PUNCHER FROM THE PAST: Florentino (The Ox) Fernandez
By Eric Armit
Sun, 19 Nov 2023
FLORENTINO (The Ox) Fernandez
Born 7 March 1936 in Santiago de Cuba
Died 28 January 2013 in Miami
Turned Professional: 24 November 1956
Record: 67 fights won 50 (43 by KO/TKO), lost 16 (10 by KO/TKO, drew 1
Defeated: Rocky Randell, Paddy DeMarco**, Stefan Redl, Gaspar Ortega(twice)*, Rocky Kalingo, Ralph Dupas**, Gerald Gray, Phil Moyer (twice), Rory Calhoun, Marcel Pigou, Jose Torres**, Randy Sandy, Joe DeNuccio, Juan Carlos Rivero (twice), Johnny Featherman, Joe Aska
Lost to: Rocky Kalingo, Emile Griffith**, Gene Fullmer **, Dick Tiger**, Joey Giambra*, Rubin Carter, Juan Carlos Rivero (twice), Jose Gonzalez (twice), Jimmy Lester, Andy Heilman
Drew with: Joe Aska
** World title holder
*World title challenger
-Fernandez started boxing in Cuba. After turning professional he went on to win his first 24 fights including a run of 16 consecutive victories by KO/TKO.
- His first fight outside of Cuba was in Madison Square Garden (MSG) in June 1959 when he stopped Stefan Redl in seven rounds and he had three more wins in two months in MSG that year.
- On 23 November 1969 he fought Filipino Rocky Kalinga in Venezuela Caracas and was stopped in 76 seconds scuppering plans for him to challenge for the world title. He fought Kalingo again in Havana on 23 December 1959 and knocked out Kalingo in the second round
-1960 saw him beat Ralph Dupas, Gerald Grey and Phil Moyer but lose on points against a young Emile Griffth.
-In 1961 he beat Rory Calhoun and Marcel Pigou to land a shot at the NBA world title in Utah. Fullmer retained the title on a split decision and reportedly suffered a fractured arm in the fight caused by one of Fernandez’s left hooks. With regard to the split decision Fullmer’s manager protested the appointment of a local judge as Fullmer had beaten the appointee severely when the fought as amateurs. He was overruled and the local judge voted for Fernandez!
-In 1962 he lost inside the distance against Dick Tiger with the fight stopped because Fernandez suffered a broken nose and lost against Joey Giambra on a cut. He then beat Phil Moyer.
-In October 1962 he faced Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in MSG. An explosive match was expected as Carter had won 8 of his last 9 fights by KO/TKO. It was certainly explosive. Carter dropped Fernandez less than a minute into the fight. Fernandez beat the count but a left hook sent him flying back through the middle ropes and for a brie second Fernandez hung suspended over the middle rope before toppling to the canvas and the fight was over in 69 seconds. It was the Knockout of the year and the picture of Fernandez hanging suspended over the middle road became an iconic boxing photo.
-In 1963 Fidel Castro banned professional sports and Fernandez moved to Miami where he joined with promoter Chris Dundee
-May 1963 Fernandez beat future light heavyweight champion Jose Torres in Puerto Rico flooring Torres twice. Torres was 26-0-1 at the time and it was the only time in his career that Torres lost by KO/TKO
-1963 to 1972 Fernandez continued to compete against the top-level boxers in the middleweight divisionscoring wins over Randy Sandy, Joe DeNucci, Juan Carlos Rivera, Johnny Featherman and others but he was also losing a few times. He had a run of five consecutive defeats in 1965/66 including suffering a broken jaw in a loss against Jimmy Lester. He retired briefly in 1967 and was said to be washing dishes in Miami. He then returned and put together a run of six quick wins. There was hope of a shot at light heavyweight champion Bob Foster but a tenth-round stoppage loss against modest Vern Williams in July 1972 ended that dream and Fernandez’s career.
A converted southpaw, Fernandez started boxing at the age of 16 and reportedly had 17 amateur fights. Included in the fighters he beat was future world welterweight champion Luis Rodriguez who he floored and outpointed and the pair were close friends until Rodriguez death in 1996. At one time Fernandez was rated N0 56 in a Ring Magazine list of the hardest punchers in the history of boxing and it was that power that made him such an idol to boxing fans. One Cuban journalist wrote:
“In Cuban boxing we have never seen a puncher with the precision, violence, and destructive capacity of Florentino Fernández. No Cuban boxer has hit like that,”
Florentino was inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009. He died of a heart attack in Miami in 2013.
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