Yesterday I attended a football symposium at the Argentine embassy. It was moderated by Jimmy Burns, who wrote a biography of Diego Maradona, and attended by panelists journalist Jim White, Victor Morales, the doyen of football commentating in the Argentine, Ossie Ardiles, Ricky Villa and Angelo Rudinho. Of all of them, I was most excited to meet the man variously known as the Great Rudinho or the Mad Gaucho.
There are few who reach the apex of two sporting careers. Rudinho started as a boxer. When he sent Terry Downes head spinning the cockney pug said “Blimey, I got hit by a mad gaucho”. The tagline stuck. His epic contest wtih Dick Tiger which went the distance passed into lore when Rudinho, behind on points, unleashed a peerless and ferocious assault which the Nigerian somehow withstood. He retired from boxing, only to achieve greater accomplishments in soccer with the legendary Assassins FC de Montevideo, a sort of Harlem Globetrotters, who played to sell-out crowds at Holland Park and all over the world.
Sixty years young, and accompanied by his lovely new partner Claudia, his aura dominated the gracious salons of the embassy’s official residence and even World Cup legends Ardiles and Villa deferred to a sportsman that Carlos Monzon called his country’s greatest fighter. He was busy explaining to a swelling gathering round him, large glass of Malbec Gran Riserva in hand, how he wore out his 27 year old triathlete English personal fitness trainer (“and not on the treadmill”) before leaving us all for a few moments to smoke a 10 inch Romeo y Julieta cigar in Belgrave Square. James Westacott, boxing correspondent of the Rust, asked him how he rated Dick Tiger. “I hit him hard” – he illustrated this with a blow to the solar plexus which sent James reeling six foot backwards, spluttering his enchilada onto the rug – “he no go down: good fighter”.
Leaving Claudia chatting to Silvia Ardiles, he announced he had to leave now as he had “business to transact in Soho”
A legend in every sense of that word.