Recalling Quijano and El Pasos Biggest Fight

   

Last weeks Antonio Escalante-Cornelius Lock fight brought back memories of the greatest El Paso boxer and the most important fight ever held in El Paso.

 

Dolph Quijano was tall, slim, sinewy and so good looking he was nicknamed the Errol Flynn of boxing. He made women swoon and men shake their heads in admiration. And oh, how he could box.

 

He never weighed more than 172 pounds, which ranked him as a light heavyweight. Nevertheless he beat many a heavyweight during his career.

  

BOXING WAS the rage in the country in the 1930s, 40s and 50s and Dolph, whose older brother, Santos, had taken up boxing, decided to take a stab at it, too. In 1937 at the age of 16 he took on one of the toughest amateur boxers in the city in Tommy Rascon. Dolph won but was so exhausted he said hed never box again.

 

But with the urging of his brother, he put on the gloves again after his El Paso High School days. As a middleweight he had three amateur bouts and won all three by knockout.

  

WORLD WAR II came along and Quijano joined the Air Force. He represented Muroc Air Force Base as a light heavyweight in the Los Angeles Golden Gloves in 1945 and won all three matches by knockout. He then represented Los Angeles at the National Golden Gloves in Chicago in 1945, knocked out three opponents and won two more bouts by decision to win the national title.  In the finals, he beat Roland LaStarza, who was to become one of the most famous heavyweight boxers of that era.

 

Quijano was the talk of the country but alas, he was stripped of his Golden Gloves titles when it was reported that he had received $12 for some of his early fights in El Paso. It recalled the Jim Thorpe incident in which he was stripped of his Olympics medals.

  

BUT QUIJANO was approached by many boxing managers and promoters to become a professional. That included Barney Ross and Lou Costello of the Abbott and Costello comedy team. Costello spent a lot of time wooing the El Paso star. However, Dolph turned to his brother as his manager.

 

Dolph won his first 16 bouts as a professional by knockout. Some of the matches were in the heavyweight division although he only weighed 172 pounds. He won the light heavyweight and heavyweight championships of Texas and the heavyweight championships of Kansas and Oklahoma.

 

IN DECEMBER of 1946, he got his big break. He was to fight Joey Maxim, then light heavyweight champion of the world and the No. 1 heavyweight contender to Joe Louis heavyweight title, right here in the Sun City. Thats the same Maxim who went on to beat such notables as Jersey Joe Walcott, Floyd Patterson and Sugar Ray Robinson.

 

El Pasoans were ecstatic. Here was their hometown hero getting the chance of a lifetime. Could they really be seeing a future world champion?

 

Quijano, just a year away from the amateur ranks and still green as a pro, gave it his all before the biggest crowd ever to watch a fight here up to that time but lost a 10-round decision.

 

DOLPH QUIJANO continued boxing and winning but the bubble had burst. Still, he had made his mark and had created excitement like El Paso had never seen before. He became a local legend and his memory will live forever here.

 

Will there ever be another El Pasoan in the heavier divisions like him? David Rodriguez, El Pasos current sensation, is even bigger and just as handsome. Hes undefeated and only 30. Maybe he, too, will get his chance at world-wide fame some day and fare even better.

 

We can hope.

 

 

Veteran sports journalist and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column. Contact him at (915) 584-0626, by e-mail at rayf358@yahoo.com or online at www.raysanchezbooks.com