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Oscar Bonavena

Oscar Bonavena
Real name Oscar Natalio Bonavena
Nickname(s) Ringo
Rated at Heavyweight
Height 5 ft 10 12 in (1.79 m)
Reach 73 in (185 cm)
Nationality Argentine
Born (1942-09-25)September 25, 1942
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Died May 22, 1976(1976-05-22) (aged 33)
Sparks, Nevada at the Mustang Ranch, USA
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 68
Wins 58
Wins by KO 44
Losses 9 (1 KO)
Draws 1
No contests 0

Oscar Natalio "Ringo" Bonavena (September 25, 1942 – May 22, 1976) was an Argentinian heavyweight professional boxer with a career record of 58 wins, 9 losses and 1 draw. A rugged, wild-swinging puncher, he was nicknamed "Ringo" because of his Beatles haircut, and enjoyed professional success in both Argentina and the United States. He is most famous for giving both Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali tough battles.


  • Life and pro career 1
  • Early career 2
    • Big name contests, Chuvalo and Frazier 2.1
    • WBA elimination contests 2.2
    • World Title shot, the Frazier rematch 2.3
    • Versus Ali 2.4
    • Other matches 2.5
  • Death 3
  • Professional boxing record 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Life and pro career

Oscar Natalio Bonavena was born in Buenos Aires.

Early career

Bonavena began his early career in New York under the management of World War II hero and dentist, Marvin Goldberg. He was known as "The Argentine Strong-Boy".

His pro debut was on February 1, 1964. He soon racked up a quick string of early knockouts, but was overmatched early, sometimes fighting twice a month, and lost by a decision in February 1965 to then highly rated Zora Folley. Bonavena was in only his 15th contest and was far too inexperienced to then really tackle a top veteran like Folley.It was a one sided contest with Bonavena getting up off the deck from a smart right hand. Even courageous Oscar looked discouraged and shaken at times in the later rounds. However, three years later with far more experience and training he won their rematch by decision.

After that, he returned to Argentina, where his winning and knockout streak continued. But in mid 1966 he was enticed back to New York for a match with rugged contender George Chuvalo.

The free-swinging Bonavena soon ran into trouble outside the ring. He called Muhammad Ali a black Ken Norton fight, he went over and started a big slanging match. In his pre-fight press conference with Frazier, Bonavena needled effectively by implying that Frazier had a personal hygiene problem. He would start sniffing and grimace. Lawsuits were brought about by reporters with broken cameras; and other such "colorful" behavior. He was always volatile, as trainers soon discovered.[1][2]

Big name contests, Chuvalo and Frazier

Bonavena first came to wide public attention after a fine performance defeating rated contender and Canadian champion Joe Frazier. In this their first fight, Bonavena had the future champion down twice in the second round before Frazier rallied to win by decision in the 10th round.

WBA elimination contests

In 1967, after the World Boxing Association stripped Muhammad Ali of the title for refusing to be inducted into the U.S. military, Bonavena participated in that sanctioning body's 1967 tournament to crown a new heavyweight champion. In a strong performance he decked favoured European champion Karl Mildenberger four times,[3] winning by a decision in Frankfurt, West Germany. But he was himself knocked down twice and clearly outboxed by eventual tournament winner Jimmy Ellis in the semi-finals in Louisville, losing by unanimous decision in an upset. Many deemed it the best win of Ellis's career.[4] Incidentally, Bonavena had been scheduled to fight Ali in Tokyo in May 1967, but the bout was not to be when Ali was stripped of his title. They'd match later.

World Title shot, the Frazier rematch

The following year, in 1968,after outpointing Leotis Martin, he got a rematch with Frazier for the heavyweight title in Philadelphia. After a grueling fifteen rounds Bonavena lost the rematch by decision, fighting more defensively than previous. He did leave with a seriously battered face photographed in the Ring magazine. However, he had won respect.

In 1969 he got a draw in a rematch with talented Gregorio Peralta, who he'd outpointed four years earlier for the Argentine title, and won his three other contests by knock out.

Versus Ali

In December 1970, he fought Ali at Madison Square Garden, in the former champ's second bout after his three-year layoff. Bonavena absorbed punishment throughout but fought well, getting through with various head and body punches. However, in the 15th round, Ali caught Oscar rushing in and decked him with a perfectly placed left hook. Bonavena got up, but was clearly not fully recovered. Ali decked him twice more, and the fight was automatically stopped under the three knockdown rule, giving Ali a TKO (technical knockout). The ending was somewhat controversial, as Ali stood over Bonavena as Bonavena was getting up, never going to a neutral corner as the rules of boxing require, which allowed Ali to quickly knockdown Bonavena twice more and automatically end the fight.[5][6] The knockout by Ali was the only time in Bonavena's career he lost by a knockout.

Other matches

After the loss to Ali in 1970 he had a brutally tough match with underrated Alvin Lewis. Bonavena fought intermittently for the next few years. A gregarious party man, he enjoyed life fully.

Eventually losses to Floyd Patterson in 1972 and Ron Lyle in 1974 effectively put him to lower ranking contender status, although he did well enough in both these matches. In the Patterson fight he broke his left hand early, possibly after decking Patterson in the fourth, and remained an advancing threat to the final bell. It was around 1973 a possible match with a then on the rise Ken Norton was being planned but, unfortunately for fans, it never materialised.[7]

On February 26, 1976, overweight and sluggish Bonavena fought what would be his last fight, winning a ten-round decision over the unranked Billy Joiner in Reno.[8]


Joe Conforte, owner of the Mustang Ranch brothel near Reno, Nevada, brought Bonavena to Reno in 1975 to promote a series of fights and to train on the 440-acre (1.8 km2) property. Bonavena became friendly with Conforte's wife Sally Burgess, 26 years Bonavena's senior, and the two flirted openly.[8] A later investigation concluded that they began an affair.[9] He signed a contract making the former madam his manager, although she had never managed a fighter before. He gained weight and his condition deteriorated.

The ranch had been burned down by apparent arson some months earlier, and had been rebuilt, with over 100 bedrooms and fancy suites that included a "Blue Room". Joe Conforte was not present at the grand reopening in early May 1976, but Bonavena circulated among the 4000 guests, smoking big cigars and greeting some with "How you like my new joint?"[8]

Conforte banished Bonavena and Sally Burgess from the ranch two days later. They were warned to stay away, and guards were ordered to stop them if they tried to re-enter. Conforte moved out of the family house in town he shared with Sally, and into the Blue Room. Willard Ross Brymer, Conforte's ex-convict personal bodyguard and security guard at the ranch, was recalled from a trip. Brymer cleaned out Bonavena's trailer, and burned his papers and clothes in the street. At the family house, Sally was plagued by utility shutoffs and other harassment.[8]

On May 19, Sally and Bonavena complained to the county sheriff about the harassment and drove to San Francisco (about 230 miles) to replace Bonavena's burned passport. They stayed overnight, taking adjoining rooms, and returned to Reno the next day.[8]

At 6:00 a.m. on Saturday May 22, Bonavena drove up to the locked gate at the Mustang Ranch and rang the bell. He exchanged words with an unarmed guard and demanded to see Conforte. Brymer stepped through the kitchen door with a high-powered rifle. The guard at the gate told Bonavena to leave. As Bonavena stepped behind his car, someone said "freeze" and Bonavena was shot through the heart, either by Brymer or from a rear guard tower.[8][10][11] A snub-nosed .38 revolver was found in his boot. Four days later, Sally returned to the ranch and took over, firing the armed guards and the ex-convicts.[8]

An investigation concluded that Bonavena was having an affair with Sally and had bragged about taking over the Mustang Ranch,[9] and that guards had orders to shoot Bonavena if he showed up.[12] Originally charged with murder, Brymer pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and served only 15 months in prison.[12]

Bonavena's body was returned to Argentina to lie in state at the Luna Park sports arena in Buenos Aires, where 150,000 people filed by. He is buried in the La Chacarita Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

There is an apparent urban legend about Bonavena, according to which he is said to be Haunting the place of his murder, Mustang Ranch.

Professional boxing record

58 Wins (44 Knockouts), 9 Defeats, 1 Draw[13]
Res. Record Opponent Type Rd., Time Date Location Notes
Win 58-9-1 Billy Joiner UD 10 1976-02-26 Reno, Nevada
Win 57-9-1 Reinaldo Gorosito PTS 10 1975-11-01 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 56-9-1 Mani Vaka TKO 5 (10) 1974-11-12 International Center Arena, Honolulu
Win 55-9-1 Oliver Wright KO 9 (10) 1974-10-18 Rome, Lazio
Win 54-9-1 Bob Mashburn KO 2 (10) 1974-09-21 Rome, Lazio
Win 53-9-1 Larry Renaud KO 3 (10) 1974-07-13 Rome, Lazio
Win 52-9-1 Larry Middleton UD 12 1974-05-21 Capitol Centre, Largo, Maryland
Loss 51-9-1 Ron Lyle UD 12 1974-03-19 Denver, Colorado
Win 51-8-1 Terry Sorrell TKO 2 (8) 1973-11-20 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Win 50-8-1 Lou Bailey UD 10 1973-08-15 Denver, Colorado
Win 49-8-1 Roy Wallace TKO 6 (10) 1973-08-06 Las Vegas, Nevada
Win 48-8-1 Leroy Caldwell TKO 2 (10) 1973-07-23 Circus Circus Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
Loss 47-8-1 Floyd Patterson UD 10 1972-02-11 Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 47-7-1 Alvin Lewis DQ 7 (10) 1971-10-04 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Loss 46-7-1 Muhammad Ali TKO 15 1970-12-07 Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York NABF Heavyweight title fight.
Win 46-6-1 Luis Pires RTD 8 (10) 1970-10-29 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 45-6-1 James J Woody KO 5 (10) 1970-07-04 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 44-6-1 Manuel Ramos KO 1 (10) 1970-05-09 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 43-6-1 José Menno KO 2 (8) 1970-04-24 Montevideo, Montevideo
Win 42-6-1 Santiago Lovell KO 7 (10) 1970-03-21 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Loss 41-6-1 Miguel Angel Paez DQ 7 (10) 1970-01-10 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 41-5-1 Santiago Lovell TKO 8 (10) 1969-12-13 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Draw 40-5-1 Gregorio Peralta PTS 10 1969-08-08 Palacio Peñarol, Montevideo, Montevideo
Win 40-5 Wilhelm Von Homburg TKO 3 (10) 1969-06-20 Sportpalast, Berlin
Win 39-5 Luis Pires RTD 8 (10) 1969-03-05 Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Loss 38-5 Joe Frazier UD 15 1968-12-10 Spectrum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NYSAC Heavyweight title fight.
Win 38-4 Jim Fletcher KO 1 (10) 1968-11-09 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 37-4 Leotis Martin UD 10 1968-09-07 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 36-4 Zora Folley MD 10 1968-07-06 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 35-4 Roberto Davila UD 10 1968-06-01 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 34-4 Lee Carr KO 3 (10) 1968-04-20 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 33-4 Alberto Benassi KO 3 (10) 1968-03-08 La Rioja, La Rioja
Win 32-4 Felipe Pedro Marich TKO 6 (10) 1968-02-16 Córdoba, Córdoba
Loss 31-4 Jimmy Ellis UD 12 1967-12-02 Freedom Hall, Louisville, Kentucky WBA Heavyweight title eliminator.
Win 31-3 Karl Mildenberger UD 12 1967-09-16 Waldstadion, Frankfurt, Hesse WBA Heavyweight title eliminator.
Win 30-3 Carlos Vazquez TKO 3 (10) 1967-08-05 General Roca, Río Negro
Win 29-3 Luis Pires RTD 6 (10) 1967-07-22 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 28-3 Pablo Sagrispanti KO 2 (10) 1967-06-23 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 27-3 Hubert Hilton TKO 10 1967-04-08 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 26-3 Jose Giorgetti KO 9 (10) 1967-01-21 Estadio Bristol, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Win 25-3 Roberto Veliz KO 4 (10) 1966-12-01 Asociación Mendocina de Boxeo, Mendoza, Mendoza
Win 24-3 Alberto Benassi TKO 5 (10) 1966-11-18 Rosario, Santa Fe
Win 23-3 Amos Johnson UD 10 1966-10-22 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 22-3 Alberto Benassi KO 5 (10) 1966-10-07 Estadio Bristol, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Loss 21-3 Joe Frazier MD 10 1966-09-21 Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 21-2 George Chuvalo MD 10 1966-06-23 Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 20-2 Jose Giorgetti UD 10 1966-04-16 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Loss 19-2 Jose Giorgetti DQ 8 (10) 1966-03-12 Estadio Bristol, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Win 19-1 Bruno Segura KO 2 (10) 1966-02-12 Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Win 18-1 Billy Daniels KO 1 (10) 1965-11-13 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 17-1 Hector Wilson KO 2 (10) 1965-10-22 Concepción, Tucumán
Win 16-1 Pablo Sagrispanti TKO 1 (10) 1965-10-09 Rosario, Santa Fe
Win 15-1 Gregorio Peralta UD 12 1965-09-04 Luna Park, Buenos Aires Won Argentinian Heavyweight title.
Win 14-1 Alberto Gonzales KO 2 (10) 1965-08-06 Comodoro Rivadavia, Chubut
Win 13-1 Eduardo Cartelli KO 1 (12) 1965-07-23 Córdoba, Córdoba
Win 12-1 Rodolfo Diaz TKO 4 (10) 1965-06-26 Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 11-1 Rogelio Gregorutti KO 2 (10) 1965-05-28 San Miguel de Tucumán, Tucumán
Win 10-1 Carlos Vazquez KO 3 (10) 1965-04-30 Salón de los Deportes, Bahía Blanca, Buenos Aires
Win 9-1 Rene Sosa KO 2 (10) 1965-04-16 Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Loss 8-1 Zora Folley UD 10 1965-02-26 Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 8-0 Billy Stephan TKO 6 (10) 1964-12-18 Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 7-0 Dick Wipperman UD 10 1964-11-13 Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 6-0 Tom McNeeley TKO 5 (8) 1964-08-21 Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 5-0 Byron Stoimenides KO 1 (8) 1964-05-29 Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 4-0 Leslie Borden TKO 3 (10) 1964-05-05 Sunnyside Garden, Queens, New York
Win 3-0 Wendell Newton TKO 5 (6) 1964-03-10 Sunnyside Garden, Queens, New York
Win 2-0 Everett Copeland KO 1 (6) 1964-02-04 Sunnyside Garden, Queens, New York
Win 1-0 Lou Hicks TKO 1 (4) 1964-01-03 Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York

See also


  1. ^ Brunt, S., Facing Ali: The Opposition Weighs in, ISBN 0-676-97351-5
  2. ^ Sport: Two Down, One to Go, Time
  3. ^ Ring Mag & online boxing records
  4. ^ Ring magazine
  5. ^,871414
  6. ^
  7. ^ on line boxing archives
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Farrell, Barry (July 26, 1976). "The Killing At the Notorious Mustang Ranch".  
  9. ^ a b Joe Conforte's Legal Tangles, Los Angeles Times
  10. ^ Rogers, Thomas (May 23, 1976). "Bonavena Is Slain; A Top Heavyweight".  
  11. ^ Bonavena Fatally Shot Outside Nevada Brothel
  12. ^ a b Man who killed Oscar Bonavena dies, Las Vegas Review-Journal
  13. ^ Oscar Bonavena's Professional Boxing Record. Retrieved on 2012-03-18.
  • Nevada's Most Infamous Brothel, Mustang Ranch, Back In Business, Fox News
  • Woman Who Operated Mustang Ranch Dies, Spokesman-Review, September 9, 1992

External links

  • Professional boxing record for Oscar Bonavena from BoxRec
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