Transcript: 40. On the Ropes (Carlos Monzón) | Argentina

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Carlos Monzón, the golden son of Argentina, whose life started in the slums of Santa Fe, rose to become one of the country’s jet-set, with money, women and all the trimmings. 

He was given the nickname was Escopeta, or Shotgun. At the height of his boxing career he was the undisputed Middleweight Champion of the world for seven years. A title he defended 14 times. 

This is a quote by respected boxing historian, Ted Spoon:

“Carlos was a beast of a fighter, a bit nasty. He was not one who relied on intimidation, but he was the school bully in there as he swatted his opponents about until they crumbled.”

Sadly, the boxer did not have the ability to keep his aggression inside the ring. On the morning of Valentine’s day in 1988, his rage turned to his wife, Alicia Muñiz. Slender and petite, this former model and actress had no defence against the attack from the former boxing champion. As her body was flung over the railing of a holiday home in Plata del Mar, her young life ended in a tragedy that would shine a spotlight on domestic abuse in Argentina. 

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Carlos Roque Monzón was born into a large family on the 7th of August 1942. They lived in San Javier, Argentina, North of Buenos Aires. He was one of 12 children and they were extremely poor. When he was six years old, his family moved to the city of Santa Fe, where they lived in a rough and dangerous neighbourhood.

Carlos only attended school till the third grade, then he dropped out. He was expected to contribute to the household and made some money as a shoeshiner, a paper boy and later a milk delivery boy. In his teens he also lugged sides of beef in a meat packing plant.

At 16 Carlos married for the first time. The girl was Zulema Encarnacíon Torres and the young couple had a son together. The named him after his father: Carlos Alberto Monzón. Carlos and Zulema soon realised that they were too young to be married and they split up.

Carlos was well known on the streets of Santa Fe. He was forever in brawls and fights. He realised that there was some money to be made in street fighting, for instance, if he won a backstreet ramble gambling match, it would pay about 50 pesos. He eventually looked into amateur boxing and gave it a go. His first official fight was in October 1959 – Carlos was 17 years old. The fight ended in a draw. But Carlos stood his ground, and for someone coming from severe poverty, with no prospects whatsoever, this was already a step up in the food chain.

When he was 19, he was working as a milk delivery man. He met a 15-year-old maid, called Mercedes Beatriz García, or more affectionately known as ‘Pelusa’. Pelusa translates to ‘Fluffy’. She was lively and passionate and the two became friends. They soon realised that they came from similar backgrounds: both had large families and there was little money and a lot of violence going around. 

The couple married in 1962 when Carlos was 20 and Pelusa 16 – a marriage that would last for 15 years. They lived on Pelusa’s family’s property in a mud house built by Carlos’ father. The couple had two children: Silvia Beatriz, Abel Ricardo and they adopted a third child, whom they called Carlos Rául.

Meanwhile, Carlos pursued his hobby as an amateur boxer. He was spotted by coach Amilcar Brusa who saw potential in the tall street fighting man, and the tides started turning in favour of Carlos Monzón. Amilcar was more than a coach to Carlos, he was a father-figure, an older brother, a best friend. When everyone else thought Carlos’s talent was mediocre at best, Amilcar Brusa was the one person who believed in him and encouraged him to push himself further.

Carlos became known in the amateur boxing world and thanks to Amilcar’s ambitions for him and he was invited to fight in Brazil. He won the fight and came home with some prize money for his family. Pelusa was delighted – it still wouldn’t buy them a home, but they could afford some bricks, so they decided to build their own home. Carlos did the bricklaying while Pelusa assisted him. He still worked as a milkman and sold flowers and garlic to support his family, that is when he was not training or fighting.

It took him three years to become a professional boxer. His first professional fight was against Ramon Montenegro on the 6th of February 1963. Carlos was 20 years old. He won the match with a knockout in the second round.

In the next two years, pushed by Amilcar Brusa and the desire to earn more money, Carlos Monzón had 22 fights. Amilcar saw a champion in Carlos and wanted to get the most out of him. The sheer volume of fights was a great way to gain experience inside the ring. 

On 13 September 1966 he won the Argentinian middleweight title, beating the much-respected Jorge Ferdandez. There was a new kid in town and people started paying attention to Carlos Monzón.

This also meant he finally had more steady money coming in than he had before. He was able to quit his odd jobs and focus on his boxing career. His family was still not wealthy by any means, but they could make it work.

Carlos and Pelusa had a strong bond, but their relationship was far from perfect. He was a womaniser and she was jealous. In turn, he was very jealous and possessive of her too. Both of them came from violent homes, so they grew up reacting with aggression. Their fights would often turn physical.

1967 Carlos’ career got a great boost when he won the South American Middleweight title.

Boxing promoter, Juan Carlos ‘Tito’ Lectoura, took Carlos and Amilcar Brusa under his wing and got Carlos onto the international stage by organising fights with all the big American names of the time: Bennie Briscoe, Doug Huntley, Charley Austin, Johnny Brooks, Harold Richardson, Tom Bethea, Eddy Pace and also Brazil’s Manoel Severino. 

On the 7th November 1970, Carlos fought Nino Benvenuti in Rome, challenging him for the world title. Benvenuti was as popular as he was powerful, even in Argentina. The fight was broadcast nationally in Argentina on a Saturday afternoon and everybody was watching. Although they were cheering for Carlos, nobody thought Carlos Monzón had a chance.

But Carlos managed to knock the world champ out in the 12th round, much to his nation’s surprise. Carlos was a steamroller, with relentless drive who went after Benvenuti. After the knockout punch – as Benvenuti dropped down – Carlos simply turned and walked back to his corner, without looking back. He knew Benvenuti was NOT getting up again. It was over.

The whole of Argentina exploded in celebration. Carlos returned home a national hero, with people lining the streets as he was driven through the streets of Buenos Aires. 

At the time, there was growing political instability in Argentina. The left wing used guerrilla groups to topple the military dictatorship and put Peron back in power. Once he was back on top, the situation became even worse. The violence escalated throughout the 70s until the coup d’état in 1976. 

Back in 1970, at the height of Military Dictatorship Argentina, Carlos Monzón brought home the world title. The government used him as the poster boy for propaganda: he was the perfect candidate – handsome, strong, successful – and most importantly: he was native Argentinian.

Nino Benvenuti was humiliated and challenged Carlos Monzón to a rematch. On the 8th of May, 1971 – this time in Monaco, Carlos won in the 3rd round, with Benvenuti’s seconds throwing in the towel. 

Carlos Monzón had made his mark. He was wildly popular in Argentina. He was good looking and ‘smooth’. He knew how to dress well and impress people with his charm. 

But as successful as his career was, his personal life was quite different. In 1973, at the family home in Santa Fe, his wife Pelusa shot him twice: once in the forearm and once in the shoulder. The bullet in his forearm had to be surgically removed, a procedure that took seven hours. The bullet in his shoulder could not be removed and remained in his body for the rest of his life. As a sportsman, whose livelihood was his body, this was a big deal. But Carlos was tough as nails and he was back in the ring after only four months. 

Carlos was not the typical boxer and his style seemed unimpressive. But he was tenacious and relentless. Amilcar Brusa recalled what José Napoles’ trainer, Angelo Dundee had said about Carlos:

“How practical is this guy?! He destroys you little by little.”

Unfortunately, this was also true for his behaviour outside of the ring. There was always violence in his life. He had a couple of short prison stints. One for instigating a riot at a soccer match, and others all for assault, well, fights essentially. In 1967 he punched a photographer at a Christmas party, for instance.

Carlos drank a lot, but he could not really handle his drink. His latent aggression would surface after only a couple of drinks and he would always stir trouble when he was out drinking. He smoked in excess of 15 cigarettes a day, while he was in training too.

In 1974, while he was the reigning world champion, he starred in a film called ‘La Mary’. His performance was rather good, and he was asked to do more movies and TV appearances. Radio shows would interview him all the time. Wherever one looked, you would see or hear Carlos Monzón. 

It was during the filming of ‘La Mary’ that he met the gorgeous actress and model Susana Giménez. She was Argentina’s sweetheart at the time and the chemistry of their on-screen marriage melted off the screen. Pelusa did not want to see the film, she couldn’t bear it. But she had heard rumours about the spark between her husband and his co-star.

It was reported that Pelusa made a comment about Susana at a family dinner and Carlos attacked her. She needed eight stitches to close a cut above her eye.

Pelusa’s instinct about the affair was correct. Carlos and Susana started their very public relationship in 1975. Pelusa saw a magazine cover which read: “The Romance of the Year: Susana Giminéz and Carlos Monzón”. In an interview, many years later, Pelusa would recall how she felt:

“I went home crying. I locked myself up for eight months, depressed, then I made the decision and we separated, and we never became a couple again.”   

Pelusa did not simply walk away, though. She could forgive Carlos for leaving her, but his physical abuse was unacceptable. And it usually happened at family events, when he would drink. He could not control his temper. So before calling it quits on their relationship, Pelusa laid charges against him for domestic abuse. She reported an incident that took place at their son’s birthday party, where Carlos hit her in front of everybody. Carlos was imprisoned for six months.

On his release, he rekindled his relationship with Susana. Carlos travelled with her to various filming locations and the couple flaunted their relationship, even while Carlos was still technically married to Pelusa. At the time – it was not possible to divorce in Argentina. The hot new couple visited Italy, Brazil and many locations in Latin America. Carlos also starred in more movies and TV series and together with Susana, they had the country at their feet.

At first, Susana thought her new boyfriend was sweet and kind, but soon she realised that his aggression was not only reserved for the boxing ring. They had a volatile relationship, a lot of it playing out in the media, because of their fame. Susana was often photographed sporting bruises and tell-tale injuries. Her sunglasses were getting bigger and bigger, hiding black eyes from the ever-present paparazzi. Carlos was renowned for assaulting members of the paparazzi, especially those who accused him of domestic abuse. 

Argentinian people followed pop culture to escape political uncertainty and instability. In 1976 The National Reorganisation Process came into power, arguably the most violent time in Argentinian political history. Operation Condor was established to eradicate any Soviet or socialist influence in Argentina. Right wing death squads would hunt down and kill anyone suspected of being associated with socialism or anyone suspected of having ideas that would oppose policies dictated by Operation Condor.

Most citizens lived in fear but knowing they could follow a real-life soap opera, comforted them in a sense. And perhaps even darker, they followed the story of a man who kept his woman under his hand, someone who held a world title and was able to control everything at a time when the country seemed to be spinning out of control. 

In 1977 Carlos won his fight against Colombian boxer, Rodrigo Valdez, but realised that he was done with the sport. He had to work hard to win that match and felt the time had come to throw the towel in for good. On July 30th 1977 he announced his retirement. Valdez was given the opportunity to have a rematch with Bennie Briscoe from Philadelphia for the world title, which he won in November 1977.

Susana was the one who put pressure on Carlos to end his boxing career, as she did not like to see him fight. She also hoped that if he stepped out of the ring for good and focussed on his acting career, that he would become less violent. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. By 1978, Susana had had enough, and she left him.

Carlos was single and had a sterling boxing career under his belt. In the end, he had 87-3-9. That is 87 wins, 3 losses, 9 draws. Of his 87 wins, 59 were knockouts.  

After he retired from boxing, he was still able to live comfortably. He owned several properties all over Argentina, he owned a car dealership and of course, he had built up a significant career as a film star at that point, with a total of nine feature films behind his name and a couple of appearances in TV series.

Carlos did fall out of the limelight and social pages for a short while, that is, until he started a relationship with another talented and vibrant actress from Uruguay, called Alicia Muñiz, in 1979. 

Alba Alicia Muñiz Calatayd was born in Montevideo in August 1955. When she was very young, her family relocated to neighbouring Argentina. The blonde girl with the striking smile was naturally beautiful and to make most of her talents, she studied modelling. She had a short but successful career as a model, a vendette (which is a female lead in a cabaret show) and a film actress.


Alicia met Carlos Monzón when she was 23 and he was 36. They were introduced by mutual friends, who hosted a lunch party at the time of the Soccer World Cup. For Carlos it was love at first sight, some people remembered seeing him staring at Alicia, completely love struck. The next day he visited her at the beauty salon where she worked as a hairdresser and before long, they made their relationship public.

Because Carlos was still legally married to Pelusa, the couple could not get married in Argentina. However, in 1981 they eloped to Miami and said their vows. Their son, Maximiliano Roque was born a couple of months later.

It didn’t take long before Carlos showed his true colours and his violent behaviour started up. Alicia did not want to be the ex-boxer’s punching bag, so she left him in 1984. But somehow, they always got back together again. In the space of six years, there were four separations.

By 1987, Alicia was determined to move on and focus on her career. She returned to modelling and was excited about the future. She still saw Carlos, as he spent time with Maximiliano, and sometimes the relationship flared up briefly, but Alicia would always put an end to it. In January 1988, Carlos made the resolution to fix things between them and win her back for good.

In February 1988, Alicia was living in Uruguay at the time and had allowed Maximiliano to spend some time with his father in Argentina. Carlos took Maximiliano on vacation to the holiday town of Mar del Plata. They stayed in a luxury home, which was rented by a wealthy actor-friend in the La Florida neighbourhood. Alicia heard rumours of wild parties being hosted at the holiday home and decided it was time to take their son home. 

She arrived on the morning of Sunday 13 February and Carlos and Maximiliano waited for her at the airport. That afternoon the couple reconciled once again and made love. Alicia agreed to accompany Carlos to a night out with some friends.

The evening kicked off with the birthday party of one of their friends. At the party, the couple announced their reconciliation. With the general vibe of celebration, the group went out to Club Peñarol, a casino in the town of Mar del Plata. There was a lot of drinking: beer, champagne and wine. They also did cocaine. The big night out lasted until the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning. On Alicia’s insistence, her and Carlos took a taxi home, as they were in no condition to drive home safely.

The argument started in the taxi when Alicia told him she wanted to take Maximiliano to Uruguay. Carlos exploded, he thought they had made up, why did she change her mind? The argument that followed was so hefty, that the taxi driver threatened to kick them out of the cab. The taxi driver did not sense any danger, however, he simply felt that they were two lovers having a disagreement.

When they arrived back at the house on Pedro Sanz Street at Barrio La Florida, it was almost dawn. The argument continued. Later, blood evidence around the perimeter of the house, indicated that the assault on Alicia had begun as the couple were making their way back to their room. Their son, Maximiliano, was sleeping in the room next to theirs, only a couple of yards away. 

The argument then turned to money. Alicia felt that Carlos was tight fisted when it came to her monthly allowance for Maximiliano. The investigation would later conclude that, at this point, Carlos lost it. The beast inside of him took over as he grabbed Alicia by the neck, picked her up, leaving her dangling from his burly arm until she was unconscious.

A peddler happened to be passing by the house and witnessed the incident as the couple argued outside on the balcony and Carlos lifted Alicia up. The peddler said:

"Monzón threw the lady from the balcony as if she were a bag of potatoes."

Then Carlos jumped after her. Her body broke his fall and he only injured his shoulder and some ribs. One can wonder why he jumped, but the general thought is that he did this to support his story that he tried to save her.

Then events took a strange turn. Years later, it came out that police were only called two hours after Alicia’s body was thrown from the balcony. Those two hours were used to clean the room and bathroom where most of the attack occurred. There was also a famous theatrical person present at the holiday home, sleeping with a well-known star, so they were told to leave before the press came and exposed their affair. Other guests were tasked with removing all drugs from the house, as well as any video evidence of the wild parties and sexual indiscretions. The clothes Alicia wore the night before were also never found.

All the while, Alicia’s body lay on the veranda, untouched. She was naked, except for pantyhose. She lay face down, with her right leg bent at the knee, the heel of her foot touching her upper thigh.

When police came, they waited patiently as paramedics treated Carlos’ injuries. Once he was ready, he told him his version of events. Initially he said that Alicia had ended her own life. He maintained his innocence by saying:

“I don’t remember many things: I don’t remember how I woke up and not six, or five minutes before or the second when I was on the ground with Alicia beside me. Nothing.”

However, the investigation proved that she had been strangled before he threw her off the balcony. Strangulation marks around her neck told a different story. She was unconscious at the time of the fall. 

The image of her bare body, lying face down was on the cover of many newspapers and magazines. As paparazzi and other media arrived more or less at the same time as the police. There is video footage of first responders examining Alicia’s body and turning it over, confirming that she had passed. 

Alicia was buried on the 17th of February in the Pantheon of Actors of Chacarita Cemetery. She was only 32 years old when she died, and her little boy Maximiliano only six.

It made international news that the former World Middleweight Champion was arrested for his wife’s murder. It was never once speculated that it was an accident, although he insisted that it was. He definitively denied hitting her, by making this chilling statement:

"I saw her as if she were in a fog, as if it were all slow-motion… I've knocked out lots of big men… If I had hit her, she wouldn't have gotten up.”

Alicia DID NOT get up. Carlos Monzón hit her with his destructive power, that is why she never got up.

The trial was held in the city of Mar del Plata, where the death had occurred. On the 26th of June 1989, Carlos Monzón was charged with killing his wife on the morning of February 14th.  The whole country followed the trial, listening to the live national broadcast, like in the days of his boxing matches, all eyes were on Carlos Monzón, once again.

The autopsy found that Alicia’s body had multiple fractures to the skull, she had a lesion on her right elbow, and a fractured kneecap. All injuries that were caused by the fall from the balcony.

But the Muñiz family was not satisfied with the result and insisted on a second opinion. The second post-mortem examination found that Alicia had already suffered trauma before she was flung over the balcony railing. He thyroid cartilage and her tongue bone (or hyoid bone) were both fractured. The impact after the fall caused skull fracture. Signs of violence showed that Alicia was unconscious before she hit the ground.

Carlos never changed his plea, he kept saying that it was an accident. But his past came back to haunt him in court, as his history of violence against women was taken into account. His ex-girlfriend Susana Giménez testified against him, speaking out about her relationship with Carlos for the first time.

Susana concluded her testimony by saying:

“For me Carlos Monzón was a force of passion. He gave way to love, but I had to set him free to NOT end up like Alicia Muñiz " 

In a sense, Alicia also testified on her own behalf. Over time she had filed reports of abuse with police, stating that Carlos was extremely jealous and often humiliated her. She separated from him more than once, but as is the case with many victims of domestic abuse, she always went back to him.

Carlos spoke about Alicia Muñiz with emotion and perceived sincerity: 

"She was something incredible to me, no other woman can mark my heart with fire like she did during the years we were together, but all this, now, is history."

Carlos faced a female judge, who incidentally had the same name as the victim. Judge Alicia Ramon Fondeville saw through all of Carlos’ stories and plainly commanded him:

"Alicia, you hit her, Monzón, tell the truth."

A three-person tribunal found Carlos Monzón guilty and sentenced him to 11 years in jail. In Argentina, the maximum penalty for murder is 25 years, so Carlos got off lightly. Alicia’s family was understandably upset about this lenient sentence. 

After sentencing, a mob of more than a hundred boxing fans attacked the Muñiz family’s lawyer, throwing objects at him and beating him. Carlos could clearly do nothing wrong in their eyes, he could even get away with murder.

Maximiliano was given to the care of Alicia’s parents and did not only lose his mother, but also his father. 

Carlos Monzón appealed his conviction but was not successful. He received many high-profile visitors in prison, and it is said that he had preferential treatment. The names on his visitor’s list included actors like the French Alain Delon and American Mickey Rourke.

Carlos invited interviews and would speak frankly to the media. One quote in particular showed his lack of remorse and the fact that there was no shame in domestic violence for him. He said:

“I beat all my women, except one, and nothing ever happened to any of them.”

The one woman who was the only exception was later revealed to be his mother.

Because of the major publicity of this case and trial, a spotlight was shone on gender violence in Argentina. The term ‘femicide’ emerged in Argentine law for the first time. The movement showed solidarity to female victims of domestic abuse. The driving force behind the concept was a woman called Diana Russell. She explained femicide to be:

"…the murder of women by men motivated by hatred, contempt, pleasure or a sense of possession towards women."

Eventually Carlos Monzón took some responsibility for his deeds. It is still not a complete confession or a request for forgiveness from Alicia’s family or their son. But he admitted that he had caused her death. He said:

“Me and my bad temper are the ones responsible for this… Yes, me and my bad temper.”

During his time in prison he turned to religion and friends said he became a broken man.

In January 1995, he was given permission to go on short release from prison. He spent the weekend with his family in Santa Fe. While he was there, he also gave a boxing lesson at a local club and more than a hundred children showed up. 

On his way back to prison, he rolled his car. Carlos, who was 52 years old and his passenger, Geronimo Domingo Mottura, died at the scene. The third passenger, Carlos’ sister-in-law, Alicia Guadalupe Fessia survived with injuries. Carlos had served most of his sentence, but he would never be free.

Thousands of people attended his funeral. And despite killing his wife, he received a hero’s burial, because of his success in the boxing ring. His tragic death seemed to have erased his sins.

In 1990, Carlos Monzón was inducted in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Ring Magazine, in 2002, ranked him 11th greatest fighter of the last 80 years AND the best middleweight title holder of the last 50 years in 2011.

Mike Tyson idolised Monzón as a boxer. Tyson felt that if Monzón ever moved to America, he would have had more international exposure and high dollar fights. But he understood that Carlos Monzón loved his country and his country loved him, there was no way he would ever leave Argentina. And he was well known all over the world, as he was truly a great boxer. Tyson once said in an interview: 

“I always loved Carlos Monzón. He was a tough guy, really, a guy from the street. He did not talk much, he did not have to. The ring was his thing.”

Carlos was the ultimate rags to riches story in Argentina. A man who never really went to school, lived in poverty and learnt how to fight on the streets. In the 70s he was one of the most recognisable faces in the country. But despite fame and fortune, he could not shake the violence and aggression that defined him.  

The ups and downs of his troubled life was immortalised in singer Leon Giego’s song “Puño Loco” or “Crazy Fist”.

Susana Giminéz is still a beloved TV personality in Argentina and hosts her own talk show. In August 2005, she publicly apologised to Pelusa for having an affair with her husband and begged for her forgiveness. 

“Sorry Pelusa, I never meant to make you suffer.”

Pelusa reacted by saying:

"I have a special affection for her, Susana asked me to forgive her publicly, and that is not done by anyone, that was good because I closed a chapter of my life and she did too.”


Pelusa dedicated her life to helping victims of gender violence and people with substance abuse problems.

As a grown man, Carlos and Alicia’s son, Maximiliano has sporadic contact with Pelusa and his half-siblings. In his 20s he battled drug and alcohol addiction, but with the help of family and friends, he managed to get clean. Fortunately he cannot recall anything regarding the events at Mar del Plata on February 14th 1988. 

It is essential to note that the women in this tragic story are the real heroes. They show remorse, forgiveness and grace. Pelusa also noted that Carlos was her best friend and that he was a good father to his children. Despite all the ups and downs, she was still able to forgive him. 

Perhaps if law enforcement weren’t blinded by the glimmer of the World Championship belt surrounding Carlos Monzón’s legacy, they would have listened when Pelusa reported him for domestic abuse. They could have punished him more severely for assaulting a member of the media. Perhaps if he had longer prison sentences with harsher circumstances, he would have thought twice before using his power punches to vent his anger.

Despite being a wife-beating murderer, he is still revered in Argentina to this day. At the waterfront in Santa Fe is a statue of their favourite son, the one and only, Carlos Roque Monzón. The statue, referred to as the “Costanera” is a figure of Monzón with his hands raised, proudly holding the World Middleweight Championship belt. 

Alicia Muñiz was not so lucky to be immortalised by a statue. Sadly, the only monument marking her all-too-short life, is her tombstone… 

If you are the victim of domestic abuse or if you know someone who is, there are organisations that can and will help. Search for the national domestic violence hotline in your area online or find the numbers in this episode’s show notes. These services are discreet and take measures to ensure the privacy and safety of women who report abuse.

If you’d like to read more about this case, have a look at the resources used for this episode in the show notes. 

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