He was born in Parque Patricios in 1942, where his friends and family knew him as “el Titi”. He began as a boxer at Club Atlético Huracán, and in 1959 he was an amateur champion. After a suspension in 1963 for biting Lee Car’s nipple at the Pan American in San Pablo, Bonavena went to try his luck in the United States.
In North America, the histrionic promotion that Cassius Clay put on before each fight was known and he would beat the Canadian champion George Chuvalo. Also in the United States he fought twice with the big puncher Joe Frazier. Although he was unable to defeat him, in the first bout he predicted to knock him down twice, and in the second he challenged for the World Boxing Association heavyweight crown.
Brazen, braggart and daring, it could be said that Ringo Bonavena was the first media sportsman in Argentina. He acted with the comedian Pepe Biondi. He promoted each of his fights on radio and television, and even recorded four songs as a singer with the group Los Shakers. One of them is Pío Pio Pa, composed by Palito Ortega.
From the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, he was one of the leading contenders for the world heavyweight title. The Ring magazine ranked him the third best heavyweight in the world in 1968 and 1970. Thanks to sporting success, but also to his magnetic personality and tireless pursuit of popularity, Bonavena managed to fight one of the greatest boxers in history. , Muhammad Ali, at Madison Square Garden.
In the preview, he was encouraged to make fun of Ali and say “Chicken”, chicken, for not having gone to fight for his country in the Vietnam War. It was a historic fight, which lost 80 rating points in Argentina. Ringo modified throwing Muhammad Ali once, but in the final round, the Argentine went down three times and Ali took the TKO victory.
His record as a boxer was 58 fights won, 9 lost and 1 draw. In February 1976, Ringo Bonavena gave his last fight, against Billy Joiner. On May 22 of that year, he was murdered by Ross Brymer, a bodyguard at the famous Mustang Ranch brothel. His murder occurred in the context of a dispute with manager Joe Conforte, a Sicilian mobster who owns that brothel and casino in Reno, Nevada.
Bonavena’s body was laid to rest on May 29 at the Luna Park stadium, where he was greeted by more than 150,000 people. He was later buried in the Chacarita Cemetery. Currently, a street in Buenos Aires and the local stands of Club Atlético Huracán, of which he was a fanatical fan, bear his name.
The story is also news on Radio Perfil. Script by Eduardo Santachita and locution by Pita Fortín.