1975-03-30 Jose Napoles w tdec 12 (15) Armando Muniz, Convention Centre, Acapulco, Mexico - WORLD

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1975-03-30 Jose Napoles w tdec 12 (15) Armando Muniz, Convention Centre, Acapulco, Mexico - WORLD. Referee: Ramon Berumen. Scorecards: 149-142, 149-139, 148-142. The toughest defence yet for Napoles (147) saw him take on the hard-punching Muniz (145), with much of the action being at close range and neither man prepared to give an inch. Cut over the left eye in the second, Napoles was forced to meet Muniz head on as the latter continued to press forward to attack the body. Although Napoles rocked Muniz on occasion he was being denied the room in which to work. He was also weakening as well as being cut over the right eye by the seventh. Muniz, gashed on the left cheek in the fifth, was still giving it his all in the 11th, pounding in hard rights to Napoles’ badly battered face. By now the champion’s right eye was closed and giving cause for concern. After 50 seconds of the 12th had elapsed, with Napoles on the ropes taking what was on offer, the referee stopped the action to seek medical advice, being told to call the contest off as the champion’s injuries were too bad for him to continue. It was reported that Napoles required 38 stitches afterwards. This appears to be the first world title bout where a technical decision was given after the referee was forced to go to the scorecards. It was later disclosed that Muniz had points deducted for butting in the third and fifth rounds which ultimately cost him, but according to other sources one judge had Muniz ahead 107-102 at the finish before the cards went missing.

Despite angry protests from Muniz’s camp, the WBC supported the decision on the grounds that the rulebook had been adhered to. From that point on many fights would be decided on a technical basis if circumstances warranted it. Injuries caused by headwork being the most common factor.

In May, after hearing the news that Napoles was handing back his WBA belt in order to concentrate on defending the WBC title, the WBA announced that a Clyde Gray v Angel Espada contest would be for their version of the vacant title. As far as the WBA were concerned they had stripped Napoles after he had failed to make a fight with either Gray or Espada.

Since losing to Napoles in September 1973, Gray had run up nine straight wins, beating Bunny Grant and Fate Davis, while Espada had won 33 of 44 fights, defeating Davis, Manuel Gonzalez, Dario Hidalgo, Jack Tillman, Alvin Anderson and Muniz along the way. Espada, who was a clever and hurtful counter puncher, was rated at number three by The Ring magazine as opposed to his rival’s number-one ranking.