Colombian fighters have added excitement to American boxing in recent years. They haven't always been the most technically skilled but most have been good punchers and their fights have been action-packed, in some cases hit-or-be-hit sizzlers.
Miami-promoted Edison Miranda is currently the hottest Colombian fighter in the business, and his rematch with Arthur Abraham on Saturday, at a catchweight of 166 pounds, is eagerly awaited.
Here is a look at 12 colorful Colombians, of varying levels of technical competence, who have entertained American fans -- some are still doing so.
12. Carlos Maussa
Maussa had a gawky, long-armed awkwardness that made him a difficult proposition for all but the top-level fighters. He first came to attention on the "Friday Night Fights" fifth anniversary show in September 2003, when he swarmed all over the previously unbeaten New York-Puerto Rican Jeffrey Resto in a big upset. ESPN studio analyst Max Kellerman hailed Resto as "one of the very best prospects in boxing," but Maussa made him surrender in six rounds. The Maussa fight that everyone remembers, though, is surely his stunning upset win over Vivian Harris in a 140-pound title bout in Atlantic City three years ago. Harris seemed to burn himself out with a frenzied opening charge, and then it was back and forth. Maussa, however, always looked the stronger man, and a seemingly exhausted Harris went down and out from a left hook in the seventh round.
11. Joel Julio
When Julio first came to America he looked like a budding superstar, with a string of KO wins, and his third-round knockout over seasoned Robert Kamya on "ShoBox" was highly impressive. Then there was a reality check when Julio was outboxed and outsmarted by Carlos Quintana on HBO two years ago, and he has never quite recaptured the lost luster. Julio looked a little lucky to get a decision over veteran Cosme Rivera, when he faded in the late rounds, in his first bout after losing to Quintana. A move up from welter to junior middle seemed to help Julio, who looked powerful in his eighth-round stoppage win over Cornelius Bundrage on "Wednesday Night Fights" last July, but he was hard-pressed to beat another "Contender" contestant, Ishe Smith, on "Friday Night Fights" in April. If Smith had only thrown a few more punches in a couple of rounds, the decision could have gone the other way. Julio is only 23 and still learning his trade, but it is beginning to look as if he will never live up to the high expectations that many had for him.
10. Juan Urango
Urango's lack of big-fight experience showed against Ricky Hatton, but the Miami-based junior welter contender gave an impressively mature performance in his last fight when he knocked out Carlos Vilches in the fourth round of their 140-pound title eliminator. Urango applied patient pressure, then drilled the Argentinian veteran with a perfectly timed right hook from his southpaw stance. It was the sort of one-punch finish that fans remember. Urango had previously had trouble with boxers who gave him a lot of movement -- a draw with Mike Arnaoutis and a win over Tunisian Naoufel Ben Rabah that, although unanimous, did not meet with universal approval. Against Vilches, though, Urango looked like an improved fighter and gave the impression that the best is still to come.
9. Rafael Pineda
Pineda's biggest win was a sixth-round knockout over former contender Oba Carr in Las Vegas, but he lost very close fights to welter champions Cory Spinks and Zab Judah. His fight with Spinks, a Don King show on "Friday Night Fights" in August 2002, was evenly poised when stopped after seven rounds due to Spinks being cut over the right eye from a clash of heads. Spinks got a one-point split decision but I thought Pineda was leading. In fact, I thought that the cut eye gave Spinks a distinctly lucky break. Pineda was coming on strongly -- he was finding a home for right hands -- and Spinks seemed to be fading. By the time Pineda met Judah in a welterweight title eliminator in Las Vegas in 2004 he was 38 years old, but he put up a tremendous fight. Knocked down in the seventh round, Pineda came back strongly, sweeping the last three rounds on two judges' scorecards and winning two of the last three rounds on the third card, only to lose another heartbreaking one-point split decision.
8. Mauricio Pastrana
It was sad to see the Miami-based Pastrana getting blown away in four rounds by Jhonny Gonzalez last month. Pastrana was an accomplished boxer-puncher in the 108-pound division but things got tougher as he moved up in weight, and as a worn-out 35-year-old he was target practice for 122-pounder Gonzalez. I was ringside in happier times for Pastrana when he won a split decision over Michael Carbajal to capture the IBF junior flyweight title in a huge upset in January 1997. Pastrana, almost unknown at the time, wobbled Carbajal with a right hand in the third round in the most dramatic moment of a very close fight. Reporting for Boxing Monthly, I wrote: "Pastrana was the quicker puncher, scoring in rapid bursts, while the Colombian found a home for his stabbing left jab throughout the fight."
7. Epifanio Mendoza
Mendoza seems to be fading at 32, and he was outclassed in four rounds by unbeaten light-heavy champ Chad Dawson in his last fight, but "Diamante" had a couple of spectacular wins as a middleweight when he stopped undefeated prospects Tokunbo Olajide and Rubin Williams, each in the opening round. The win over Olajide on an ESPN Sunday boxing special was diminished because the New York City prospect suffered a broken leg when he went down, but Mendoza certainly cracked Olajide with a couple of big shots. Against Williams, who had won 19 bouts in a row, Mendoza once again came out bombing to win in 42 seconds on "Friday Night Fights." In another notable fight, Mendoza outlasted Mexican veteran Rito Ruvalcaba to win in the eighth round of a give-and-take war, with each hurting the other before the Colombian prevailed.
6. Jose Luis Herrera
Cruiserweight Jose Luis Herrera pulled off one of the upsets of the year on "Friday Night Fights" in May. Almost stopped in the first round, Herrera came back to batter the highly regarded Aaron Williams in the fifth. In his last fight before stunning Williams, Herrera had halted former world title challenger George Blades in the third round. He had been stopped three times in a row prior to these two wins, but Herrera's camp says he was struggling to make weight, first as a 168-pounder, then as a light heavyweight. Herrera certainly looked strong against Williams -- once he had survived the opening round, that is.
5. Bernardo Mercado
We don't usually think of Colombians as heavyweights, but the South American nation produced a dangerous big fellow in Bernardo Mercado, who fought a number of contenders in the 1970s and '80s. The 6-foot-4 Mercado might be best remembered for stopping two-time world title challenger Earnie Shavers in the seventh round of a thrilling fight in New Jersey in March 1980. It was a back-from-the-brink victory. Mercado looked like a sure loser when he was dropped by a right hand in the third round, but he got a break when a tear was noticed in Shavers' right glove -- the start of the fourth round was delayed by two minutes while a new glove was fitted. Amazingly, Mercado dominated the remainder of the fight after his near escape. Mercado had another big win in 1979 when he knocked out future heavyweight champion Trevor Berbick in the first round in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Jamaican Berbick was at the time a resident of the Canadian Maritime city, and undefeated, but Mercado knocked him flat on his back with a right hand that the referee, Herb MacMullen, called "the hardest thing I've seen thrown."
4. Fulgencio Zuniga
Zuniga has always been a good-value, game, competent fighter, just a little short of top world class. His inexperience showed when he lost to the far more experienced Daniel Santos in a junior middleweight title challenge in Puerto Rico in 2003, but although outclassed, Zuniga never gave up trying. He has improved with maturity. As a 160-pounder he has been involved in some wars, one of them against Kelly Pavlik in a bloody fight that saw the future middleweight champion dropped early, then rallying to inflict damage. Zuniga was cut over the eyes but still defiant when the fight was stopped. He was dropped in each of his fights with Jose Luis Zertuche, but fought to a draw in the first bout and outhustled the Mexican slugger in the rematch. In his last fight, Zuniga exposed the highly touted Russian, Victor Oganov, taking his strong but less experienced opponent to school in a nine-round beatdown.
3. Ricardo Torres
Who can forget the excitement of Torres's fight with Miguel Cotto in Atlantic City two years ago? Torres was dropped three times in the seven-round shootout -- but he had Cotto down in the second and wobbly in the fifth. That dramatic encounter showed Torres to be a flawed fighter, but also a dangerous one. He won a 140-pound title by surviving a knockdown and late-round pressure in a cliffhanger split decision over Mike Arnaoutis in Las Vegas. In his last fight, in Colombia, Torres was down once again before coming back to stop Kendall Holt under controversial circumstances. His rematch with Holt in Las Vegas on July 5 (on Showtime) looks to be a tense encounter.
2. Samuel Miller
A tall and rangy middleweight, Miller was involved in a scorching battle on "Friday Night Fights" in March of last year when he lost a majority decision to the 39-year-old Darrell Woods. What a war that was. Miller almost overwhelmed the veteran in the first round, and then got dropped in the second and third rounds -- yet he hurt Woods several times thereafter. Two months later, Miller lost a majority decision to slugger Brian Vera on "Friday Night Fights" in another fan-friendly contest. (ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas had Miller winning that one, 98-92.) Miller's last fight was a KO win back home in Colombia. Fans in the U.S. would surely welcome him back anytime.
1. Alejandro Berrio
Exciting fights seem guaranteed when the tall, slender, hard-hitting Berrio is in the ring -- in 32 bouts, only one has gone the distance and he has been stopped in all five of his losses. Berrio won a 168-pound title in Germany and lost it in Montreal, but for American fans his most memorable fight was when he knocked out Yusaf Mack in six rounds on "Friday Night Fights" a couple of years ago. Mack, perhaps surprisingly, was a clear betting favorite, but the undefeated Philadelphian was beaten up. In the sixth, Berrio even kissed a wilting Mack on the top of the head before knocking him down twice to bring the fight to an end. Berrio had previously shown how dangerous he could be when he knocked out former contender Syd Vanderpool in an off-TV fight in Florida.
Graham Houston is the American editor of Boxing Monthly and writes for FightWriter.com.