Former welterweight champion Kid Gavilan, one of the first members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, has died. He was 77.
Gavilan died Thursday of a heart attack at a Miami hospital, said Rebekah Navarro, owner of the assisted-living facility where the boxer lived the past four years.
Born Gerardo Gonzalez in Camaguey, Cuba, on Jan. 6, 1926, Gavilan became a star and television regular in multiple fights against Ike Williams and Sugar Ray Robinson. One of the most popular fighters in the 1940s and 50s, he had a 15-year professional career beginning in 1943, compiling a record of 107 wins, 30 defeats and six draws with 28 knockouts.
Gavilan won the vacant welterweight title by outpointing Johnny Bratton in 1951 in New York, and he defended it seven times before losing it on points to Johnny Saxton three years later in Philadelphia. One of his successful defenses came against Bobby Dykes at Miami Stadium in 1952 -- the first title bout between black and white fighters in then-segregated Miami.
Before his title loss to Saxton, Gavilan challenged Carl "Bobo" Olson for the middleweight title and lost a 15-round decision in 1954 in Chicago.
Gavilan started boxing at age 10 and had 60 amateur bouts before turning pro at 17. Considered a hero in pre-Castro Cuba, he defected to the United States in 1968.
Known for his slick defense and timely combinations, Gavilan often displayed his signature bolo punch, with the sweeping punch beginning like a softball pitcher's windup and ending in an uppercut.
Gavilan was a showman, often doing a little dance during his fights -- the Ali Shuffle before Muhammad Ali.
He was a member of the inaugural class of the Hall of Fame in 1990, inducted with Robinson and Jack Dempsey.
In one of his welterweight title defenses he won an unpopular decision over New Yorker Billy Graham that caused a brawl at Madison Square Garden. Gavilan then scored a clear-cut decision over Graham in Havana.