Oscar Bonavena

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Oscar Bonavena
Real nameOscar Natalio Bonavena
Rated atHeavyweight
Height5 ft 10 12 in (1.79 m)
Reach73 in (185 cm)
Born(1942-09-25)September 25, 1942
Buenos Aires, Argentina
DiedMay 22, 1976(1976-05-22) (aged 33)
Reno, Nevada, USA
Boxing record
Total fights68
Wins by KO44
Losses9 (1 KO)
No contests0
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Oscar Bonavena
Real nameOscar Natalio Bonavena
Rated atHeavyweight
Height5 ft 10 12 in (1.79 m)
Reach73 in (185 cm)
Born(1942-09-25)September 25, 1942
Buenos Aires, Argentina
DiedMay 22, 1976(1976-05-22) (aged 33)
Reno, Nevada, USA
Boxing record
Total fights68
Wins by KO44
Losses9 (1 KO)
No contests0

Oscar Natalio "Ringo" Bonavena (September 25, 1942 – May 22, 1976) was a 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[edit]

Oscar Natalio Bonavena was born in Buenos Aires.[citation needed]


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".[citation needed]

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. But three years later he won their rematch by decision.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

The free-swinging Bonavena soon ran into trouble outside the ring. He called Muhammad Ali a black kangaroo and even a chicken for draft dodging. Ali was furious. Oscar was one of the few people to upstage Ali in pre-fight press conferences. When, much later, he saw Ali seated ringside at the George Foreman-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[edit]

Bonavena first came to wide public attention after a fine performance defeating rated contender and Canadian champion George Chuvalo, boxing technically better than expected and later going the distance against the young hard-hitting great 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[edit]

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. 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[edit]

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[edit]

In December 1970, he fought Ali, in the former champ's second bout after his three-year layoff, at Madison Square Garden. Bonavena absorbed punishment throughout but fought well, getting through with various head and body punches. But in the 15th however, 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. 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 under the three knockdown rule.[1][2] The knockout by Ali was the only time in Bonavena's career he was ever stopped.

Other matches[edit]

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.

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.[4]


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.[4] A later investigation concluded that they began an affair.[5] 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.[citation needed]

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?"[4]

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.[4]

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.[4]

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.[4][6][7] 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.[4]

An investigation concluded that Bonavena was having an affair with Sally and had bragged about taking over the Mustang Ranch,[5] and that guards had orders to shoot Bonavena if he showed up.[8] Originally charged with murder, Brymer pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and served 15 months in prison.[8]

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.

Professional boxing record[edit]

58 Wins (44 Knockouts), 9 Defeats, 1 Draw[9]
Res.RecordOpponentTypeRd., TimeDateLocationNotes
Win58-9-1United States Billy JoinerUD101976-02-26United States Reno, Nevada
Win57-9-1Argentina Reinaldo GorositoPTS101975-11-01Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win56-9-1Tonga Mani VakaTKO5 (10)1974-11-12United States International Center Arena, Honolulu
Win55-9-1Jamaica Oliver WrightKO9 (10)1974-10-18Italy Rome, Lazio
Win54-9-1United States Bob MashburnKO2 (10)1974-09-21Italy Rome, Lazio
Win53-9-1Canada Larry RenaudKO3 (10)1974-07-13Italy Rome, Lazio
Win52-9-1United States Larry MiddletonUD121974-05-21United States Capitol Centre, Largo, Maryland
Loss51-9-1United States Ron LyleUD121974-03-19United States Denver, Colorado
Win51-8-1United States Terry SorrellTKO2 (8)1973-11-20United States Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Win50-8-1United States Lou BaileyUD101973-08-15United States Denver, Colorado
Win49-8-1United States Roy WallaceTKO6 (10)1973-08-06United States Las Vegas, Nevada
Win48-8-1United States Leroy CaldwellTKO2 (10)1973-07-23United States Circus Circus Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
Loss47-8-1United States Floyd PattersonUD101972-02-11United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win47-7-1United States Alvin LewisDQ7 (10)1971-10-04Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Loss46-7-1United States Muhammad AliTKO151970-12-07United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New YorkNABF Heavyweight title fight.
Win46-6-1Brazil Luis PiresRTD8 (10)1970-10-29Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win45-6-1United States James J WoodyKO5 (10)1970-07-04Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win44-6-1Mexico Manuel RamosKO1 (10)1970-05-09Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win43-6-1Argentina José MennoKO2 (8)1970-04-24Uruguay Montevideo, Montevideo
Win42-6-1Argentina Santiago LovellKO7 (10)1970-03-21Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Loss41-6-1Argentina Miguel Angel PaezDQ7 (10)1970-01-10Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win41-5-1Argentina Santiago LovellTKO8 (10)1969-12-13Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Draw40-5-1Argentina Gregorio PeraltaPTS101969-08-08Uruguay Palacio Peñarol, Montevideo, Montevideo
Win40-5Germany Wilhelm Von HomburgTKO3 (10)1969-06-20Germany Sportpalast, Berlin
Win39-5Brazil Luis PiresRTD8 (10)1969-03-05Argentina Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Loss38-5United States Joe FrazierUD151968-12-10United States Spectrum, Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaNYSAC Heavyweight title fight.
Win38-4United States Jim FletcherKO1 (10)1968-11-09Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win37-4United States Leotis MartinUD101968-09-07Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win36-4United States Zora FolleyMD101968-07-06Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win35-4Peru Roberto DavilaUD101968-06-01Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win34-4United States Lee CarrKO3 (10)1968-04-20Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win33-4Argentina Alberto BenassiKO3 (10)1968-03-08Argentina La Rioja, La Rioja
Win32-4Argentina Felipe Pedro MarichTKO6 (10)1968-02-16Argentina Córdoba, Córdoba
Loss31-4United States Jimmy EllisUD121967-12-02United States Freedom Hall, Louisville, KentuckyWBA Heavyweight title eliminator.
Win31-3Germany Karl MildenbergerUD121967-09-16Germany Waldstadion, Frankfurt, HesseWBA Heavyweight title eliminator.
Win30-3Argentina Carlos VazquezTKO3 (10)1967-08-05Argentina General Roca, Río Negro
Win29-3Brazil Luis PiresRTD6 (10)1967-07-22Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win28-3Argentina Pablo SagrispantiKO2 (10)1967-06-23Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win27-3United States Hubert HiltonTKO101967-04-08Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win26-3Argentina Jose GiorgettiKO9 (10)1967-01-21Argentina Estadio Bristol, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Win25-3Argentina Roberto VelizKO4 (10)1966-12-01Argentina Asociación Mendocina de Boxeo, Mendoza, Mendoza
Win24-3Argentina Alberto BenassiTKO5 (10)1966-11-18Argentina Rosario, Santa Fe
Win23-3United States Amos JohnsonUD101966-10-22Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win22-3Argentina Alberto BenassiKO5 (10)1966-10-07Argentina Estadio Bristol, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Loss21-3United States Joe FrazierMD101966-09-21United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New YorkLost the Argentinian Heavyweight title.
Win21-2Canada George ChuvaloMD101966-06-23United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win20-2Argentina Jose GiorgettiUD101966-04-16Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Loss19-2Argentina Jose GiorgettiDQ8 (10)1966-03-12Argentina Estadio Bristol, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Win19-1Argentina Bruno SeguraKO2 (10)1966-02-12Argentina Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Win18-1United States Billy DanielsKO1 (10)1965-11-13Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win17-1Argentina Hector WilsonKO2 (10)1965-10-22Argentina Concepción, Tucumán
Win16-1Argentina Pablo SagrispantiTKO1 (10)1965-10-09Argentina Rosario, Santa Fe
Win15-1Argentina Gregorio PeraltaUD121965-09-04Argentina Luna Park, Buenos AiresWon Argentinian Heavyweight title.
Win14-1Argentina Alberto GonzalesKO2 (10)1965-08-06Argentina Comodoro Rivadavia, Chubut
Win13-1Argentina Eduardo CartelliKO1 (12)1965-07-23Argentina Córdoba, Córdoba
Win12-1Argentina Rodolfo DiazTKO4 (10)1965-06-26Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win11-1Argentina Rogelio GregoruttiKO2 (10)1965-05-28Argentina San Miguel de Tucumán, Tucumán
Win10-1Argentina Carlos VazquezKO3 (10)1965-04-30Argentina Salón de los Deportes, Bahía Blanca, Buenos Aires
Win9-1Argentina Rene SosaKO2 (10)1965-04-16Argentina Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Loss8-1United States Zora FolleyUD101965-02-26United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win8-0United States Billy StephanTKO6 (10)1964-12-18United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win7-0United States Dick WippermanUD101964-11-13United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win6-0United States Tom McNeeleyTKO5 (8)1964-08-21United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win5-0Greece Byron StoimenidesKO1 (8)1964-05-29United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win4-0Canada Leslie BordenTKO3 (10)1964-05-05United States Sunnyside Garden, Queens, New York
Win3-0The Bahamas Wendell NewtonTKO5 (6)1964-03-10United States Sunnyside Garden, Queens, New York
Win2-0United States Everett CopelandKO1 (6)1964-02-04United States Sunnyside Garden, Queens, New York
Win1-0United States Lou HicksTKO1 (4)1964-01-03United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York

See also[edit]


  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. ^ a b c d e f g Farrell, Barry (July 26, 1976). "The Killing At the Notorious Mustang Ranch". New York. pp. 41–49. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  5. ^ a b Joe Conforte's Legal Tangles, Los Angeles Times
  6. ^ Rogers, Thomas (May 23, 1976). "Bonavena Is Slain; A Top Heavyweight". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-11. "Oscar Bonavena of Argentina, once a serious contender for the heavyweight boxing championship, was shot to death yesterday at a brothel a few miles east of Reno, Nev. He was 33 years old." 
  7. ^ Bonavena Fatally Shot Outside Nevada Brothel
  8. ^ a b Man who killed Oscar Bonavena dies, Las Vegas Review-Journal
  9. ^ Oscar Bonavena's Professional Boxing Record. BoxRec.com. Retrieved on 2012-03-18.

External links[edit]