Number 183 – Willie Pastrano


Willie Pastrano (tied for 182)
November 27, 1935 – December 6, 1997
5’10” / 72” reach / 122½-192lbs
62-13-8-0(14) from 9/10/1951 to 3/30/1965 (13y6m)

0-3-1-0(0) against the top ten
0-0-0-0(0) against linear champions
1-0-1-0(0) against hall-of-famers
no fights for the linear championship
Member of the IBHOF (Class of 2001 – Modern category)

Fights against the top ten: MD-10 Archie Moore, L-UD-10 Roy Harris, L-TKO-5 Brian London, L-UD-10 Joe Erskine

-1.5 total score (0 + -3 + 0.5 + 1)

Willie Pastrano was not a career heavyweight. Indeed, he started out his career in 1951, weighing under 130 pounds for his first three fights. He was still only 15 years old when he turned pro. He took six months off between his third and fourth fights, and came back as a welterweight, where he would (mostly) remain until the second half of 1953. He would move quickly up to middleweight, then light heavyweight. In June 1955, still 19 years old, Pastrano fought his first heavyweight bout, bringing a 176 pound frame and a 29-4-4 record into the ring against light heavyweight great (and sometimes heavyweight contender) Joey Maxim. Willie used his superior speed to dance around Maxim, peppering him with jabs and quick combinations, and won a clear 10 round decision.

Pastrano would win four more ten round decisions that year between 175 and heavyweight, finishing the year with a decision win over recent contender (and fellow Greatest Heavyweight) Rex Layne. This (and the Maxim win) gave Pastrano a coveted Number 5 ranking at heavyweight by the Ring Magazine. He would fight primarily at heavyweight, drawing once the following January (but avenging the draw four months later), and winning wide decisions over prospect (and future contender) Pat McMurtry, former contenders Charley Norkus and John Holman, as well as a few other solid fighters. He finally lost for the first time in 22 fights when he took on heavyweight contender Roy Harris, losing a narrow decision (and his number 3 ranking). He would make it back up to number 3 by the end of 1957, with wins over Dick Richardson and Willi Besmanoff.

He opened up 1958 with a good win over future contender Brian London, and would score a few more wins (including a rare knockout), before being stopped in 5 on a bad cut against London in a September 1958 rematch. Pastrano would then lose consecutive 1959 decisions to Joe Erskine and Alonzo Johnson, dropping him from the heavyweight rankings.

Pastrano would have mixed success after that point, dropping a few pounds for his next few fights, while fighting generally just above the light heavyweight limit. He lost a few, drew a few, and managed to beat fringe contender Tom McNeely (who outweighed him by 18 pounds). After beating McNeely, Pastrano managed a draw against light heavyweight champion and heavyweight contender Archie Moore. The Moore fight probably should have been scored for the Old Mongoose, but it was a solid effort for Pastrano nonetheless.

After his draw with the Hall-of-Famer, Pastrano would move down to light heavyweight, where he would win the world championship at that weight over fellow legend Harold Johnson. He would lose a decision at heavyweight to Gregorio Peralta, but then avenge it at light heavyweight less than a year later. On March 30, 1965, Pastrano would lose the light heavyweight title to Jose Torres, and subsequently retire.

Pastrano had almost no power, especially as a heavyweight. He had his best results at 175 pounds, where he became the world champion for a time. But his speed, endurance, chin, and incredible footwork allowed him to notch wins over good fighters – many of which were future and former contenders. His overall rating would likely be higher if he came into the heavyweight division just a year or two later.

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