Sometimes controversial bouts just beggar as to what has actually happened and back in 1978 we had one that, even 40 years on, leaves us confused every time we watch it. It was a DQ that seemed weird and had it not ended in a DQ we would have seen one of the most amazing upsets in boxing history. Instead of getting the upset we got one of the strangest endings in boxing history and one that didn't make any sense at all. In fact it very much looked like they decided to do what they could to bail out the world champion and big star.
Fel Clemente (11-7-2, 3) vs Danny Lopez (38-3, 36)
In October 1978 American fighter Danny "Little Red" Lopez was widely regarded as one of the top Featherweights on the planet and one of the most destructive fighters in all of boxing. He had won the WBC Featherweight title in November 1976 and had quickly scored 4 defenses, all by stoppage. Those stoppages had seen him not only retain his title but also extend a T/KO streak to 6 fights and build on prior victories against the likes of Ruben Olivares and Chucho Castillo and had been unbeaten in 14 bouts stretching back more than 3 years. In fact all 3 of his losses up to this point came within 8 months of each other before he found the best form of his career.
Lopez was the man at 126lbs.
Filipino fighter Fel Clemente on the other hand was essentially a journeyman. Unlike most journeyman however he came to fight, claiming a massive upset against OPBF champion Zensuke Utagawa in 1975, and almost taking the unbeaten records of Ronnie McGarvey (then 25-0) and Gerardo Aceves (then 6-0) later that same year. In 1978 he had a bizarrely busy year, which had included an upset win over Romeo Anaya in March, another upset win the following month over Jose Torres and one over Ernesto Herrera. He had actually gone 4-2 in 1978 before getting the call to face Lopez, just a month after losing a 12 round split decision to Francisco Flores.
Clemente's record looked like that of a club fighter, 7 losses from 20 bouts, but he was much, much better than those numbers suggested. He had been matched hard and had scored a lot of surprise wins.
The match up saw both men travel to Palazzo Dello Sport in Pesaro, Italy for the bout, a strange location for a bout between an American world champion and a Filipino who was barely ranked in the top 10 by the WBC. Nothing seemed to make sense about the contest, but in many ways the where and why didn't need to make sense, it was supposed to be an easy win for Lopez. It was supposed to be the next defense for Lopez, with no issues.
Someone didn't give Clemente the script and he took the fight to Lopez rather early on. Through the first round the challenged landed some very eye catching shots on the bigger, stronger Lopez. Whilst Lopez did land some good shots of his own it seemed Clemente was landing move of them, and was landing cleaner, with little burst of accurate shots whilst Lopez was, mostly, limited to single shots here and there.
Clemente continued to box well, confusing Lopez, countering him well, and even rocking him in the second round. The clean shots of Clemente were catching the eye time and time again and Lopez really was struggling to time him, or get his respect. Lopez's brick like hands weren't forcing Clemente to back off, and instead the Filipino was choosing when to come forward and when to make Lopez move.
In round 3 we finally saw Lopez begin to establish himself, as he moved up a gear. Despite better work from Lopez Clemente was continuing to have his moments and he turned up the pace late in the round as he attempted to steal the round. It was a great finish to the round, despite Clemente beginning to look a bit tired.
After a very good start to the fight for Clemente we then got controversy in round 4, just as Lopez was looking to take over.
The Filipino's left eye was swelling shut, the result of hard shots from Lopez, but Lopez's own face wouldn't hold up much longer as he suffered a nasty cut of his own, mid way through the round, around his right eye. This was a huge, nasty cut that forced Lopez to be taken over to the doctor. The referee ruled it to have come from a headbutt, though gave no warning to the two fighters. It seemed clear that if there was a headclash it was an accidental one.
After the doctor's inspection the bout seemed ready to go on. Both men looked like the fight was going to restart but referee Gujelmo Ajor kept the action paused before speaking to people outside of the ring, then speaking to the doctor again, who looked at Clemente. Lopez then had his cut looked over by his cutman, who cleaned up the cut.
The crowd were getting restless, frustrated and wanted the action to continue. It then seemed we were getting the fight's resumption before Ajor called off the bout leading to the announcer getting in the ring.
It seemed, almost certain, that the cut, caused from what may have been an accidental headbutt, would lead to a technical decision. Then the ring announcer came into the ring before the gloves were removed from the men.
Prior to the fight it was made clear that if the bout was stopped on an accidental foul the bout would go to the scorecards. It seemed that was what was going to happen here. It seemed that we were going to get a decision result one way or the other.
Then the announcement came in, with Lopez being announced by disqualification. Much to the massive anger of the fans who booed and whistled, making their anger well known. Clemente looked like he was celebrating, but it seemed he was saluting the fans whilst the situation became less and less clear.
The anger of the crowd grew as Lopez gave an interview. It was clear what the fans had thought of the outcome and they were pissed.
Sadly for Clemente he would never secure a rematch, and went 2-5 before ending his career. Despite that losing most of his remaining bouts he did share the ring with the likes of Salvador Sanchez, Ruben Castillo, Rocky Lockridge and Juan Laporte.
Lopez on the other hand made 3 more defenses before losing the title in 1980 to Salvador Sanchez. He would lose a rematch to Sanchez before retiring, making a a fight comeback in 1992, which he lost to Jorge Rodriguez, before hanging them up for good.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features