Born on December 27, 1957, in Santo Tomás de los Plátanos, Mexico, José "Pipino" Cuevas began his professional boxing career a month before turning 14. He became the WBA welterweight champion at age 18, and successfully defended his title 11 times before losing to Thomas Hearns in 1980. After retiring from the sport in 1989, Cuevas was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2002.
José Isidro "Pipino" Cuevas González was born on December 27, 1957, in Santo Tomás de los Plátanos, Mexico. One of 11 children, he learned to fend for himself in a tough neighborhood, shining shoes and working with his father, a butcher, for extra change. Cuevas eventually found his way to a gym to develop the skills he had picked up as a raw but promising street fighter.
José Cuevas made his professional boxing debut on November 11, 1971, more than a month before his 14th birthday, and lost in a second-round knockout. But the youngster known as "Pipino" continued to press forward, developing an aggressive style and a deadly left hook. He fought 11 more times before turning 16, losing four by decision and winning seven by knockout. At the age of 17, Cuevas scored a 10th-round knockout against Jose Palacios to win the Mexican welterweight title
Fighting in the United States for the first time, Cuevas lost a decision to Andy Price at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, California, on June 2, 1976. However, the loss came with a silver lining, as it led World Boxing Association champion Ángel Espada to believe that Cuevas would be an easy opponent. Their bout in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on July 17, 1976, ended with a second-round knockout for Cuevas, making him the youngest welterweight champion in history.
Cuevas successfully defended his title 11 times, but his reign as champion came to an end against Hall of Famer Thomas "Hitman" Hearns on August 2, 1980. Backed by his hometown crowd at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Hearns kept the aggressive Cuevas at bay with his longer reach before blasting his way to a knockout in the second round.
The match seemingly marked a turning point Cuevas's career, as he quickly fell from the ranks of the boxing elite. He suffered a surprising loss to Roger Stafford on November 7, 1981, followed by a fourth-round knockout at the hands of an aging but still formidable Roberto Durán on January 29, 1983.
After briefly retiring in the late 1980s, Cuevas returned for three fights in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1989. He retired for good after the third ended with a second-round knockout by Luis Aquino, finishing with a career record of 35-15, including 31 knockouts.
Pipino Cuevas turned his focus to business after leaving the ring, becoming the owner of a restaurant and a security company in Mexico City.
The former champion was recognized for his impact on the sport with his induction to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2002. Meanwhile, son Jose Jr., also known as Pipino Jr., carried on the family name and legacy by following his father's footsteps into a professional boxing career.
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