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Remembering the Lightweight Champions of the '60s- Part I
Pictured: Hal of Famer Joe Brown

In the entire decade of the '60s, only five men had the distinction of being the world lightweight champion and a sixth was recognized briefly as the world champ by the Michigan commission. When the decade began on January 1, 1960, Louisiana's Joe "Old Bones" Brown was universally recognized as the world lightweight champion. No one disagreed- The Ring, the New York State Athletic Commission, the European Boxing Union, and the National Boxing Association (which would be re-named the World Boxing Association in 1962) all recognized him as the champ.

Brown had won the title in 1956, dethroning former U. S. Olympian Wallace (Bud) Smith via a 15-round split decision.

In 1957, Brown fought seven times, winning six and battling to one draw. He defended the title three times, stopping Smith, perennial top contender Orlando Zulueta, and Joey Lopes, with whom he had fought to the aforementioned non-title stalemate two fights earlier.

The following year, Brown went 4-1. He won two non-title bouts by TKO and then successfully defended the title against two future WBHOF inductees, stopping future junior middleweight champion Ralph Dupas in the eighth round and winnng a close but unanimous 15-round decision over tough southpaw Kenny Lane. In his last bout of 1958, Brown dropped a 10-round decision to Johnny Busso in another non-title contest.

Brown defended the title against Busso in his first bout of 1959 and won a convincing, unanimous decision after 15 rounds. He fought another six times that year with five wins and one draw. Brown halted highly ranked Paolo Rosi in the the ninth round of a closely contested title defense, then fought three non-title bouts. He won the first two, stopping his opponents, but was then held to an upset draw by Joey Parks. Before finishing the year with a non-title, one-sided decision over Parks, Brown stopped England's highly touted Dave Charnley in the 6th round of his third defense of the year.

In 1960, Brown sandwiched three wins between two non-title losses. He suffered two separated ribs in a TKO loss to journeyman Ray Portilla but bounced back with two stoppage wins in non-title bouts including a fourth round knockout of highly ranked junior welterweight Battling Torres. That led to his only title defense of the year, a near shutout, 15-round decision over Cisco Andrade.
Brown, who had mostly fought in the United States but had had bouts in Canada, Australia, Panama, and Cuba, then traveled to Europe for the first time and lost by decision to Giordano Campari in Milan, Italy.

In his first bout of 1961, "Old Bones" made it 2-0-1 versus Parks, winning by unanimous decision after another non-tile ten-rounder. For his next bout, a title defense against Charnley, the European, British, and British Empire champion who had won five straight since his first shot at the world title, Brown traveled to England. On April 18, at the Earls Court Arena in Kensington, Brown and Charnley engaged in what would be Ring Magazine's Fight of the Year and when it was over Brown had retained his title with a hard-fought, well-earned 15-round decision. Before the year was out, Brown did more globetrotting, traveling to Quezon City, Philippines to defend against Bert Somodio at the famed Araneta Coliseum, which be the site of Ali-Frazier III, the "Thrilla in Manila," fourteen years later. Flooring Somodio in the fifth and eleventh rounds, Brown won a unanimous, 15-round decision and retained his title for the 11th time. It would be his last successful defense.

In his next bout, on April 21, 1962, Brown met former world junior welterweight champion Carlos Ortiz in Las Vegas, Nevada and after 15 rounds, the world had a new lightweight champion. The bout was scored with a 5-point must system and Ortiz won by the scores of 74-60, 74-58, and 74-66.

Brown would fight on for more than eight years, finally retiring at the age of 44. He left the sport with a record of either 104-44-13 with 1 No Contest and 47 wins by knockout as per the IBHOF or 116-47-13 with 1 NC and 1 No Decision and 53 wins by KO as per BoxRec. He was inducted into the WBHOF in 1987 and the IBHOF in 1996.

Carlos Ortiz was born in Puerto Rico in 1936 and was raised in New York City. He turned pro in 1955 and after compiling a record of 29-2 including wins over Joey Lopes, Johnny Busso (avenging his first loss), Dave Charnley, and Len Matthews, he got his first shot at a world title. The National Boxing Association and the New York State Athletic Commission had revived the junior welterweight division which had been dormant since 1946 and on June 12, 1959, Ortiz and Kenny Lane met to become the division's first champion since Tippy Larkin. Ortiz and Lane were no strangers. The Michigan southpaw had outpointed Ortiz over 10 rounds in December of 1958 and both had won a bout since then, Ortiz halting Matthews in the sixth round on April 13 and Lane stopping Busso, also within six, four days later.

Ortiz quickly annexed the reinstituted title. Flooring Lane and cutting him badly, Ortiz won a a second round TKO.

The new champ put the junior welterweight title on the line three times in 1960, knocking out previously unbeaten Battling Torres in Los Angeles, winning a split decision over Italian star Diulio Loi in San Francisco, and then dropping a majority decision, and the title, to Loi in Milan, Italy.

In 1961, Ortiz, after outpointing Cisco Andrade in L. A., traveled back to Milan for his rubber match with the future Hall of Famer Loi. Loi prevailed by unanimous decision. For the rest of the year, Ortiz turned his attention at earning a shot at the lightweight championship and scored decisions over contenders Doug Vaillant and Paolo Rosi to earn that opportunity.

The aforementioned bout with Joe Brown in 1962 resulted in Ortiz winning his second world title. The newly crowned champ then traveled to the Philippines and Japan and respectively outpointed American veteran Arthur Persley and Japanese featherweight champion Kazuo Takayama in non-title bouts. A second trip to Japan followed with Ortiz successfully defending the lightweight diadem for the first time. On December 3rd, he knocked out former Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation lightweight titleholder Teruo Kosaka in the fifth round.

Ortiz' second title defense took place on April 7, 1963 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Florida-based Cuban, Doug Vaillant, who had gone 4-3 since his first bout with Ortiz, was the challenger. Vaillant had, during that span, defeated, among others, Mauro Vazquez and Dave Charnley, and had dropped decisions to future junior welterweight champion Carlos Hernandez (twice) and Bunny Grant. Ortiz decked Vaillant five times, stopping him in the thirteenth round. The bout was sanctioned not only by the World Boxing Association but by the fledgling World Boxing Council as well.

The champ fought two more times in 1963 but both bouts were of the non-title variety. He stopped for former Philippines national lightweight champion Pete Acera in seven rounds in Hawaii and then outpointed British contender Maurice Cullen in London.

Ortiz' old foe, Lane, had been extremely busy. Going into his August 19, 1963 bout with Paulie Armstead, he had gone 19-4-2 against many of the top lightweight, junior welterweight, and welterweight contenders of the period since his 1959 loss in the junior welterweight title bout. The state commission of Michigan sanctioned the match between the now 76-11-2 Lane and the highly ranked California State lightweight champ as being for the vacant Michigan version of the world lightweight title. After fifteen rounds, Lane won by unanimous decision.

In February of 1964, both Ortiz and Lane were in action. On the 15th, Ortiz faced Philippines national hero, reigning world junior lightweight champion and reigning OPBF lightweight champ Flash Elorde in Malate, Metro Manila. Ortiz retained his belts by stopping his fellow future IBHOF and WBHOF inductee in the 14th round. On the 19th, Lane won a non-title, 10-round split decision over Johnny Bizzarro in the latter's hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania.

The rubber match between Ortiz and Lane took place on April 11, 1964 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Ortiz retained his title for the fourth time. He unanimously outpointed Lane over fifteen rounds and punctuated the victory with an exclamation point in the form of a fourteenth round knockdown.

Lane would fight a few more times, then retire in 1965. He launched a unlikely comeback in 1982 but retired for good in 1985 with a final career record of 82-16-2 with 19 victories by knockout. He was inducted into the WBHOF in 2004.

Ortiz finished 1964 with a non-title, first round knockout win over New England lightweight champion Dick DiVola in Boston on December 14.

Article By: Ken Pollitt