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"Kid" Akeem vs "Pikin" Quiroga

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By Ted Sares

This is about "Kid" Akeem Anifowoshe ( 23-W's, 1-L 18 ko's) and Robert "Pikin" Quiroga ((20 -W's 2- L's, 11 ko's ), two fighters who gave their all on June 15, 1991. They battled for 12 ferocious rounds for the IBF Super Flyweight Title in an ebb and flow savagery that not only was named the “Ring Magazine” Fight of the Year for 1991 but was one of the best fights ever in the super flyweight division. The 12 brutal rounds landed both fighters in the hospital, and was as close to the edge as two fighters can get. It brought to mind the Laverne Roach-Georgie Small war in 1950 and the Nigel Benn- Gerald McClellan battle in 1995 (as a telling aside, Roach had been knocked down 7 time in a loss to the great Marcel Cerdan two years earlier). The hard blows were traded on an even basis and snapped heads back in a way that today's fights would be quickly stopped. First one would take control; then the other. Pure back and forth action that marked the give-and-take courage of each fighter. The crowd rose after each round and roared its approval. They sensed they were witnessing something special.

They fought to a bloody standstill with Quiroga getting what some ring side observers called a "hometown" decision. Indeed, some say he really did not beat Akeem, a much taller and more skilled fighter, but Quiroga imposed his will on the Kid using a straight-ahead style and vicious left hooks to counter the Kid's slick boxing skills, superior height and mind numbing leads. Both had great chins and, therefore, both took an enormous amount of punishment. While extremely close, I thought the undefeated Kid had won by a hair, but a draw would have been more than fair. I also thought he had paid too much of a price. Unfortunately, I was later proven to be right.

But this was far more than simply a great fight. Kid Akeem collapsed in the ring shortly after the end of the fight with a Severe blood clot that developed in his brain during the fight. As they carried him out of the arena on a stretcher, his wife Sharon following, a number of Quiroga fans, reflecting the much darker side of the sport, chanted: "D.O.A... D.O.A",.......Dead On Arrival. They almost got their wish, but the Kid survived and was even visited in the hospital by the very decent "Pikin" who brought a vase of flowers. The Kid checked out of Baptist Medical Center in San Antonio and returned to his home in Las Vegas, but he left against the advice of his doctor and appeared tired and had to be helped from his hospital bed to a wheelchair. His surgeon, Dr. Gerardo Zavala, was upset over his "premature" departure. "I wanted him to stay at least until they found a doctor in Las Vegas," he said. The doctor felt Anifowoshe still had some brain swelling and needed more tests in the next two weeks "to allow us to tell how the brain is working or if there is some tissue scarring that could cause problems in the future."

Unfortunately, this epic battle did end Kid Akeem’s title dreams........and his promising career as a super flyweight just as he was reaching the peak of his that recalled memories of Nigerian warriors Hogan Bassey and **** Tiger. One can only speculate as to how great "Kid" Akeem Anfowoshe would have turned out. He never fought again, was later deported to Nigeria apparently for drug offences and died just three and a half years later in his home country after collapsing in a shower. There are conflicting reports as to the exact cause of his death though complications from injuries suffered in the Quiroga fight seem likely to have contributed to it. There are other, darker rumors surrounding his death, but since I could not corroborate them, I would just as soon not mention them. They might diminish the memory I had of watching this proud black warrior from the Lagos ghetto of Mushin, Nigeria, Africa present an almost majestic, royal presence in the ring; I was fortunate enough to see him fight on more than one occasion in Las Vegas.

"Pikin"(which means little hot pepper) Quiroga, of San Antonio, Texas began his professional career in 1987 at the age of 17, and would go undefeated in his first 20 bouts. He captured the world title on April 21, 1990 by beating Juan Polo-Perez by decision in England, and went on to successfully defend it five times before losing it Julio Cesar Borboa in 1993. After losing his title, he sat out for almost two years before returning and dropping an eight round decision to Ancee Gedeon, but he will always be remembered for his fight against Kid Akeem Anifowoshe in 1991 at HemisFair Arena. He also was one of the few who knew when to walk away and at that point decided enough was enough. He retired at age 25, an age when most fighters are just reaching their peak, and remarkably kept his word and never fought again. But he clearly was never the same after the Anifowoshe fight.

He found satisfaction in his post-fight career first by counseling troubled youths, bringing an authenticity to the job because of his own early brushes with the law, albeit for minor offenses. "He was great," said Dr. Antonio Ramirez, Quiroga's supervisor for two of the 10 years Quiroga worked for the Center for Health Care Services. "Everybody talks about the boxing, but he did a great job with the kids from his neighborhood." Amazingly, Ramirez said Quiroga was so humble that it took months working together before he found out Quiroga had been a World boxing champion. "I was so impressed because he could have been bragging," Because of the low pay in the public health field and with a 2-year-old daughter to go along with an 18-year-old from a previous marriage, Quiroga took advantage of an offer to sell cars for auto baron B.J. "Red" McCombs. He excelled there as well, becoming a top seller with his infectious personality that allowed him to befriend everybody from doctors and lawyers, to insurance agents and bikers as friends," said Felix Medrano. "Blue collar, white collar, upper class or lower class, it didn't matter to him."

Pikin simply had a wonderful and charismatic personality and was a great fan favorite, particulalrly in San Antonio (he was that boxing crazy city's first World Champion). Not unkike many other fearless fighters, he was so very gentle, friendly and humble and would always have time for each and every fan. In the ring, however, he was the quintessential Mexican warrior and there is no greater boxing accolade than that. Sadly, his legacy also would be marred.

On August 17 2004 , Robert "Pikin" Quiroga was ambushed and stabbed multiple times in his hometown. After police responded to the scene, Quiroga passed away on the way to the hospital. He was 34. A passer-by on terstate 10 had flagged down an officer who found Quiroga lying next to his car. A short time later, Ricky "Scarface" Merla, a former member of the Bandido's motorcycle club, was arrested by police in connection with Quiroga's death. Then, in August 2005 and after a quick round of negotiations, it was agreed that Merla woulkd serve a prison sentence of 40 years. Parole would be possible after 20 years, when Merla would be nearly 60.

So there you have it. The tale of two brave men who had a combined total of just 46 bouts. On a hot summer night in 1991, they both went close to the edge in a fight that defined their respective careers and that is the legacy I attribute to them. Two warriors who chose to do it their way. They let it all hang out. One made it; the other did not. Tragedy would later take them both, but hopefully they are together again.

"Boxing is a celebration of the lost religion of masculinity all the more trenchant for its being lost." Joyce Carol Oates

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