A fighter as smooth as his nickname, Jose ‘Mantequilla’ Napoles (81-7-0, 54KO) was without a doubt one of the best Champions of the last half a century. The Proud Cuban who took up residence in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua Mexico, was very technically sound, with impeccable footwork, a high ring IQ, respectable power, effective counter-punching, sound defensive tactics, and an unwavering discipline that carried him throughout his eventful career.
After putting together an impressive amateur record of 114-1-0, he started his professional career back in 1958. While honing his craft, he suffered four earlier defeats, in which he avenged in rematches, that being against Cristobal Gonzalez, Toney Perez, Alfredo Urbina (2X) and LC Morgan (3X).
Fighting only out of Havana Cuba for his 1st three years, Napoles defected to Mexico after Cuban President Fidel Castro banned boxing from its own soil in 1961, so Jose began to fight exclusively out of venues in Mexico on his ascension to becoming a Championship level boxer.
His first world title shot came against Welterweight Undisputed Champion Curtis Cokes of Dallas, Texas, dominating the Champion in impressive fashion, forcing Cokes Manager to put a halt to the bout in the 13th round. An immediate re-match took place between the two, and the same result ensued, as Napoles beat the former Champion even worse this time around, which made Cokes stay on his stool after the 11th round.
Wasting no time, he next faced boxing legend Emile Griffith, and boxed him to a wide, decisive unanimous decision. Putting forth impressive performances, his run as the man was short-lived, and cut short against Billy Backus (cut being the key word here). Napoles suffered a deep cut over his left eye, which bled out, and ultimately had the fight stopped because of it. Once again, Napoles found himself victorious in another rematch, this time against Backus, where he orchestrated an 8th round TKO to get his world titles back.
Proving himself to be among the most dominant of the sport, he continued to reign, with impressive wins over Hedgemon Lewis (2X) and Clyde Gray sandwiched in between his 2nd Welterweight reign.
He decided to try his hand by going up a couple divisions to face all-time-great Middleweight Carlos Monzon. Napoles fought a brave fight, and had the bigger Monzon in a bit of trouble momentarily in the fight, but the task proved to be too much, as he was bludgeoned in the last two rounds of the fight, forcing Napoles to retire in his corner. While that didn’t go his way, he was still Welterweight Champion, so he decided to move back down.
He defended his crown 4 more times before running into John H. Stracey, who despite getting knocked down early, got up and successfully marked Napoles up (seemingly Napoles only true weakness), and the cut got so bad, the Referee decided to stop the fight, making Stracey the new Champion.
That was the last bout that Napoles ever fought inside a boxing ring. A career lasting 17 years, a true Champion in every sense of the word was on display, and his legacy continues to hold its own weight as time passes on. Here are a list of his accomplishments.
– 2X Undisputed Champion (147)
– 2X Lineal Champion (147)
– 4X World Champion (147)
– 15 Wins in World Championship Bouts (WBA, WBC, LINEAL)
– Consensus Top-5 All-Time Welterweight
– One of Cuba’s Greatest Boxers of All Time
– Ring-Magazine Fighter of the Year (1969)
– International Boxing Hall-of-Fame (Inducted in 1990)
STANDOUT MOMENT – Defeating talent-laden Curtis Cokes in the 1st fight to become thee man of the Welterweight division on April 18th, 1969.
NOTABLE WINS – Emile Griffith, Curtis Cokes (2X), Billy Backus, Clyde Gray, Hedgemon Lewis (3X)