By Jim Amato
He turned professional in 1970, fighting in the clubs of New England, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. In his eighth pro contest he was trading shots with a fella named Edwin Viruet. He suffered his first pro defeat that night. No shame in that. Nor would there be any shame in his next setback two fights later to crafty Diego Alcala.
He reeled off three wins and then lost again to world rated Miguel Montilla but he was now fighting out of his home base of Puerto Rico. Five weeks later he lost a decision to Gino Febus. Three months after his loss to Febus he halted Montilla in a rematch. Five weeks later he stopped the highly respected Frankie Otero in five rounds.
Alfredo Escalera was on his way. Over the next few years the wins began to pile up. Jose Luis Lopez, Antonio Amaya, Sigfredo Rodriguez, Carlos Mendoza, Ricardo Arredondo and Oscar Pitton were victims. Then came a stunning KO loss to Mario Roman to end 1974.
Two months later Alfredo bounced back to halt Roman. He then drew with the talented Francisco Villegas. It was then off to Japan for a long waited for shot at the world’s crown. He would meet the W.B.C. claimant Kuniaki Shibata, a pretty darn good fighter !
On July 5th, 1975 Alfredo began a very solid reign as a world champion by flattening Shibata in two rounds.For two and a half years Alfredo was to remain a champion and put together a rather impressive resume for Hall Of Fame status. During this time as champion Alfredo took on all comers. He drew with tough Lionel Hernandez. He beat Gaetan Hart, Sven-Erik Paulsen, Jose Fernandez twice, Buzzsaw Yamabe twice and the dangerous Ray Lunny.
He then won a highly controversial verdict over the extremely talented Tyrone Everett. He then halted Ronnie McGarvey and Carlos Becerril. He then came from behind to squeak by Sigfredo Rodriguez.
On January 28th in Puerto Rico, Alfredo was to meet the legendary Alexis Arguello. In a memorable war, a bloodbath, Arguello captured Alfredo’s title in thirteen action packed rounds. Alfredo would receive a chance to regain the crown but would again lose to Alexis in another no holds barred bout. Alfredo would remain a formidible contender for a few years but eventually fade from scene. Still he should be recognized as one of the top fighters of the era.
A few years back in 1998 I believe, I ran into Arguello up in Canastota, N.Y. I point blank asked him if he felt Escalera should be enshrined ? The look in his eye upon his response told me what I wanted to hear. You could see and hear that Alexis had the utmost respect for his former foe. The answer from Alexis was YES. Alfredo Escalera deserves to be in the Hall Of Fame. That was good enough for me.