to the canvas until the KO.

We are remembering the virginal Monsoon, who had been world champion for two years –at this time it is 52 years since the KO of Benvenuti–, the husband of PelusaGarcía, to the father of Silvia and Abel –Raulito was not yet known–, to the marginal kid from San Javier, to the poor champion who built his own house working as a bricklayer, to the one from meetings with friends from Santa Fe, to the owner of a Torino Yellow Comahue that he proudly drove, to the inseparable companion of Daniel González and Norberto Rufino Cabrera –who left us a few days ago at the age of 70–, to the owner of an apartment –the first of 35 later– in Díaz Vélez y Gascón, to the patient of the doctor Cacho Paladino who required an infiltration prior to the fights with Novocain between his fingers due to childhood rickets, the protégé of Tito Lectoure, the cold, speculative and intuitive fighter who patiently stalked his rivals until they are destroyed, the indestructible champion…

That was the monsoon of that afternoon, the disciple-son of Amílcar Brusa, the fan of Columbus who for the first time in his life had stayed at the Sheraton – invited by his sponsor – giving himself an unexpected luxury: asking the concierge for the newspapers and see his photo on the cover of Clarín, of Crónica and an advertisement in La Nación: “Monzón will exhibit his world crown this afternoon at the Luna Park vs. Bennie Briscoe.” What a happy time that first Monsoon away from the jet set, of the cinema, of the Buenos Aires nightlife, of new friends, of the gossip press, of bubbly champagne, of those unattainable pretty faces of magazine theaters, of fame in Europe where he would be related to so many celebrities that would range from Alain Delon to Princess Caroline of Monaco…

A myth that turns 50: the pineapple that left Monzón groggy and paralyzed Luna Park

Carlos Monzón years later, in 1976, together with Susana Giménez in France (Photo: Laurent MAOUS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

It's not only miraculous that he remembers it. It also happens that today, when rereading the note I wrote for El Gráfico that same night –and from which I will take some elements– I evoke the epic significance of events like that and that exemplify the popular culture of the time . In fact, the country was paralyzed; it was the exclusive news, the rest mattered less. For example, that fight was covered by 400 journalists from all over Argentina and also by at least 12 special envoys from foreign countries of enormous prestige such as Pocho Rospigliosi, number one in Peru; Ignacio Matus, from “Esto” number one in Mexico; Don Majewski, from “Boxing Illustrated” (2,500,000 copies circulated in the USA in those years); Jimmy Ussher, from “Life”; Paolo Rossi, the most popular rapporteur of the “RAI” from Italy, and obviously colleagues from Uruguay, Colombia and Chile also came. It was an event of singular importance that in turn was seen by millions of viewers in our country and also viewers of open channels in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Italy, France, Holland, Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Norway. .

My chronicle at that time began like this: “No one can forget that moment. It was as if a gigantic needle had pierced everyone's heart until it was paralyzed. A flash of drama, a moment of panic, a moment of suspense. First it was seeing the right blow to the jaw, then realizing that Monzón was left with stiff legs and an empty look. His body wanted to go forward and the shock forced him to desperately reach for the ropes behind him. His weakness was such that his inert body was stopped by the string that overlooks Bouchard Street without him being able to hold on because his hands had lost all his strength. And while the good Víctor Avendaño, the referee –gold medal of the medium heavyweight in the Olympic Games of '28 in Amsterdam– slowly arrived to separate and only after starting to count, the Luna was filled with hysteria. It was 7:03 p.m. and the 2 minutes of the 9th round had elapsed…

Everyone was screaming, everyone wanted to be in the ring with Carlos to put him back together, to help him. Briscoe stepped back as surprised as the audience. Panting and tired, he did not seem to dare to insist. Or he reacted too late to do it. In five seconds the champion reached Briscoe's perspiring body and strapped himself in, looking at the clock. They were two clocks brought from London in 1948 whose rotation inside a square iron structure indicated only 4 minutes: the 3' of each revolution with the well-readable mark of 1, 2 and 3; and the minute of rest that rose from 3 to 0 – as if it were from 9 to 12 – between lap and lap. Those clocks were activated by the time keeper and were at the top of the Pullman with their backs to Bouchard and above the Special Tribune that overlooks Avenida Madero. It was there that Monzón looked in desperation and anguish as he received Briscoe's right hand.

A myth that turns 50: the pineapple that left Monsoon groggy and paralyzed Luna Park

The moment of concern: Briscoe was right and Monzón was left feeling (Photo: El Grafico/Getty Images)

The minute left to finish that damn ninth lap would be the longest, tense and cruelest of the entire fight. No one could explain – at that time – how it had really happened. No one could believe that a hit by Briscoe, a black granite, former Philadelphia garbage collector, who had adopted the Jewish religion in gratitude to his manager Sam Peltz who rescued him from the streets and who had already tied with Monsoon in '67 , could change the fate of the fight. And while this is a pretty logical possibility in boxing, it wasn't “logical” in this fight. That shot – a forehand cross – changed everything. Absolutely everything. He changed what Monsoon would do from then on, he changed what Briscoe would do from then on, and he changed what people believed could happen from then on. He forced Monzón to respect Bennie, to continue fighting with a certain prudence. A Briscoe to keep looking to get the same hand, the right short and crossed. To the public not to trust so much, to be afraid in the seats –and also in front of the televisions– and to wait as a relief for the end of a match that at first seemed to have a categorical definition, then turned into uncertainty and in the end it was accepted more on the judges' cards than on the referee's account.

Why did this happen? Because of the following: for eight laps Monzón got tired of hitting the zone high without Briscoe falling. He then he began to rehearse the punishment to the abdominal and hepatic area. By hitting him down it would be possible to stop Briscoe's locomotive dynamics. In other words: take away his legs, slow him down and make the shot easier… In compliance with such a strategy, Monzón threw a very open left hook, leaving a pronounced clear – the whole face and the whole torso—and on his thrusting hand he took Bennie's right to the jaw. The blow was so fair and clear that it paralyzed the nerve centers and produced a cerebellar state. It is the moment in which the boxer momentarily loses consciousness and a terrible emptiness occurs.

Before and after everything had been from Monzón. It was a broad, clear, resounding victory. The jury's decision was Chaumont: 149-137. Amadeo: 149-143. Albin: 150-139. I thought that the advantage after 15 rounds had been 12 points. A German pulser that we had hired at El Grafico and that automatically recorded the punches thrown by each boxer produced the following calculation: Monzón threw 2,135 punches: 1597 with the left (most scoring on jab) and 538 with the right. In the 3rd he threw 105 and in the tenth 178. They were the top figures. The champion punched him 47.44 times per minute. Bennie Briscoe hit or attempted to hit 718 times. 534 lefts and 184 rights. His average was 11.95 strokes per minute. Taking into account Monzón's 2,135 shipments and Briscoe's 718, the ratio is almost three (2.97) to one in favor of the world champion. However, the scare had been capital. He had consummated a night difficult to forget .

Then the night was prolonged in celebration. And my unforgettable companion, the Black Carlos Marcelo Thiery described it like this, how marvelous: “In the doorway of room 801 at the Sheraton, surrounded by his family and friends, Monzón orders, “Let's all go to the canteen”. Five minutes later aboard his yellow Torino Comahue, the champion leads the motorcade – where a Rastrojero from “Escopeta Flet” stood out, the company of Carlos' brothers – riding happily along Av. Córdoba, going up to Almagro, Villa Crespo, Palermo, Chacarita. Here is David's Cantina on the corner of Cordoba and Jorge Newbery (which we don't have either). Bon appetit and on your feet, the world champion is about to enter. Death to sopresattas and ravioli, long live Monzón: everyone stops and applauds, forces you to raise your hands, to smile, to choose a neutral corner for the six hundred pairs of eyes to avoid the constant work of pampering you with the look. The wine arrives, the cold meat arrives, the chicken milanesas appear, the first newspapers of the new day appear through the windows with photos of the fight. Monsoon. Monsoon. Monsoon!”.

A myth that turns 50: the pineapple that left Monsoon groggy and paralyzed the Moon Park

Monzón raising the champion trophy next to his children

What a great pity: that Monsoon, austere and familiar; modest and happy, he lasted two more years, until 1974. Until he became the actor of “La Mary” after knocking out Butter Naples in Paris. New administrators, Susana, fame, money, other friends, Mercedes Benz, night, impunity… That first Monsoon was so noble and worthy… That one of the legend in front of Briscoe, whom I still remember.

It happened to me 15 years after that fight, drinking mate in an abject place and conducive to confessions such as prison. That winter afternoon Monzón defined for me in Batan what happened to him that night in the Luna. It was when he told me: “I received the pineapple, I didn't know where he was or who he was; everything began to spin around me and at great speed; I fell, I saw two blacks in front of me and I grabbed one of them; luckily it was Briscoe, the real one…”.

File: Maximiliano Roldán

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