In September 1973 a younger Simon Euan-Smith was in his early days as a Boxing Information reporter when he was handed the golden ticket – a visit to Paris and a ringside seat for Carlos Monzon’s rematch with Jean-Claude Bouttier
OF course I had no enterprise going to Paris to cowl a world title bout. I’d been knowledgeable journalist just a few days over three months, having been “rescued” from an insurance coverage workplace by a BN editor who mentioned he noticed “uncooked promise” within the articles I’d submitted for consideration, and provided me a job when a emptiness got here up. Carlos Monzon of Argentina was as a result of defend his world middleweight crown towards French glamour boy Jean-Claude Bouttier on September 8 1973. The editor deliberate to go over – he’d coated a number of high-profile bouts in France – and shortly afterwards he’d booked a vacation in Majorca along with his new girlfriend. Sadly for him, the combat was put again three weeks, to September 29 – when he’d be away. As so typically, when it’s a detailed resolution, it was a very long time coming – however when it did come, it was what I’d so hoped to listen to. “You’d higher go to Paris, Simon.”
I used to be elated. The earlier 12 months I’d gone there to see the primary assembly between the pair (in a visit organised by Bernard Hart, with whom I remained mates till his loss of life this 12 months). That was an important journey (Monzon received on a 12th-round retirement – title bouts had been over 15 then), however I may afford solely an affordable ticket – to be at ringside, and reporting, was sensible.
It was fairly per week main as much as the combat. On the Monday I celebrated my 24th birthday within the luxurious environment of the London Hilton (overlaying an Anglo-American Sporting Membership promotion – within the heavyweight eight-rounder Les Stevens outpointed Dave Roden); on the Tuesday it was Wolverhampton for the first-ever British title combat at 11st (then referred to as light-middleweight), with native favorite Larry Paul beating former British welterweight ruler Bobby Arthur by 10th-round KO. In some unspecified time in the future I telephoned the French promoters, and a Monsieur B instructed me I needed to go to No 36, Rue Bergere, to gather my Press move – the workplace was on the primary ground.
My flight from Heathrow was fairly early on Saturday morning. I set my alarm and requested my stepfather to offer me a name. Clock and stepfather duly performed up – and I promptly rolled over and went again to sleep, which means I left an excellent hour later than I’d meant. My (first) automobile wasn’t in its first youth – actually it was a supply of fixed amusement to my editor, who heaped each insult on it bar refusing a carry when he wanted one. However the previous woman did me proud – and when the airplane took off for Paris, a reasonably breathless BN reporter was amongst these current.
Having disembarked, I needed to take the Metro to the centre of Paris. Their underground system was totally different from London’s – on a earlier journey to Paris, to cowl a bout for an additional publication, I had acquired in a horrible muddle and thereafter switched to taxis, working up an expense account which the editor refused to pay. I’d been warned to look at the exes this time, so I picked up an underground map and sat within the prepare attempting to make sense of it. A pretty, dark-haired younger lady, seeing my bewilderment, sat down beside me and provided to assist – she was from America, she mentioned, and had been to Paris earlier than. Presently she was on an prolonged tour of Europe, and can be coming to London in two months’ time. She confirmed me how you can learn the map, and we chatted animatedly for the remainder of the journey. Earlier than we parted I wrote down my title, and the BN deal with, and invited her to look me up when she got here to London. She smiled and mentioned she would possibly simply try this. Alas, she by no means did – if she had, she’d have gotten one of the best lunch petty money may purchase. I had loads to be grateful to her for earlier than the day was over.
I checked in at my lodge and walked to Rue Bergere, rapidly discovering No 36. After I acquired as much as the primary ground I realised it was a lodge – a chambermaid was cleansing one of many bedrooms. I discussed Monsieur B’s title – she’d by no means heard of him.
This was a poser. With no different deal with, all I may do was go to the Roland Garros Stadium (the place the combat was happening) and hope to search out somebody who may assist. I made my technique to the Metro and, with my newly-acquired information, discovered the suitable line. There have been a number of stops, I bear in mind – perhaps as many as 20. However I acquired there finally, and located the Stadium – the place a number of different reporters had congregated, together with some from Argentina. We weren’t allowed by means of the gate – we needed to look ahead to Monsieur B to return. He was paged a number of occasions over the tannoy, however by no means appeared.
Ultimately one in all his henchmen got here. No, our passes weren’t there. We needed to acquire them from No 35, Rue Bergere. Mild dawned. “Trente-cinq?” I shouted. “Monsieur B instructed me trente-six.”
“Non, monsieur – trente-cinq.”
In order that was it. I’d been proper there on a regular basis. I rushed again to the Metro – and if the journey down had appeared interminable, the journey again was infinitely worse. Would the place nonetheless be open? Would anybody be there? I acquired to my cease finally, sprinted bout to Rue Bergere and located No 35 (immediately reverse No 36). The entrance door was open! I rushed up the steps to the primary ground – was that door open? Sure! A lady was sitting at a desk. For the lifetime of me I couldn’t have mentioned if she was previous, younger, brief, tall, truthful, darkish or sporting a gasmask. I gave my title. “Le Boxing Information? A Londres?” She began riffling by means of a stack of envelopes. “Ah, oui.”
I muttered my thanks and made my manner downstairs. Solely after I acquired out into the road did it happen to me to open the envelope and ensure it really did comprise a Press ticket, reasonably than a Parisian plumber’s enterprise card – after the occasions of that day, nothing would have shocked me. However it was the move! Now I may cease worrying and begin occupied with vital issues, like some meals – I knew they’d stopped serving lunch at my lodge, however I discovered a road café and acquired a ham roll and occasional for roughly the price of a three-course dinner in London. Fortified and blissful, I made my manner again to the lodge and went as much as my room. I’d had some worries, however every thing had turned out all proper – nothing else may probably go fallacious. I lay down on my mattress and closed my eyes.
After I awoke, simply over half an hour later, my first thought was that I’d been transported to the center of a remake of the Siege of Paris. After just a few moments I realised that what was hammering towards my window was not machine-gun bullets – it was hailstones. And the outside boxing present was as a result of begin in simply over two hours’ time.
I thought-about the scenario. I used to be booked for one night time on the lodge – I actually didn’t have the cash for any extra. (This was earlier than all of us had bank cards.) I couldn’t contact my editor as a result of he was on vacation in Majorca. There actually was just one factor to do. I headed for the bar.
The barman was all smiles. “Oh, I’m certain the combat will go forward.” There are few issues extra comforting than a drink you haven’t paid for (good previous expense account), and after the third I felt so much higher. And the storm did cease! I grabbed each accessible piece of clothes and made my technique to the Metro. With a brief rain-jacket that didn’t totally cowl my sports activities jacket, I will need to have regarded unusual – I actually attracted some humorous appears to be like. However I didn’t care – I used to be heat! The night was decidedly cool, as I famous in my report. The one factor I’d forgotten to carry was a pair of gloves, which meant I had issue holding my pen and making notes for crucial combat I’d but to cowl.
Champion Monzon was nearly unknown when he got here to Rome in November 1970 to problem Nino Benvenuti for the world title. Of his 79 earlier bouts, 75 had taken place in his native Argentina, 4 in Brazil. It was a significant shock when he beat Benvenuti in 12 rounds – and within the return Benvenuti was halted in three and introduced his retirement. Monzon had made six extra defences, victims together with two-weight world champion Emile Griffith (twice) and Bouttier, as talked about. At six ft, he was tall for a middleweight, with a protracted attain and a very damaging proper hand.
Bouttier was a superb middleweight at European degree, however his limitations at world-class had been reasonably uncovered by factors losses to Brazilian Juarez de Lima and American Lonnie Harris – two good fighters who by no means acquired a world title shot. (The truth is de Lima beat Bouttier twice, each occasions in Paris in 1969, although Bouttier lastly acquired revenge with a factors win the next 12 months.) Since his first loss to Monzon Bouttier had received six straight – however finest title, Emile Griffith, was a reasonably hole victory, the previous world champion being controversially disqualified in seven rounds when wanting comfortably forward.
You couldn’t actually give Bouttier a lot likelihood of revenge – however that didn’t cease his countrymen packing the Roland Garros and shouting encouragement from the opening bell. And Bouttier was actually up for the problem. The large distinction between watching from ringside reasonably than from manner again, I discovered, was that I may see the contrasting expressions on their faces – Bouttier grim willpower, Monzon a contemptuous sneer.
There was a distinction within the combat, too. The primary time, Monzon had come out strongly to impose his authority – this time he was content material to let Bouttier come to him, assured the challenger had nothing to hassle him.
The group, naturally, had been strongly behind Bouttier, cheering his each aggressive transfer. And I believed he was having some success – however each time he edged forward, Monzon would come again to degree issues out. At no level did I’ve Bouttier forward by multiple bout.
It was all the time hard-fought, and main British referee Harry Gibbs instructed me afterwards it was essentially the most tough combat he’d ever needed to management. “Each had been equally dangerous,” he mentioned. No respecter of reputations, Gibbs gave Monzon a public warning within the 10th when the champion landed a proper to the aspect of the top after Bouttier had slipped to the canvas. I had Bouttier forward after the 12th, however after that it was all Monzon – with Bouttier happening in every of the final three, from Monzon’s vaunted proper hand. Bouttier made it to the ultimate bell, however the resolution was unanimous for Monzon – 145-139 Gibbs, 147-138 and 148-145 from the 2 judges. I had it 146-141.
In my report I wrote “Monzon wanted his all-out assault within the final three rounds to ensure of holding his title.” He did, but it surely wasn’t a case of an important champion discovering the additional gear when he wanted it – extra a simple altering up from second to 3rd. I additionally wrote that “it was not a powerful efficiency by the champion.” The brutal reality was that Monzon didn’t must look spectacular – having overwhelmed Bouttier earlier than he’d “been there, accomplished that,” and did simply as a lot as he wanted to win clearly.
After I lastly left, it was by a distinct gate from the one I’d are available – and there was no signal of the Metro. I requested a person for instructions. “This manner,” he mentioned. We walked for a while, he grim-faced and silent, I getting more and more frightened. Infrequently I requested how a lot additional, solely to be instructed “Not a lot.” Ultimately I gave up – we got here to a fork within the street and my companion went a method, I the opposite. I got here throughout one other man, standing by a parked automobile, and he instructed me the Metro was shut now. He then indicated the automobile and defined that it was his, and he suffered from insomnia. May he give me a carry someplace?
I hesitated, remembering what my mom had instructed me about accepting lifts from strangers, then I figured – hey, I used to be 24, and I used to be greater than fed-up with this recreation! I gratefully slid into the passenger’s seat, my hand simply millimetres from the door-handle. I needn’t have frightened. In what appeared only a few minutes we drew up exterior my lodge, and I believed the least I may do was ask my saviour in for a drink – I’d seen the signal saying the bar was open till 2 a.m. We walked in, and the bar was in darkness – I spoke to the concierge on the desk, drawing his consideration to the discover. “Open till 2 each night time besides Saturday,” he mentioned. “There’s a mini-bar in each room …”
“Do you wish to come up?” I requested my new pal. He duly did, and I sorted out the drinks – and we sat chatting about such attention-grabbing matters as Asterix the Gaul. He was as eager to practise his English as I used to be to resurrect my O degree French, so we’d begin in a single language and keep it up till the opposite individual acquired caught and reverted to his. A surreal ending to one of many weirdest days of my life.
My pal left round three o’clock and I crashed out for 4 hours’ sleep. BN had booked me fairly an early flight again on the Sunday, so I figured they might afford a taxi to the airport – and after all of the alarms and excursions of the day prior to this, the journey house went with out a hitch. I spent the afternoon in a sort of psychological fog. Refreshed, I arrived on the BN workplace the subsequent morning. Assistant Editor Steve Fagan regarded up. “Have you ever accomplished your report?” I swallowed exhausting and counted to 10. “No, Steve.”
“Hmmm … nicely, you’d be higher get on with it now.”
I sorted out my notes and put a clear sheet within the typewriter. Had it actually occurred? My notes, and the French papers I’d picked up on the airport, mentioned it had. I duly began. “Carlos Monzon, the Iron Man from Argentina …” As soon as I’d began it step by step got here collectively, although it took many of the morning. I handed the report back to Steve, ate my packed lunch and determined to exit for some air. As I acquired to the door Steve referred to as out “Simon?” I turned bout.
“Not a foul learn.”
Postscript: winner Monzon and loser Bouttier would have differing fortunes following their rematch. Monzon had six extra fights, all wins, and all world title bouts – in 1974 the WBC of their knowledge (!) stripped him and put in Colombian Rodrigo Valdes as champion. Monzon reunified the title by beating Valdes by unanimous resolution, did the identical in a rematch, and retired undisputed champion. Sadly, in 1988 he was jailed for 11 years following the loss of life of his girlfriend – and in 1995 he was killed in a street crash whereas returning to jail after a furlough for good behaviour. He was 52.
Bouttier had simply 4 extra fights, profitable two, dropping two. He regained the European title he’d by no means misplaced, halting Italian Elio Calcabrini in 12 rounds, however misplaced it to Britain’s Kevin Finnegan (unanimous resolution) in his first defence. In December 1974 he met previous rival Nessim “Max” Cohen for the vacant French title in Paris (which I additionally coated for BN), was stopped in 11 rounds, and introduced his retirement. He went on to turn out to be a TV commentator and died in August 2019, aged 74.
As for me, through the years I’d attend a number of extra world title bouts within the UK – however often overlaying undercard fights. I didn’t get the possibility to report one for nearly one other 13 years – Dennis Andries stopped Tony Sibson in 9 rounds to maintain his WBC light-heavyweight belt at London’s Alexandra Palace, September 10 1986. I used to be overlaying this for a provincial paper, which wanted the report on the night time – so I scribbled it out at ringside, nabbed an deserted telephone and skim it over quickly, with one eye on the sort one that’d provided me a carry to the closest Underground station, giving me an opportunity to get the final prepare (which I did, with about 30 seconds to spare). After all I used to be glad of the possibility to cowl a world title bout – however Monzon v Bouttier in Paris it wasn’t.