WHEN KID Gavilan, born Gerardo Gonzalez, returned to the United States for good in 1947, he escaped Fidel Castro's revolution and the eventual rise of communism. His move to American was Cuba's loss but boxing's gain.
Gavilan, known as the Cuban Hawk, emerged as a top fighter after twice beating lightweight champion Ike Williams in non-title bouts. He challenged for the welterweight crown in 1949, but the mighty champion Sugar Ray Robinson emerged victorious. The loss did not stop Gavilan's quest for the crown. He wound up beating Rocky Castellani, Beau Jack, Tony Janiro, Joe Miceli and split two fights against Billy Graham.
In 1951, Robinson moved to middleweight and Johnny Bratton captured the welterweight throne. His first defense came against Gavilan in May of 1951. Gavilan decisioned Bratton and became champion.
Gavilan was an exciting and popular fighter. His title defense against Gil Turner, drew a gate of $269,667, a welterweight record at the time. He made seven successful title defenses until losing the crown to Johnny Saxton in one of the worst decisions in boxing history. After the Saxton fight, 20 of the 22 ringside reporters felt Gavilan was the winner.
Gavilan is the man credited with inventing the bolo punch. He said the punch, which was half hook and half uppercut, was developed by years spent cutting sugar cane with a machete in his native Cuba.
Born: Jan. 6, 1926
Died: Feb. 13, 2003