A different level is brought to any fight when the animosity is real. One becomes so use to manufactured animosity being simply another marketing tool in a promoters arsenal. To see two men with a genuine dislike for one another go at is a rare spectacle.
Such was the case when Nino Benvenuti, making his 5th defence of his WBA and WBC Middleweight world titles, collided with a storm from South America that went by the name of Carlos Monzon. Monzon, despite what a record of 65-3-8 heading into the fight might suggest, was a relative unknown. Benvenuti was the reigning star of the Middleweight division, perched atop it for the better part of the previous five years.
The fight took place in front of a strongly partisan crowd in Rome’s Pallazetto dello Sport. Although the anthem of Monzon’s home nation was respected, the crowd was deafening during that of Italy’s. They had the best fighter in the world, representing their country with pride, about to defeat yet another foe to raucous applause.
Monzon certainly didn’t see it that way. As soon as the bell rung he attacked Benvenuti with a ferocity that would become his signature. Benvenuti was stunned. It didn’t get any better from there. It didn’t take long for frustration to start to show, Benvenuti pleading with the referee to do something about the rather liberal use of rabbit punches and shoulder bumps on Monzon’s part.
The ref had no answer to his pleas, no solution to the very real and severe problem he was facing. So he got mad, and started hitting back. Rabbit punch for rabbit punch. It quickly developed into the best fight the world would see in 1970.