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Remembering the Lightweight Champions of the '60s- Part II
Pictured: Hall of Famer Carlos Ortiz

In Part I, we took a look at the lightweight champions, and a lightweight title claimant, of 1960 through 1964. In Part II, we'll look at the lightweight champions of 1965 through 1969.

Reigning champion Carlos Ortiz, for his first bout of 1965, a title defense, traveled to Panama City, Panama to meet 21-year-old Panamanian Ismael Laguna. Despite his age, Laguna was already a 40-fight veteran with 38 wins. On April 10, the youngster upset Ortiz, winning a majority decision. The new champ then had two non-title bouts, stopping Mexican lightweight champion Raul Soriano in the eighth round and fighting to a draw with future world junior welterweight champion Nicolino Locche, before making his first defense against Ortiz in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In his first bout since losing the titles to Laguna, Ortiz bounced back. On November 13, 1965, he regained the lightweight championships by unanimous decision.

In his first ring appearance in 1966, Ortiz faced the defensive wizard, Locche, who, besides being a future junior welterweight champ, was also a future Hall of Famer. The two battled to a 10-round draw in a non-title affair held in Buenos Aires on April 7. Ortiz followed the bout in Argentina with a defense of his lightweight titles against Johnny Bizzarro on June 20 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Ortiz stopped Bizzarro in the 12th round.

In his next bout, also a defense of his lightweight championships, Ortiz took on former featherweight champion and future Hall of Famer, Sugar Ramos. Ramos, a Cuban expatriate based in Mexico City, came into their October 22 clash in his adopted hometown sporting a 50-2-3 record and had won six in a row since losing the featherweight titles to future Hall of Famer Vicente Saldivar. Ortiz won, stopping Ramos on cuts in the 5th round. The Mexico-based WBC issued an edict that, because American referee Billy Conn, the Hall of Famer and former light heavyweight champion had "favored" Ortiz, they (the WBC) were not going to sanction any of Ortiz' defenses until he gave Ramos a rematch. The WBA and Ring Magazine did not concur and recognized Ortiz' next fight, his November 28, 1966 rematch with world (lineal, Ring, WBA, and WBC) junior lightweight champion Flash Elorde, as what it was, a defense of the world lightweight title. Fighting at Madison Square Garden in New York, Ortiz knocked out the legendary Elorde in the 14th round.

On July 1, 1967, in San Juan, Ortiz met Ramos for the second time and, with both the WBA and the WBC sanctioning the bout, and demolished him in the fourth round.

Ismael Laguna had earned a rubber match with Ortiz by winning 7 of his 8 fights since their second meeting. The lanky Panamanian had stopped reigning world junior welterweight champion Carlos Hernandez in a non-title bout, dropped a decision to Elorde in a non-title bout in Manila, and then run off six straight wins, over Al Grant, Percy Hayles, Daniel Guanin, Frankie Narvaez (in Madison Square Garden), Vicente Rivas, and Alfredo Urbina.

Like many of Ortiz' bouts, Ortiz-Laguna III was huge. So huge that it was held at Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens, the home of the New York Mets baseball team and the New York Jets football team and the site of historic concerts by The Beatles in August of 1965 and August of 1966. While the Fab Four had thrilled the crowds the previous two years, on the night of August 16, 1967, it was Ortiz' turn to shine. He was masterful. After fifteen rounds, he had won ten of them on referee Arthur Mercante's card and ten and eleven respectively on the cards of judges Al Berl and Jack Gordon.

Laguna would remain a top notch lightweight contender. Over the next two-and-a-half years, he would win 14 of his 15 bouts, reversing the only loss, to Eugenio Espinoza, in a rematch. That streak earned him a shot at then champion Mando Ramos in 1970 and he stopped the Californian in 9 rounds. After a successful defense against Guts Ishimatsu and later being stripped of his WBC portion of his championship, Laguna lost the lineal, Ring, and WBA portions to Ken Buchanan. He would fight until losing a rematch to Buchanan in 1971.

Laguna hung up his gloves after that loss, leaving the sport with a 65-9-1 record which included 37 victories by knockout. He was inducted into the WBHOF in 1999 and into the IBHOF two years later.

Ortiz was stunningly upset in his next bout.

Ortiz traveled to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to meet local contender Carlos Teo Cruz. Cruz came into their June 29, 1968 bout with a deceiving 35-12-2 record. He had won six in a row since dropping a split decision to highly ranked Frankie Narvaez, had beaten Narvaez in a rematch six months later, and was 16-1-1 in his last 18 bouts. Narvaez wasn't the only top ten contender Cruz had defeated. He had also racked up victories over England's Frankie Taylor, Argentina's Vicente Derado, and Jamaica's Bunny Grant. Ortiz was a prohibitive favorite but Cruz, spurred on by his fans, scored a knockdown in the opening round. After fifteen rounds, referee Zach Clayton had Ortiz winning, 145-139, but he was overruled by judges Jose Soto and Carlos Lugo who scored the bout 145-142 and 148-141 respectively.

Ortiz didn't fight again for seventeen months. When he returned to the ring on November 21, 1969, he took on Brazilian welterweight Edmund Leite at Madison Square Garden and struggled to a majority decision. He retired after that bout but two years later, he launched a comeback. On September 20, 1972, after his comeback produced nine straight wins, eight of which came by knockout, the now 36-year-old ex-champ was matched with former lineal and WBA lightweight champion Ken Buchanan at Madison Square Garden. Buchanan, who had lost his titles to Roberto Duran in his previous fight in the same ring, made sure Ortiz' fans had nothing to cheer about. The Scotsman dominated his fellow future Hall of Famer and Ortiz, recognizing his boxing career was over, retired on his stool, losing by a sixth round TKO.

The great former three-time world champion left the sport with a record of 61 wins, 30 by knockout, 7 losses, one draw, and one No Decision. He was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1986 and into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.

Cruz made his first and only successful defense of the titles he won from Ortiz on September 27, 1968, winning a close but unanmous, 15-round decision over Californian Mando Ramos at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. Before meeting Ramos in a rematch at the same site, Cruz won a unanimous, ten-round decision over Hidemori Tsujimoto in a non-title bout held in Tokyo, Japan. Ramos, who owned wins over previously unbeaten Ray Echevarria, Len Kesey, Frankie Crawford, and reigning world junior lightweight champion Hiroshi Kobayashi in a non-title bout, tuned up with stoppage wins over journeyman Billy Coleman and New England junior lightweight titlist Beau Jaynes.

On February 18, 1969, Ramos became the fifth and final lineal lightweight champion of the 1960s. He captured the WBA and WBC titles and recognition by Ring Magazine by stopping Cruz in the eleventh round.

The now former champ Cruz fought three more times in 1969, outpointing Grady Ponder and stopping Kesey in San Juan, Puerto Rico and decisioning Victor Melendez at Madison Square Garden in New York. On January 17, 1970, Cruz outpointed Benito Juarez in San Juan in what would be his last bout. Less than a month later, on February 15, Carlos Teo Cruz and his family were killed in a plane crash off the coast of the Dominican Republic.

Cruz' final record was 42-13-2 with 14 wins by knockout. He was a national sports hero in the Dominican Republic and in his memory, the Carlos Teo Cruz Coliseum in Santo Domingo was dedicated.

After dethroning Cruz, Mando Ramos first engaged in a non-title bout, stopping journeyman Jerry Graci in Honolulu, Hawaii. Then on October 4, 1969, in the last lightweight title bout of the decade, Ramos defended the titles against former and future junior lightweight champion Yoshiaki Numata. The 20-year-old Ramos decked Numata four times, knocking him out in the sixth round.

In 1970, Ramos won a decision over Leonardo Aguero in a non-title ten-rounder before losing the titles to Ismael Laguna.

He bounced right back with wins over Sugar Ramos, Raul Rojas, and Ruben Navarro. In his next bout, he met Spain's Pedro Carrasco in Madrid on November 5, 1971 for the vacant WBC lightweight title. (As mentioned previously the WBC had stripped Laguna but the WBA and The Ring continued to recognize him as the champion until he was dethroned by Ken Buchanan.) In the bout for the vacant WBC title, Ramos was well ahead on points, having floored Carrasco four times, when he was disqualified in the 12th round.

Carrasco granted him a rematch and the two fought in Los Angeles on February 18, 1972. Ramos won by split decision. After that, it was back to Madrid, where, on June 28, 1972, Ramos again defeated Carrasco, retaining the title with another 15-round, split decision.

Ramos' lifestyle was not conducive to a long successful boxing career. Drugs and alcohol took their toll. On September 15, 1972, in Los Angeles, Ramos' second reign as a world champion ended when Chango Carmona of Mexico City battered him mercilessly, flooring him with a right to the chin in the fourth round, twice with body shots in the fifth, and with a left hook in the eighth. Referee Rudy Jordan rescued the bloodied but game Ramos after Carmona bombarded him with punishing blows after he rose from the eighth round knockdown.

Ramos continued fighting but never approached his prime form. He went 4-5-1 in his ten bouts after losing to Carmona and retired with a 37-11-1 record including 23 KO wins after being stopped by Wayne Beale on October 29, 1975. He was inducted into the WBHOF in 1988.

Joe "Old Bones" Brown, Carlos Ortiz, Ismael Laguna, Carlos Teo Cruz, and Mando Ramos- the lightweight champions of the '60s, who, along with title claimant Kenny Lane, and their many capable challengers, made for great fights and great memories. As mentioned previously, Brown, Ortiz, and Laguna were inducted into both the IBHOF and the WBHOF, Ramos and Lane were inducted into the WBHOF, and Cruz had a major, multi-purpose stadium named after him. They comprised quite the impressive sextet.
Article By: Ken Pollitt