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Family, friends remember Odessa boxing legend and his devastating right hook

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Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 11:04 PM CDT
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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) - Odessa lost one of its sports legends earlier this week when champion boxer Ruben Muñoz Jr. died at age 63.

“Once in a while, once in a moon, there’s a guy that’s born with something, and he was born to be a fighter,” said Muñoz’s trainer Joe Joven.

In West Texas boxing lore, few names pack a punch like Muñoz.

And even if announcers in Atlantic City couldn’t pronounce his name correctly, they wouldn’t forget his devastating right hook.

“Ruben was the hardest hitting lightweight in the entire world,” said friend and Odessa Mayor Javier Joven, Joe’s son. “He was ranked worldwide.”

But a decade before Atlantic City, the swing that won Muñoz the USBA Light Title was molded and crafted in Odessa.

Boxing was in Muñoz’s blood. Following his father’s footsteps, Muñoz started boxing at age eight at the Boys and Girls Club of Odessa, where he met Joe.

“Right away, I saw what he could do,” Joe Joven said. “And I knew then that this was a diamond, but it just needs some cutting and straightening out.”

It wasn’t hard to get Muñoz straightened out. He worked hard, winning two Texas Gold Glove titles before turning pro at age 21.

He got his shot against Art Frias in Atlantic City for the USBA Light Title three years later. Muñoz won by TKO in the 5th round.

But throughout that rise, Muñoz never forgot his hometown.

“When you hear, ‘Odessa, Texas,’ we were all there,” Javier Joven said. We were all in the ring there. Let me tell you, it was special. We felt a lot of pride, and we still do.”

But all good things must end. After losing a bout with Roger Mayweather, Muñoz won just five of his last 11 fights. He retired at age 29.

“He’d get up there, he’d win, and we’d be happy,” said his son Randy Muñoz. “We’d cry when he’d lose. I always told him I was going to get them back for him when I grew up.”

Randy followed the family tradition and now operates a boxing gym in Odessa. A gym where as long as the bell rings, Ruben Muñoz lives on.

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