The Cuban Hawk
Born Gerardo Gonzalez on January 6, 1926 in Camaguey, Cuba, little of his childhood is known. The fact that he worked on a sugar cane plantation isn't surprising, but somehow he began competing in amateur bouts at the age of 12. He was named after a Cuban cafe owner known as El Gavilan ("The Hawk") and was brought to the US by a team of boxing managers in 1946.
Kid Gavilan gained much popularity because he appeared in the early days of televised boxing, as I remember, usually appearing on the "Friday Night Fights." His fighting style included his infamous "bolo punch", which was, basically, a looping right uppercut, but delivered with awesome power, and developed, Gavilan claimed, "by years of cutting sugar cane with a machete in his native Cuba." He fought and lost to Sugar Ray Robinson for the welterweight crown in 1949, but eventually claimed the title after beating the then champion, Johnny Bratton in 1951. He held the welterweight title until October of 1954, when he lost it to Johnny Saxton, in one of the most disputed decisions in boxing history (20 of the 22 reporters present felt Gavilan won). He continued his pugilist career until 1958, when he retired with a record of 107 wins and 30 losses. He was never knocked out. Gavilan was elected to the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990, along with Sugar Ray Robinson and Jack Dempsey. Not bad company.
In 2001, Kid Gavilan made one of his final appearances at the Mahi Temple Shrine Auditorium in Miami, Florida. Speaking of his long career, Gavilan said, "There were times when things were difficult, but I have faith in God. I talk to him everyday and that has helped me win my battles." On February 13, 2003, the final bell rang. Kid Gavilan died of a heart attack in Miami. He was 77.