By: Ken Hissner
In the country of Spain besides boxing, bull fighting and soccer there is a sport called Rock-Lifting. Jose Manuel “El Tigre de Cestona” Urtain not only won the EBU Heavyweight Champion but was the Rock-Lifting Champion in Spain.
Rock-lifting from the age of 14 to 25 Urtain once lifted a 220 lb. rock over his head with one arm and a 400 lb. rock with two arms over his head. In 1971 when Muhammad Ali was in Spain to fight an exhibition with Gregorio Peralta, Urtain entered the ring and lifted Ali over his head.
As a boxer Urtain made the cover of The Ring Magazine, and Nat Fleischer the editor of the Ring said, “No man who ever held the world heavyweight title cold match Urtain’s feats of strength.”
With only three amateur bouts, all knockouts, including one in seventeen seconds over Tony Rodri, Urtain turned professional in December of 1968 and would go onto win his first twenty-eight fights all by stoppage except one by decision and one by DQ. In his twenty-fifth fight he won the European Heavyweight Title knocking out German southpaw Peter Weiland, 23-4-2, for his title in seven rounds in April of 1970 in Barcelona, SP, in front of 13,000 fans.
After scoring a pair of knockouts the following month Urtain made his first defense defeating German Champion Juergen Blin, 20-7, over 15 rounds gaining Ring’s “Fighter of the Month”. In his next fight he lost for the first time due to a low blow by DQ to Italy’s Alfredo Vogrig, 31-17-4. Three knockout wins later he lost his EBU Title to Henry Cooper, 39-13-1, by technical stoppage in seven, in London, UK.
Four wins later Urtain drew with the Spanish Champion Mario Echevarria, 46-51-7. In his next bout he was stopped by Argentina’s Gregorio “Gora” Peralta, 84-7, in eight rounds. In his next fight he stopped British and Commonwealth Champion Jack Bodell, 58-11, in two rounds.
In 1972 Urtain would lose to Puerto Rico’s Jose Roman, 39-7-1, by decision in San Juan, PR, and draw with Roman in 1974 in SP. Also in 1972 after the first Roman fight he lost his EBU Title to Blin in their rematch over fifteen rounds. In 1975 some seven years after losing his first fight to Vogrig he knocked out Vogrig, 37-18-4, in two rounds.
Urtain would later post wins over former Light Heavyweight Champion Vicente “El Muchachote de Barlovento” Rondon, 36-8-1, of VZ, Jan Lubers, 28-5-2, of the Netherlands, Italy’s Dante Cane, 40-12-5, and UK’s Richard Dunn, 26-8. His career ended in March of 1977 in an attempt to regain the EBU Title, finishing up at 53-11-4 (38).
The government of Spain was reportedly willingly to pay “Smokin” Joe Frazier over one million dollars to defend his title against Urtain in Spain. He may not have lifted Frazier’s title from him but I bet he could have lifted Frazier over his head!