On this day in 1973, two of the best middleweight boxers of the 1970s met for the first of three fights together, as two-time world champion Rodrigo Valdez defeated Bennie Briscoe by unanimous decision to claim the NABF middleweight belt. In an era when world titles still meant something, the NABF belt was an important, regional belt that made Valdez a top contender for world champion Carlos Monzon.
Monzon was stripped of his world title recognition by the WBC in 1974 and Valdez defeated Briscoe for the vacant belt in a May 1974 rematch. Monzon retained the WBA and lineal claims for the title and eventually defeated Valdez in a unification fight, in June 1976. This fight took place only week following the death of Valdez’s brother. Due to the circumstances, the WBC and WBA both sanctioned a rematch for Valdez.
The second fight between Monzon and Valdez took place in 1977 in Monte Carlo. Valdez turned in one of the great performances of his career, knocking Monzon down in the second and leading for most of the fight. But a late rally by Monzon allowed him to escape with a close decision. Monzon is considered by many to be the greatest middleweight champion of all time and his second fight with Valdez was the most difficult defense of his dominant, seven-year championship reign.
Valdez was trained by the great Gil Clancy. He is arguably the best fighter ever from Colombia. Following Monzon’s retirement in 1977, Valdez defeated Briscoe in a third fight, to claim the vacant titles.
Briscoe is a Philadelphia boxing legend and one of the best middleweight fighters to never win a world title. He was a tough, hard-punching fighter who faced a laundry list of legends in his illustrious 20-year career. Prior to Monzon’s rise to the championship, Briscoe fought him to a draw in 1967. He lost a rematch by unanimous decision after Monzon had won the belt.
Briscoe drew and lost by decision in two fights with welterweight and middleweight world champion Emile Griffith. Late in his career, he also lost decisions to future world champions Vito Antuofermo and “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler.