Billy Backus ducks under a driving right from welterweight champion Jose Napoles in the third round of their fight in 1970. (AP)

José Nápoles, a Cuban-born Mexican boxer who was a two-time welterweight world champion, died Aug. 16 at his home in Mexico City. He was 79.

The World Boxing Council announced the death. Mr. Nápoles reportedly suffered from diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease in recent years.

Mr. Nápoles, who was inducted in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990 and was named by the Associated Press the fourth-greatest welterweight of the 20th century, began his professional career in his native Cuba in 1958.

In 1962, after Cuban leader Fidel Castro banned boxing in the country, Mr. Nápoles moved to Mexico City and continued his boxing career, moving up in weight class from featherweight to lightweight to welterweight (a maximum of 147 pounds). He was nicknamed “Mantequilla,” or butter, in reference to his smoothness in the ring. His trainer was Angelo Dundee, renowned for training Muhammad Ali and other champions.

On April 18, 1969, in a bout in Inglewood, Calif., he won a technical knockout over Curtis Cokes after 13 rounds to become the welterweight champion. He was granted Mexican citizenship a day after that by President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz.

Two months later, Mr. Nápoles defeated Cokes in a rematch and then later won a unanimous decision over former champion Emile Griffith. Mr. Nápoles lost his title in December 1970 to U.S. boxer Billy Backus, when the fight was stopped in fourth round because of bleeding.


Napoles waves a hat in the air as he is hoisted onto the shoulders of fans in Los Angeles after beating Curtis Cokes in 1969. (AP)

In June 1971, Mr. Nápoles recaptured the crown, winning by TKO. He defended his title 10 times before losing in 1975 to British boxer John H. Stracey in a sixth-round TKO in Mexico City. Mr. Nápoles then retired.

Jose Ángel Nápoles was born April 13, 1940, in Santiago de Cuba. In 1974, he moved up to the middleweight division to challenge champion Carlos Monzón but lost. He retired with a record of 81-7.

Information about survivors was not available.