- Sixto Escobar
realname=Sixto Escobar Vargas
March 23, 1913
Barceloneta, Puerto Rico
November 17, 1979
Sixto Escobar (
March 23, 1913- November 17, 1979) was Puerto Rico's first world boxingchampion.Although born in Barceloneta, Escobar's family moved to San Juan when he was young. There he received his primary education and took interest in boxing. After gathering a record of 21-1-1 as an amateur, Escobar debuted as a professional in 1931 defeating Luis "Kid Dominican" Pérez by knockout. After some fights, he moved to Venezuela due to lack of opponents in his division. There he received an opportunity for the Venezuelan Bantamweight championship, but lost by points. Some time later he moved to New York and began boxing in other states, eventually capturing the Montreal Athletic Commission World Bantamweight Title. In 1936, he defeated Tony Marino to unify this championship and the one recognized by the International Boxing Union, in the process becoming the third Latin American undisputed world boxing champion. After retiring, he worked as a spokesperson for beer companies in New York, before returning to Puerto Rico in the 1960s, where he resided until his death. He received several posthumous recogntions and his name was used in several sports venues and buildings. In 2002, Escobar was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Early Life and amateur career
Escobar was born in Barrio Palmas Altas, a sector of Barceloneta, Puerto Rico, to Jacinto Escobar and Adela Vargas.Fonseca et al., p.21] Early in his life he moved to Tras Talleres in Santurce, a subsection of San Juan, Puerto Rico. There he coursed his elementary and intermediate education, completing it until eight grade, when he decided to dedicate full-time to his sports career. In Tras Talleres he began developing an interest in boxing and received instruction. Although at this time the practice of boxing was illegal in Puerto Rico, remote places such as a house’s backyard or rooftop were used to organize clandestine fights without attracting attention from the local police. In 1928, a Puerto Rican boxer named Ángel “Sotito” Soto moved from New York to a house near the Escobar family’s residence, where he established a gym in his backyard, where classes were imparted to Escobar and several other young athletes. After several months of instruction, Soto prepared a boxing card with included three-round fights, with each stanza lasting two minutes. In this event, Escobar earned his first victory, defeating a pugilist identified as “Gombar” by knockout in the first round. Escobar continued fighting in clandestine gyms. Following this, he met Ignacio Peñagaricano, who received him when he first entered the Victoria Garden gym, of which he was the owner. Escobar received his boxing license trough Peñagaricano. On February 16, 1927, governor
Horace Mann Townerlegalized boxing and horaries were established for the organization of cards. Professionals would fight Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays which were considered the best days of the week, while amateurs could compete the remaining days of the week without limitations. As an amateur he fought in 23 combats, gathering a record of 21 wins, one loss and a draw. His draw was against Ramón Rodríguez of San Lorenzo and his only loss was Pedro Montañezfrom Cayey, in a fight that took place in March 1930.
Escobar turned professional on September 1, 1930, in a fight card organized at the Victory Garden gym in San Juan. In this event, he defeated Luis "Kid Dominican" Pérez, who entered the fight as the Dominican Republic's champion, by knockout in the third round.Fonseca et al., p.22] In Puerto Rico, Escobar fought in 15 contests, before moving to Venezuela after the popularity of professional boxing in the archipelago suffered a decrease. This move was motivated by Roberto Andrade, who provided transportation to the country. In Venezuela, he fought in Caracas, competing against José Lugo, Sindulfo Díaz, Rafael "Moralito" Morales, Pica Pica and Simón Chávez among others. On November 11, 1931, Escobar competed against Enrique Chaffardet for the for the Venezuelan Bantamweight title, but lost by decision. After 17 fights he returned to Puerto Rico and competed in five cards. But professional boxing suffered another decay, which forced Escobar to work as a acomodator in baseball games three days of the week, generally on weekends. In the meanwhile, his managers Gustavo Jiménez and Arturo Gigante were convinced by a friend named Tony Rojas to release him of the contract binding them. Since Escobar turned professional while still legally minor, his father had signed this document. After suceeding in this task, Rojas paid him a steam boat ticket to New York and covered food, clothes and hotel expenses. Escobar reached New York in early 1934, intending to "obtain fame and honor" for " [his] motherland", there he was received by Rojas and professional trainer Whitey Bimstein. His first fight in the United States took place in
Holyoke, Massachusettsand it took place on May 7, 1934.Fonseca et al., p.23] In this contest he was paired against Canadian bantamweight titleholder Bobby Leitham, defeating him by technical knockout in the seventh round.
Escobar's manager, Lou Brix and his trainer identified that Escobar could be close to a championship fight once the incumbent, Panamian Alfonso Teófilo Brown, refused to defend the championship against the first contender, which led to it being stripped by the National Boxing Association. A rematch was then organized against Leitham. This was an eliminatory organized by the Montreal Athletic Commission, supposed to determine a contender for their vacant Bantamweight world championship, against first contender Baby Casanova who attended the card. After scoring three knockdowns in the fourth round, Escobar connected another punch that injured Leitham, after which his manager surrendered the fight. This marked Leitham's last fight. Folloing this result, the NBA immediately a fight between Escobar and Casanova. By this time he had gained a reputation as a quick and technical boxer, capable of gathering quick knockouts with body punches if confronting an unprepared opponent. The fight took place on June 26, 1934, and it was organized in
Montreal, Canada. Escobar scored a knckdown in the third round, the fight concluded in the ninth round when Casanova lost by knockout. With this win, Escobar won the Montreal Athletic Commission World Bantamweight Title, becoming the first Puerto Rican to win a championship. This had a signifficant impact on Puerto Rico, where it was constantly discussed by the general public and songs, decimas and poetry were written about this accomplishment. However, the New York State Athletic Commissionand International Boxing Unionof France didn't recognize the outcome of this fight, conserving Tony Marino and Brown as their recognized champions.
Undisputed world bantamweight title
On August 8, 1934, he defeated Eugene Hart by points in a non-title match organized in Canada. This was the first time in his career that Escobar completed a 15-round contest. After this even, he stayed in Montreal expecting to fight against the winner of a matchup between
Louis Salicaand Bobby Quintana, which was schelueded to take place on december of that year. However, Escobar was forced to cancel his plans after suffering a heel injury when he was hit by a car.Fonseca et al., p.24] He spent a month inactive while trying to recover, but returned to Puerto Rico in the winter. The current governor ordered to have all government buildings closed so that public employees could attend a welcoming ceremony. The event, which took place in Old San Juan's dock, was followed by a parade. Upon arriving in Barceloneta, Escobar was recognized as a "predilect son" of that municipality by the city's mayor, which was followed by a week of festivities in his name. Escobar pursued a fight with Brown, but his offers were refused while the Panamian pugilist promoted a campaign protesting the removal of his recognition as champion, while demanding to be reinstated.
On August 7, 1935, Escobar defeated Peter Santol, who was considered Canada's best bantaweight and held the Canadian Boxing Federation & Montreal Athletic Commission world titles, by unanimous decision in 12 rounds.Fonseca et al., p.26] However, Escobar wasn't still considered the division's undisputed champion because Baltazar Sangchili had defeated Panama Al and was recognized by the International Boxing Union. Due to this, Santol sent a letter to the New York State Athletic Commission noting that the fight was of eliminatory nature, even tough it was recognized as a titular contest by the NBA and Montreal's Atletic Commision.Fonseca et al., p.27] Wanting to be recognized as such, Escobar pursued a unificatory fight against Tony Marino, who had defeated Sangchili by knockout in his previous fight. He won the fight by knckout in the tenth round, receiving the "undisputed world champion" distition. On November 13, 1935, Escobar became the first Puerto Rican to win a title fight in the first round, defeating Carlos "Indio" Quintana by knockout.
This outcome made it posible to organize a fight against Louis Salica, it was the firs time that Escobar competed in a title fight in Puerto Rico. The card was promoted by Arturo Gigante and Gustaco Jiménez Sicardó. Escobar won the fight by unanimous decision, while
Jack Dempseyserved as referee. He participated in Mike Jacobs's "Carnival of Champions" on September 23, 1937. There Escobar lost the title to Harry Jeffraby unanimous decision. Shortly after, he recovered from this loss and returned to the gym, before defeating Johnny Defoe in a preparaty contest. On February 20, 1938, Escobar faced Jeffra in a rematch organized at a baseball park at "El Escambrón" in Puerta de Tierra. He won the contest by unanimous decision, scoring three knockdowns. This became an early example of fights that attracted the attention and criticsm of boxing analists, particulary those in New York.Fonseca et al., p.28] On April 2, 1939, Escobar defeated Kayo Morgan before a sold-out crowd of 15,000 at the " Estadio Sixto Escobar", which had been inagurated three years earlier. After this fight, he received "The Ring's" bantamweight championship, which was presented by the magazine's editor, Nat Fleischer.Fonseca et al., p.29] Later in 1939, Escobar received a draft notice from the United States Army, ordering him to complete a physical exam for possible activation. Due to this him and his manager presented the issue to the Puerto Rico Boxing Commission, managing to receive a posposition of two months before surrendering his title. On April 6, 1940, Escobar draws with Simón Chávez in ten rounds. After stoping his participation in title fights, he was participating in short fights, of which he lost four, all by points. On December 2, 1940, Escobar parcipated in his last professional fight, losing a ten round desicion to Jeffra. Throughout his career Escobar avoided being knocked down in any fight, all of his losses where by decision. In April 1941, he was drafted by the army, taking part in World War II.
Retirement, death and legacy
Escobar retired after this, once confronting problems to meet the bantamweight's limit.Fonseca et al., p.] After this he became a spokesman for a liquor brand and relocated to New York temporally, along with his family. Subsequently he returned to Puerto Rico where he worked selling liquor in bars. In May 1947, Escobar and Jiménez Sicardó co-promoted a fight which intended to draw attention back towards boxing.Fonseca et al., p.30] In the main event, Diego Sosa was matched against Francisco Colón García. Escobar was inducted into the
Madison Square Garden's Boxing Hall of Fame in 1950. During that time, it was common for liquor salesmen to drink a little bit of the product they sold in front of potential customers, due to this, Escobar developed alcoholic tendencies. Later this would combine with a diabetes diagnostic and contribute to his death when he was 66 years old. Weeks before his death, Escobar participated in his last ceremony, where Diego Suárez gave him a recognition while serving as president of V. Suárez & Company.
After his death Escobar became the first world boxing champion in history to have a statue erected, with the municipality of Barceloneta giving him that honor. On June 9, 2002, Escobar was inducted into the
International Boxing Hall of Fame. [cite web| url=http://www.ibhof.com/escobar.htm| title=Sixto Escobar| publisher= International Boxing Hall of Fame| accessdate=2008-10-11] He became the fourth Puerto Rican to receive this distinction and the first to be included in the "Old Timers" section. In March 2005, a second statue of Escovar was unveiled at the "Estadio Sixto Escobar" in San Juan. Among the celebrities that attended the ceremony were former boxing world champions Julian Solísand Alfredo Escalera. This statue served as remembrance location during the 94th anniversary of Escobar's birth, when a flower crown was placed at its feet.cite web| url=http://www.primerahora.com/noticia/boxeo/accion_deportiva/viva_la_figura_de_escobar/41668| title=Viva la figura de Escobar| auhor=Carlos González| publisher="Primera Hora"| language=Spanish| date= 2007-03-24| accessdate=2008-10-10] During this date an activity was presented by Puerto Rico's House of Boxing in the library of the "Pabellón de la Fama del Deporte Puertorriqueño". In attendance were Solis, Escalera and Iván Calderón. On this date, People Inc. presented a documentary covering his life, which was donated to the venue. Several buildings and streets were named after Escobar poshumously, including the "Auditorio Sixto Escobar". The house where he lived was later turned into a library a museum bearing his name.
List of Puerto Ricans
List of Puerto Rican boxing world champions
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