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Ringside Report Looks Back at Former Contender Edwin Viruet

200px-edwin_viruetBy Jeffrey “Italian Medallion” Cellini

Edwin Viruet, 32-6-2,14 KO’s, who was born in New York City, was a professional boxer who battled some of the premiere fighters of his generation. Some of the earlier opponents in his career were Saoul Mamby, a future world light-welterweight champion, and Alfredo Escalera, a future world super featherweight champion. Viruet also faced Roberto Durán, then- reigning world lightweight champion, twice. First, in a non-title fight, Viruet would lose by a unanimous decision. Two years later he fought Durán again, this time with the world title on the line, and again he would lose by a unanimous decision.

Edwin Viruet was one of four brothers who were boxers. He compiled an undefeated amateur boxing record of 18-0, which included winning two New York Golden Gloves Championships. Viruet would turn pro in 1969, winning four fights that year. In his debut on April 28th, Edwin would defeat Azael Curet by four-round decision in Secaucus, New Jersey. In his first two years, he would rack up eleven victories, with no defeats, with three coming via knockout.

The following year, Viruet would face two future world champions early in their careers. On September 23,1971, Alfredo Escalera, with only eight fights under his belt, would face Edwin in a contest in Patterson, New Jersey. Viruet would secure a points decision over his Puerto Rican counterpart that night. On December 3, at the Felt Forum in New York City, Edwin Viruet and Saoul Mamby would have to settle for draw in their bout. Mamby, 45-34-6,18 KO’s, fighting out of Brooklyn, N.Y, who had entered the contest with only thirteen professional fights on his record, would end up fighting well into his 60’s as a boxer.

After twenty fights, Edwin Viruet would be undefeated with 18 victories and two draws on his resume. On August 18, 1973, Viruet would face his toughest opponent up to that point in his career when he was matched up against Sammy Gross (37-3). Unfortunately, things did not go well for the taller fighter that night, as Viruet was unable to use his distinct height and reach advantage over his opponent.

Sammy Goss scored an 8th round knockdown, then withstood a furious 10th round rally to hand Edwin Viruet his first defeat Saturday with a majority decision in their nationally televised junior lightweight bout from MSG’s Felt Forum. Early in the 8th round Goss caught Viruet with a left hook that staggered the NY City fighter. When Viruet’s feet became tangled, he stumbled and sagged to the canvas. Referee LoBianco ruled it a knockdown. Viruet rallied in the final round and had Goss holding on for the final minute, but it didn’t offset the Trenton, N.J., veteran’s steady body bombardment which gave him a slight edge.

Referee Johnny LoBianco scored the bout 6-4 for Goss, whereas judge Harold Lederman scored the contest 5-4-1 for the kid from Trenton, N.J. Judge Tony Castellano had the fight scored as a draw.

Despite the setback, Viruet would rebound quickly with three consecutive victories. Now, Edwin would encounter the toughest opponent of his professional career when he was matched against the world lightweight champion Roberto Duran in a non-title bout at Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, N.Y.

In a classic boxer-brawler matchup, Duran (52-1), the most feared fighter in the world at that time, stalked the lankier boxer in the early stages of the bout. Viruet, who tried to emulate Muhammad Ali at times during the contest, would use good lateral movement and his left jab to keep the Panamanian at bay in the first few rounds. The “Hands of Stone” landed solid combinations to the head and body, but Viruet did a great job of tying up Duran on the inside. Dancing around, and shuffling his feet, Viruet kept Duran from trapping him along the ropes. Sticking and moving, Edwin doubled and tripled his jab effectively against the lightweight champion. However, Duran started to cut the ring off by the mid-rounds and began to land more punches on the inside. In the later rounds, Viruet, still dancing and boxing, was trading punches evenly with Duran up to the end of the fight. To the dismay of the crowd, Roberto Duran would walk away with a controversial unanimous ten-round decision.

Two years later, Viruet would get a rematch with the “Hands of Stone”, but this time it was for the world lightweight title at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA. After winning ten consecutive title defenses by knockout, Duran was forced to go the distance for the first time as champion. Just like their first encounter, Duran kept the pressure on throughout the bout, but the cagey Viruet was able to weather the storm. Once again, Viruet’s plan of attack was to move in and out and feint Duran. However, he often did not get out in time and Duran used his bull-like strength to force Viruet to the ropes time and again. Referee Isidro Rodriguez, and judges Frank Adams and Servio Tulio Lay, all scored the contest for the Panamanian by a comfortable margin. Duran, who retained his belt by fifteen-round unanimous decision, was content with his effort, stating ,”I’m not embarrassed at not knocking him out. I just wanted to keep my title.” Viruet complained after the fight about Duran’s tactics, “I don’t like him even though he’s the champion of the world, because he’s nasty. He was cursing my mother from the first round. I tried to curse him back, but the referee wouldn’t let me talk.”

On October 27, 1978, Edwin Viruet would lose another heartbreaking decision; this time it was against Esteban DeJesus by ten-round split decision at Madison Square Garden in New York. DeJesus stalked Viruet throughout the whole contest, but was unable to hurt his opponent. Viruet , a boxing master who thinks defense at all times, scored well with jabs and quick hooks, beating DeJesus to the punch, especially early in the fight. However, DeJesus, just as Duran had done, never lost his poise and kept applying pressure. He landed several good hooks to the head and was effective to the body, hurting Viruet with body punches in the 9th round. Referee Johnny LoBianco ( 5-4-1) and judge Harold Lederman (6-4) scored the contest for DeJesus; whereas Judge Tony Castellano (7-3) favored Viruet. Edwin Viruet, who complained about the decision afterwards, stating “I think Don King had something to do with this.”, believing DeJesus had already been promised a shot at WBC junior. welterweight champion Saensak Muangsurin.

Viruet continued to fight top contenders, reeling off seven wins in a row. On May 30,1982, future lightweight champion Edwin Rosario would knock out the wily veteran in three rounds. In his next fight, Viruet would be stopped by undefeated Alvin Hayes in Detroit, MI. He finally retired in 1983.

Edwin Viruet was a very capable boxer who had boxed 25 rounds against Roberto Duran-including a world lightweight championship bout-without being knocked out. In two great fights, Viruet stood his ground against the most feared fighter in the world and gave the champion a true challenge both times.

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