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Oscar Bonavena
Personal information
Real name: Oscar Natalio Bonavena
Nickname(s): Ringo
Nationality:  Argentine
Date of birth: (1942-09-25)September 25, 1942
Place of birth: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Date of death: May 22, 1976(1976-05-22) (aged 33)
Personal Statistics
Rated at: Heavyweight
Reach: 73 in (Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Arguments' not found. cm)
Boxing career information

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[]

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


Bonavena began his early career in New York State under the management of World War II hero and dentist, Marvin Goldberg. 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 Foreman-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 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[]

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. After defeating European champion Karl Mildenberger by a decision in Frankfurt, West Germany, he was knocked down twice by eventual tournament winner Jimmy Ellis in the semi-finals in Louisville, and lost 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.

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. But 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'd outpointed him four years earlier, and won his three other contests by knock out.

Versus Ali[]

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[]

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.[3]


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 (Bad rounding hereLua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Arguments' not found. km2) property. Bonavena became friendly with Conforte's wife Sally Burgess, 26 years Bonavena's senior, and the two flirted openly.[3] A later investigation concluded that they began an affair.[4] 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]

File:Oscar bonavena statue.jpg

Statue of Bonavena in Parque Patricios, Buenos Aires.

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?"[3]

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.[3]

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.[3]

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.[3][5][6] 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.[3]

An investigation concluded that Bonavena was having an affair with Sally and had bragged about taking over the Mustang Ranch,[4] and that guards had orders to shoot Bonavena if he showed up.[7] Originally charged with murder, Brymer pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and served 15 months in prison.[7]

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[]

58 Wins (44 Knockouts), 9 Defeats, 1 Draw[8]
Res. Record Opponent Type Rd., Time Date Location Notes
Win 58-9-1 United States Billy Joiner UD 10 1976-02-26 United States Reno, Nevada
Win 57-9-1 Argentina Reinaldo Gorosito PTS 10 1975-11-01 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 56-9-1 22x20px Mani Vaka TKO 5 (10) 1974-11-12 United States International Center Arena, Honolulu
Win 55-9-1 22x20px Oliver Wright KO 9 (10) 1974-10-18 Italy Rome, Lazio
Win 54-9-1 United States Bob Mashburn KO 2 (10) 1974-09-21 Italy Rome, Lazio
Win 53-9-1 Canada Larry Renaud KO 3 (10) 1974-07-13 Italy Rome, Lazio
Win 52-9-1 United States Larry Middleton UD 12 1974-05-21 United States Capitol Centre, Largo, Maryland
Loss 51-9-1 United States Ron Lyle UD 12 1974-03-19 United States Denver, Colorado
Win 51-8-1 United States Terry Sorrell TKO 2 (8) 1973-11-20 United States Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Win 50-8-1 United States Lou Bailey UD 10 1973-08-15 United States Denver, Colorado
Win 49-8-1 United States Roy Wallace TKO 6 (10) 1973-08-06 United States Las Vegas, Nevada
Win 48-8-1 United States Leroy Caldwell TKO 2 (10) 1973-07-23 United States Circus Circus Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
Loss 47-8-1 United States Floyd Patterson UD 10 1972-02-11 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 47-7-1 United States Alvin Lewis DQ 7 (10) 1971-10-04 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Loss 46-7-1 United States Muhammad Ali TKO 15 1970-12-07 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York NABF Heavyweight title fight.
Win 46-6-1 22x20px Luis Pires RTD 8 (10) 1970-10-29 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 45-6-1 United States James J Woody KO 5 (10) 1970-07-04 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 44-6-1 Mexico Manuel Ramos KO 1 (10) 1970-05-09 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 43-6-1 Argentina José Menno KO 2 (8) 1970-04-24 22x20px Montevideo, Montevideo
Win 42-6-1 Argentina Santiago Lovell KO 7 (10) 1970-03-21 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Loss 41-6-1 Argentina Miguel Angel Paez DQ 7 (10) 1970-01-10 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 41-5-1 Argentina Santiago Lovell TKO 8 (10) 1969-12-13 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Draw 40-5-1 Argentina Gregorio Peralta PTS 10 1969-08-08 22x20px Palacio Peñarol, Montevideo, Montevideo
Win 40-5 Germany Wilhelm Von Homburg TKO 3 (10) 1969-06-20 Germany Sportpalast, Berlin
Win 39-5 22x20px Luis Pires RTD 8 (10) 1969-03-05 Argentina Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Loss 38-5 United States Joe Frazier UD 15 1968-12-10 United States Spectrum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NYSAC Heavyweight title fight.
Win 38-4 United States Jim Fletcher KO 1 (10) 1968-11-09 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 37-4 United States Leotis Martin UD 10 1968-09-07 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 36-4 United States Zora Folley MD 10 1968-07-06 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 35-4 22x20px Roberto Davila UD 10 1968-06-01 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 34-4 United States Lee Carr KO 3 (10) 1968-04-20 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 33-4 Argentina Alberto Benassi KO 3 (10) 1968-03-08 Argentina La Rioja, La Rioja
Win 32-4 Argentina Felipe Pedro Marich TKO 6 (10) 1968-02-16 Argentina Córdoba, Córdoba
Loss 31-4 United States Jimmy Ellis UD 12 1967-12-02 United States Freedom Hall, Louisville, Kentucky WBA Heavyweight title eliminator.
Win 31-3 Germany Karl Mildenberger UD 12 1967-09-16 Germany Waldstadion, Frankfurt, Hesse WBA Heavyweight title eliminator.
Win 30-3 Argentina Carlos Vazquez TKO 3 (10) 1967-08-05 Argentina General Roca, Río Negro
Win 29-3 22x20px Luis Pires RTD 6 (10) 1967-07-22 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 28-3 Argentina Pablo Sagrispanti KO 2 (10) 1967-06-23 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 27-3 United States Hubert Hilton TKO 10 1967-04-08 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 26-3 Argentina Jose Giorgetti KO 9 (10) 1967-01-21 Argentina Estadio Bristol, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Win 25-3 Argentina Roberto Veliz KO 4 (10) 1966-12-01 Argentina Asociación Mendocina de Boxeo, Mendoza, Mendoza
Win 24-3 Argentina Alberto Benassi TKO 5 (10) 1966-11-18 Argentina Rosario, Santa Fe
Win 23-3 United States Amos Johnson UD 10 1966-10-22 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 22-3 Argentina Alberto Benassi KO 5 (10) 1966-10-07 Argentina Estadio Bristol, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Loss 21-3 United States Joe Frazier MD 10 1966-09-21 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York Lost the Argentinian Heavyweight title.
Win 21-2 Canada George Chuvalo MD 10 1966-06-23 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 20-2 Argentina Jose Giorgetti UD 10 1966-04-16 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Loss 19-2 Argentina Jose Giorgetti DQ 8 (10) 1966-03-12 Argentina Estadio Bristol, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Win 19-1 Argentina Bruno Segura KO 2 (10) 1966-02-12 Argentina Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Win 18-1 United States Billy Daniels KO 1 (10) 1965-11-13 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 17-1 Argentina Hector Wilson KO 2 (10) 1965-10-22 Argentina Concepción, Tucumán
Win 16-1 Argentina Pablo Sagrispanti TKO 1 (10) 1965-10-09 Argentina Rosario, Santa Fe
Win 15-1 Argentina Gregorio Peralta UD 12 1965-09-04 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires Won Argentinian Heavyweight title.
Win 14-1 Argentina Alberto Gonzales KO 2 (10) 1965-08-06 Argentina Comodoro Rivadavia, Chubut
Win 13-1 Argentina Eduardo Cartelli KO 1 (12) 1965-07-23 Argentina Córdoba, Córdoba
Win 12-1 Argentina Rodolfo Diaz TKO 4 (10) 1965-06-26 Argentina Luna Park, Buenos Aires
Win 11-1 Argentina Rogelio Gregorutti KO 2 (10) 1965-05-28 Argentina San Miguel de Tucumán, Tucumán
Win 10-1 Argentina Carlos Vazquez KO 3 (10) 1965-04-30 Argentina Salón de los Deportes, Bahía Blanca, Buenos Aires
Win 9-1 Argentina Rene Sosa KO 2 (10) 1965-04-16 Argentina Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires
Loss 8-1 United States Zora Folley UD 10 1965-02-26 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 8-0 United States Billy Stephan TKO 6 (10) 1964-12-18 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 7-0 United States Dick Wipperman UD 10 1964-11-13 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 6-0 United States Tom McNeeley TKO 5 (8) 1964-08-21 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 5-0 22x20px Byron Stoimenides KO 1 (8) 1964-05-29 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Win 4-0 Canada Leslie Borden TKO 3 (10) 1964-05-05 United States Sunnyside Garden, Queens, New York
Win 3-0 22x20px Wendell Newton TKO 5 (6) 1964-03-10 United States Sunnyside Garden, Queens, New York
Win 2-0 United States Everett Copeland KO 1 (6) 1964-02-04 United States Sunnyside Garden, Queens, New York
Win 1-0 United States Lou Hicks TKO 1 (4) 1964-01-03 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York

See also[]

  • Luis Ángel Firpo
  • José María Gatica
  • Justo Suárez


  1. Brunt, S., Facing Ali: The Opposition Weighs in, ISBN 0-676-97351-5
  2. Sport: Two Down, One to Go, Time
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Farrell, Barry (July 26, 1976). "The Killing At the Notorious Mustang Ranch". New York. pp. 41–49. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Joe Conforte's Legal Tangles, Los Angeles Times
  5. 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."
  6. Bonavena Fatally Shot Outside Nevada Brothel
  7. 7.0 7.1 Man who killed Oscar Bonavena dies, Las Vegas Review-Journal
  8. Oscar Bonavena's Professional Boxing Record. Retrieved on 2012-03-18.

External links[]