Twenty-Three Years Today: Featherweight Prospect Robinson Pitalúa Drowned in Miami

pitulaBy Jaime Castro-Núñez - On Friday, September 20, 1985, featherweight prospect Robinson Pitalúa-Támara convincingly defeated Puerto Rican Julio César “Tarzán” González at the Tamiami Fairgrounds Auditorium in Miami, FL. It was Pitalúa’s second victory on US soil. Two months earlier, on July 16, he had traveled from his native Montería, Colombia, to Miami, Florida, where his new promoter, Cuban-American Félix “Tuto” Zabala, wanted him to train under the tutelage of Argentinean master Amilcar Brusa.

The six-round bout against “Tarzán” González was certainly a tough one, but the skilled, 1983 Pan American games silver medalist had made a statement: he was ready for better opponents. Satisfied with the outcome, both Amilcar Brusa and “Tuto” Zabala gave him the weekend off. Shortly after the fight, Pitalúa phoned his parents in Colombia and informed he had outworked the Puerto Rican. “González proved to be a tough opponent, I sent him to the canvas in the first round, but I couldn’t finish him off,” he said. “Keep training hard, we’re so proud of you. We all know you’ll be champion of the world very soon, like “Happy” Lora,” replied his mother, María Elena Támara..

The Tragedy

pitulaOn Sunday, September 22, Robinson Pitalúa granted a radio interview to WCN’s Severio del Valle. After the interview he went swimming with Jaime Polo in a small lake behind the apartment he shared with fellow boxers Rey Estades, Freddie Delgado, Alberto Reyes, and Polo himself, located at Lake Laguna West, 301 NW 109th Ave, 33172, Miami, FL. At around three o’clock they took a small boat into the cold lake. Polo jumped and swam for a minute. When he returned to the boat explained how cold it was. Pitalúa decided to swim. Suddenly he disappeared under de water. Polo thought his friend was playing, but Pitalúa was actually cramping. Five minutes later he shouted: “Pitalúa, it’s enough, where are you?” Nobody answered. He reached the shore and went to the apartment, believing his friend was hidden inside, but Pitalúa was not there. Then he looked for the featherweight prospect at Amilcar Brusa’s apartment. He informed the trainer what was happening. The Argentinean understood the situation. Without wasting time, the trainer decided to phone the Pitalúa-Támara family in Colombia.

“Hello, good afternoon.”

“Mr. Pitalúa, how are you?”

“Very good, who’s calling?”

“It’s Amilcar Brusa, Robinson’s trainer.”

“What’s going on?”

“Does Robinson know how to swim?”

“Yes, he’s very good at that!”

“I’m asking because he went swimming with a friend, but we can’t find him.”

“What? Did he jump into the water?”

“Yes, he did.”

“Amilcar, don’t tell me anything else. He jumped into the water? Then he drowned! Tell me the truth.”

pitulaBrusa promised to keep the family informed and ended the phone call. In the meantime, police divers were searching the bottom of the lake. It wasn’t until Monday morning when divers pulled his body from the West Dade lake at 10:45 a.m. Pitalúa had turned 21 few days earlier, on September 3. Jairo Espinoza, a friend of Pitalúa, said: “The only fight he lost was against that miserable lake. He wanted to be a champion while he was young so he could study medicine.” Amilcar Brusa recognized: “He was the most disciplined prospect I ever had. He always had a smile for everyone and I feel like I lost a son.” Later, “Tuto” Zabala told the press: “Colombia has lost a world champion and we were preparing him for that. Last Friday he defeated “Tarzán” González, we were very excited.” Zabala´s son, “Tutico”, said: “Out of the ring he was the greatest guy. He used to tell me that he wanted to be a champion, so we could go together to the championship battles.”

His body was embalmed and sent to Bogotá on Wednesday, September 25. The following day he arrived in Montería. Sixty thousand people gathered at Montería’s small airport and took him to Jardines de la Esperanza Cemetery, where Robinson Javier Pitalúa-Támara was buried with honors. Rest in peace, champ!

Robinson Pitalúa’s Accomplishments

IX Bolivarian Games, Barquisimeto, VEN, 1981. Silver. Lost to Manuel Vilchez.
III World Championship, Munich, GER, 1982. Ninth place. Lost to Klaus-Dieter Kirchstein.
Inter-Continental Tournament, Colorado Springs, USA, 1982. Gold. Defeated Héctor López.
II Suramerican Championship, Guayaquil, ECU, 1983. Silver. Lost to Manuel Vilchez.
Pan American Games, Caracas, VEN, 1983. Bronze. Lost to Pedro Nolasco.
Olympic Festival, Mexico, MEX, 1984. Gold.
XXIII Olympic Games, Los Angeles, USA, 1984. Fifth place. Defeated Hugh Dyer and Barbar Ali Khan. Lost to Maurizio Stecca.
Four-time National Champion.
Amateur record: 83-12-0.
Professional debut: November 23, 1984, against Manuel Mendoza.
Professional Record: 6-0-0, 4 KO´s.

Article posted on 22.09.2008

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