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Kid Chocolate: The First Cuban World Champion

Kid Chocolate: The First Cuban World Champion

At the same time as Havana hosted the 1915 heavyweight title fight between Jack Johnson and Jess Willard, the history of the sport from a Cuban perspective begins with Eligio Sardiñas Montalvo, better known throughout the world as Kid Chocolate.
Eligio Sardiñas Montalvo better known as Kid Chocolate was born on January 6, 1910 at the neighborhood of Cerro in Havana, Cuba. He was a Cuban boxer who enjoyed wild success both in the boxing ring and in society life during a span of the 1930s. He was Cuba's first world champion when crowned World Junior Lightweight Champion in 1931.

Kid Chocolate, nicknamed also “The Cuban Bon Bon”, learned how to fight by watching old fight films in Cuba. He later sparred with boxers such as Benny Leonard and Jack Johnson, all world champions, before beginning an amateur boxing career. As an amateur, he won all 100 of his fights, 86 of them by knockout.
His professional boxing debut, officially, occurred on December 8, 1927, when he beat Johnny Cruz by a decision in six in Havana. Whether that was his actual debut or not has been a point of contention, because some Cuban boxing historians claim that he was actually paid for 21 bouts before that, supposedly winning each of them by knockout, which would put him on Ring Magazine's list of longest knockout streaks in history. But documents show the Cruz fight as being his first professional bout.

Kid Chocolate´s first 12 bouts, including a five round knockout win in a rematch with Cruz were all held in Cuba.
In the year 1928, he moved to the United States and began campaigning in New York. He won his first nine bouts there, five by knockout, and 12 of his first 13 fights in his new hometown. The only person to escape the ring without a defeat against Chocolate during that span was Joey Scalfaro, who held him to a ten round draw.

Through 1929, Kid Chocolate started to become a name to be reckoned with in boxing. He had 23 fights that year, and continued his undefeated run by winning each of them. He also began to meet better opponents, and among the boxers he beat were former world champion Fidel LaBarba, beaten by a decision in ten, future world champion Al Singer, also by a decision in ten, and fringe contenders Bushy Graham, Vic Burrone and Gregorio Vidal, all of whom, except for Graham, were beaten by decision. Graham was disqualified in the seventh round.
During 1930, he beat Burrone twice again, as part of his first seven bouts that year, all of which he won. But then, he was faced with future world Jr. Welterweight champion Jackie Kid Berg, who took away Chocolate's undefeated record by beating him in ten rounds. After three more fights, which resulted in two first round knockout wins and a decision loss in a ten round rematch with LaBarba, Chocolate found himself in a ring with world Featherweight champion Bat Battalino. Trying to become Cuba's first world boxing champion ever on that night, Chocolate lost a 15 round decision.

World Champion

After that, Kid Chocolate started 1931 by winning four fights in a row, after going up in weight to the Jr. Lightweight division. Then, on July 15 of that year, his dream of becoming Cuba's first world boxing champion finally came true, as he knocked out the defending world Jr. Lightweight champion Benny Bass in seven rounds to take the world title.
Five non title wins followed, including a first round knockout in a rematch with Scalfaro, and then he finished the year by going up in weight once again, and challenging world Lightweight champion Tony Canzoneri, losing by a decision in 15 in his first attempt to gain the Lightweight crown.

By 1932 Chocolate started by winning his first eight bouts, including a world title defense in Havana against Davie Abad, beaten in 15 by decision. Then, he faced Berg in a rematch, losing again, this time by decision in 15. He engaged in seven more bouts, including two decision wins over Johnny Farr, before fighting Lew Feldman on October 13. The fight was recognized as a world Featherweight title bout, but only by the New York state athletic commission. Chocolate won by a knockout in 12 rounds, gaining the New York world title.
The Cuban Bon Bon retained that world title twice, including a third fight with LaBarba, before relinquishing it while in the middle of a European boxing tour that took him to Madrid, Barcelona and Paris. He won all of his fights on that tour by decision.

Upon returning to America, he lost by a knockout in two in a rematch with Canzoneri, and then lost his world Lightweight title, being knocked out in seven by Frankie Klick. After that fight, it was revealed that he was suffering from Syphilis.

Later Years

He retired shortly, but came back in 1934. He won 47 of his next 50 bouts until he finally retired in 1938, but never faced the kind of opposition he had faced before. Furthermore, he never received another world title try and felt abandoned by boxing's powers behind the curtains when he decided to retire.
Kid Chocolate was known as a wild party man during his years as a world champion. He was a boxer who enjoyed being out at night and engaging himself under the bright lights of the city's nightlife. However, when he stepped out of boxing, he went back to Cuba and lived a quieter life.

Unfortunately in 1959, Kid Chocolate's figure in Cuba was totally relegated and he almost became a forgotten champion. However, by the late 1970s, Chocolate's achievements were finally recognized by the Cuban government, who then put him to live in a state backed house, as had occurred with other important Cuba athletic figures. It was in that house that Kid Chocolate died in August 8, 1988.
His record was of 136 wins, 10 losses and 6 draws, 51 wins coming by knockout, also making Ring magazine's list of boxers with 50 or more career knockout wins. Kid Chocolate became a member of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame along with Bass, Berg and Canzoneri.

He was the inspiration for the character Chocolate Drop in Clifford Odets' play Golden Boy.
Kid Chocolate was the first Cuban born world champ. He won the featherweight and junior lightweight crowns in a career that spanned 1928-38. To boxing's elder historians, Chocolate is the finest fighter to emerge from the island. Part of his allure was his ability to entertain. He fought with a flair and rhythm that was decades ahead of his time.
"Sugar Ray Robinson was a great admirer of Kid Chocolate," said Fausto Miranda, a former Cuban journalist who covered many of Chocolate's fights. "No other man, no other Cuban, did in the ring what Chocolate did. For style, he was the best. Fancy, Fancy, Fancy."

Sources: Wikipedia, History of Cuban Boxing

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