Nicolino Locche

'Untouchable' boxer
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The Independent Online

Nicolino Locche, boxer: born Tunuyán, Argentina 2 September 1939; married (one son, two daughters); died Mendoza, Argentina 7 September 2005.

Nicolino Locche, the former world junior welterweight champion from Argentina, was widely considered one of the best defensive boxers of all time. That won him the nicknames of "el intocable" - "The Untouchable" - and "Chaplin", because of his quick feet. He was also known as one of the first great showmen of the ring, mocking opponents by dancing around with his guard down, and chatting to ringside reporters during the fight. As a result of a heavy smoking habit, believed by doctors to have hastened his death, he was often known to puff on a cigarette, shielded by his trainer's towel, in between rounds.

Locche was born in Tunuyán, in Argentina's wine-growing Mendoza province, in 1939. After racing through the amateur ranks, losing only five of 122 fights, he turned professional in 1958. His greatest moment was winning the world junior welterweight title (for weights up to 140 pounds) in Tokyo on 12 December 1968, defeating the holder, Paul Fujii of Hawaii, in a technical knock-out. Asked by a reporter how he felt after the fight, he lit a cigarette and replied: "What fight?"

He retained the title five times, all in front of worshipping fans in the Luna Park arena in Buenos Aires, before succumbing on points to Alfonso "Peppermint" Frazer of Panama in Panama City on 10 March 1972. When he retired in 1976, his career professional record was 117 wins, four defeats and 14 split decisions. Even after the troubled middleweight Carlos Monzón had become Argentina's most famous boxer around the world, Locche remained the most popular with his countrymen.

He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, along with George Foreman, as part of the class of 2003. At the ceremony, the legendary trainer Angelo Dundee said: "I had the pleasure of watching Nicolino operate. He was slick, smart and played the ropes. He was like Willie Pep, meaning he could stand in one spot and you wouldn't be able to hit him. He was a very smart fighter."

Locche suffered badly from lung problems as he continued to smoke, and had a triple heart by-pass operation in 1994. Only a week before he died, the World Boxing Association finally presented him with the junior welterweight title belt he had won in Tokyo in 1968 but which had disappeared and had never been handed over. In his home in the Compuertos district of the city of Mendoza, a WBA envoy read a letter from the association's president, Gilberto Mendoza:

For us, it's an honour to present you with this belt, which you won brilliantly. You are not only one of the great idols of Argentinian boxing, but one of the great champions in the history of world boxing. Accept our recognition through this belt. The king is not the king until he's crowned.

Phil Davison

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