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Top 5 Best Cuban Boxers

Best Boxers from Cuba

Take a look at the top 5 boxers in history from Cuba. Boxing in the 1950s in particular was filled with great Cuban boxers, and of course, there’s a whole new lineage on the way up with the recent cast of Cuban defectors with stellar amateur backgrounds.

  1. Jose Napoles (Career: 1958-1975): Languished endlessly before receiving his deserved opportunities. Might have actually been a better lightweight before the boxing world knew about “Mantequilla”—meaning “butter.” The smooth-boxing Napoles didn’t get a shot until he was 30, beating Hall of Famer Curtis Cokes for the title and again in the rematch. Added wins against Emile Griffith and won 15 welterweight title fights in total.
  2. Kid Gavilan (Career: 1943-1958): Popular TV attraction, Gavilan was flashy and compelling, defeating a demanding list of Hall of Fame competition, including Ike Williams (twice), Beau Jack, Billy Graham (three times), Johnny Bratton (twice), and Carmen Basilio. One of Sugar Ray Robinson’s toughest rivals at welterweight, Gavilan ruled a dynamite era of welterweights from 1950-1954.
  3. Be sure to check out the rest of our Boxing: The Best of a Nation series for more top 5 and 10 lists of the best boxers from different countries and locales.
  4. Luis Rodriguez (Career: 1956-1972): Fluid fighter beat Benny Paret (twice), Joe Miceli, Virgil Akins (twice), Chico Vejar, Curtis Cokes, and Joey Giambra, before annexing the welterweight crown from legendary Emile Griffith in 1963. Lost 3 of 4 against Griffith, all 3 defeats by split decision, showing how close in actual powers he was to the more ballyhooed Griffith. Very productive in post-title period, as he went on to knock out junior middleweight champion Denny Moyer in a non-title fight, scored two decisions over Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, stopped George Benton, decisioned Bennie Briscoe twice, split two bouts with future light heavyweight titleholder Vicente Rondon, and knocked out Tony Mundine in one in his last big wins.
  5. Kid Chocolate (Career: 1927-1938): Featherweight and junior lightweight champion who came a hair of winning the lightweight belt from Tony Canzoneri in a great fight at the Garden in 1931. Kid Chocolate was as slick as they come. Began his career at 55-0-1. Wins include Fidel LaBarba (twice), Al Singer, Benny Bass, and Lew Feldman (4 times).
  6. Sugar Ramos (Career: 1957-1972): A fighter of immense skill, Ramos won the featherweight title under tragic circumstances, as reigning champion Davey Moore died following a 10th-round knockout at Dodger Stadium. Scored 3 defenses before dropping the title to Hall of Famer Vicente Saldivar. Lost in two title tries to lightweight legend Carlos Ortiz, though Ortiz benefited from some bizarre refereeing by Billy Conn in their first fight. Went on to defeat titleholder Chango Carmona and was brilliant in defeating Raul Rojas by majority decision in 1970, before dropping a disputed split nod to Mando Ramos.

Hopefully you enjoyed our list of the best boxers from Cuba in the history of the sport, and while there are many notables in the current crop of today’s best fighters, this list is comprised of the greats from the past.