Number 179 – Alejandro Lavorante

20100307215911!ALavorante61Alejandro Lavorante (tied for 176)
Mendoza, Argentina
October 25, 1936 – April 1, 1964
6’3” / 73″ reach / 202-212 lbs
19-5-0-0(15) from 09/22/1959 to 09/21/1962 (3y0m)

1-4-0-0(1) against the top ten
0-1-0-0(0) against linear champions
0-1-0-0(0) against hall-of-famers
No fights for the linear championship

Top ten opponents: W-KO-7 Zora Folley, L-UD-10 Roy Harris, L-SD-10 George Logan, L-TKO-10 Archie Moore, L-KO-5 Muhammad Ali

-1 total score (1 + -3+ 0 + 1)

Boxing is a dangerous sport. That’s about as obvious a statement as it gets. But it shouldn’t be taken for granted that this is a combat sport. Almost every sport that features strenuous physical activity has had participants suffer severe injuries, and even death.

Boxing is different from most sports, in that the entire point is that each event is a literal fistfight. And when two people fight, sometimes they get hurt. And yes, sometimes they die. Modern boxing, even as unregulated corrupt, and chaotic as it can be, still includes safeguards against tragedy. Participants are subject to regular physicals, commissions attempt to keep an eye on the safety of events, and doctors are present at each fight. It could be much worse.

However, when two people are actively trying to hurt one another, sometimes they succeed more than anticipated. Ring deaths have occurred throughout history, and occasionally to well-known boxers. This ranking will include a handful of fighters who died due to ring-inflicted injuries. There are also a few that caused such injury themselves.

Alejandro Lavorante is one such fighter. Lavorante came out of Argentina, with an underrated boxing culture, including a handful of heavyweight greats. Lavorante was a tall, strong prospect, considered by many to be the most promising young heavyweight to hail from Argentina since Luis Firpo some 30 years earlier. He was “discovered” by Firpo’s conqueror Jack Dempsey while he was fighting as an amateur in Venezuela.

Lavorante came to the States and turned pro in 1959, fighting mostly around San Antonio, Texas. He dominated the usual journeymen in his first four fights, but then, quite strangely, was thrown in against a legitimate top ten heavyweight in just his fifth pro fight. Roy Harris had lost in a bid for Floyd Patterson’s heavyweight title a year earlier, and demonstrated his ceiling in that stoppage loss, Nonetheless, he was one of the top ten heavies in the world, and far more experienced than Lavorante. Harris won a wide decision over 10 rounds, outclassing his novice foe.

Lavorante learned a great deal from the experience, and moved on from the loss with renewed fire. Over the next year, he blew away eight journeymen, including tough veterans like Duke Sabedong and Tunney Hunsaker. This led to May 11, 1961. The 12-1 Lavorante stepped into the ring against his second top-ten foe, Zora Folley, The slick and talented Folley had been waiting for some time to get a shot at Floyd Patterson’s title. He suffered a few losses along the way, but maintained his status near the top of the division. He figured to stay busy against a tough but limited opponent in Lavorante. Instead, Lavorante overwhelmed the older man, dropping Folley four times in the 6th and 7th rounds, winning by KO in seven. This win catapulted Lavorante into the top ten, and his handlers reportedly offered champion Floyd Patterson a fight with the Argentine sensation. That fight never came to fruition, but he stayed busy, beating five journeymen in as many months, before facing fellow contender George Logan in December ’61. In Logan’s hometown of Boise, Lavorante was arguably robbed, losing a narrow 10 round split decision. The debatable loss didn’t hurt Alejandro too badly in overall esteem, and he ended 1961 with his top ten ranking intact.

March 1962 was a different story. Lavorante took his 19-2 record into the ring against 214 fight veteran, light heavyweight champion, and boxing legend Archie Moore. The Old Mongoose was 45 years old, and while clearly a diminished force, had forgotten more about boxing than Lavorante could even imagine. Despite size and youth advantages, Moore used his savvy, defense, and underrated physical tools to take the much younger man apart. Moore beat Lavorante to a pulp, and stopped him in ten one-sided rounds. Lavorante was taken from the ring on a stretcher. The loss to Moore did not lead to a rebuilding phase the way we might see now. Instead, Lavorante was sent into battle less than four months later against a rising young contender named Cassius Clay, who you may have heard of. Clay was far too clever and fast for Lavorante, and he punished him, dropping him twice in the 5th, prompting a referee stoppage.

At this point, the two brutal losses just four months apart were cause for concern. A long break would have been warranted, and an honest appraisal of the situation could have led to retirement. Instead, Lavorante’s team decided to jump back in just two months later, this time against an admittedly lesser foe. Journeyman John Riggins was likely considered a “get-well” fight. And for most of five rounds, it seemed to go that way, with Lavorante winning handily. But late in the fifth, Riggins landed a big shot that hurt badly, and Lavorante wasn’t the same in the sixth, being wobbled repeatedly throughout the round. He was finally dropped and counted out, courtesy of a left hook.

At that point, Lavorante fell unconscious, and was taken to the hospital, where he underwent brain surgery for multiple brain bleeds. He was in a coma for over a month, and eventually was brought to a state of semi-consciousness. He spent more than a year unable to open his eyes, though he did respond to some stimuli. Eventually, he died in his native Argentina, on April 1, 1964. He was just 27 years old.

It’s likely that Riggins himself may have been less responsible for Lavorante’s injuries than damage caused in two closely-spaced losses against talented opponents. Riggins just happened to be the last straw on an already-teetering structure.

Many boxing historians tend to scoff at the modern habit of elite boxers only fighting a few times a year. Certainly it makes it more difficult to hone one’s skills when taking 6 months between fights. However, there is something to be said for allowing the body to rest between punishing physical contests. It’s possible that Lavorante may have had a better shot at survival had he waited longer between the Moore and Clay fights. We will never know for certain. But it can be said that boxing is still a dangerous business. And Alejandro Lavorante – young, handsome, talented, and charismatic – paid the ultimate price for embracing that danger.

Here is a good piece detailing Lavorante’s short but exciting career:

One thought on “Number 179 – Alejandro Lavorante

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