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.
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.
Kid Chocolate´s first 12 bouts, including a five round knockout win in a rematch with Cruz were all held in Cuba.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
He was the inspiration for the character Chocolate Drop in Clifford Odets' play Golden Boy.
Sources: Wikipedia, History of Cuban Boxing
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