OSCAR BONAVENA/MUHAMMAD ALI
Madison Square Garden, New York
December 7, 1970
Ali won a 15th round TKO
About Oscar Bonavena
Born September 25, 1942 in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Died May 22, 1976
Career record: 58 wins (44 KO), 9 defeats (1 KO), 1 draw
"Ringo", "The Argentine Strong Boy"
The match-up in 1970 was Ali's second bout after a three-year exile, and though Bonavena was punished throughout, he did connect with a left hook that stunned Ali. In the final round, Ali knocked down Bonavena three times which automatically ended the fight under the three knockdown rule, but the ending was controversial. Modern boxing rules state that a boxer must go to a neutral corner after scoring a knock down. However, Ali was never sent to a neutral corner after the first knock down and he was able to knock down Bonavena two more times.
Bonavena was a free-swinging and colorful boxer with a propensity for getting into trouble outside the ring. He once called Ali a black kangaroo and suggested that Joe Frazier had a hygiene problem. Broken cameras caused several reporters to file lawsuits against him. It was his behavior outside the ring that ultimately led to his premature death at thirty-three years old. Joe Conforte, owner of the Mustang Ranch Brothel near Reno, NV, brought Bonavena to Reno in 1975 to promote a series of fights and to train on his property. According to reports, Bonavena became friendly with Conforte's wife Sally, 26 years his senior, and the two began an affair. Bonavena and Sally were banished from the ranch, and both complained to the county sheriff that Conforte's people were harassing them. On May 22, 1976, Bonavena returned to the ranch, demanding to see Conforte. He was asked to leave by the security guard, and as he stepped behind his car, someone shot him through the heart. Willard Ross Brymer, Conforte's ex-convict personal bodyguard, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and served 15 months in prison. Bonavena's body lay in state at the Luna Park Sports Arena in Buenos Aires where 150,000 mourners filed by to pay their respects.