Former Top Heavyweight Contender Bernardo Mercado Dies of Cardiac Arrest at 69
By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
Former number one heavyweight contender Bernardo Mercado of Columbia, who knocked out Trevor Berbick and Earnie Shavers to reach the number heavyweight contender position in March 1980, only to lose to Leon Spinks and Randall Cobb, and then fade from public recognition, has died in his native Columbia at age 69 of cardiac arrest, on Saturday, June 12, 2021.
Mercado rose up in the heavyweight ranks as a sparring partner of the late legendary heavyweight contender Oscar Bonavena, a big name in the heavyweight division in the 1960s and 1970s. Mercado lost twice early in his career to future world heavyweight champions John Tate and Mike Weaver. Then, Mercado won two major bouts. A first round knockout win over then undefeated Trevor Berbick, a future world heavyweight champion, in April 1979 in Halifax, Canada, propelled Mercado into the world heavyweight ratings. In March 1980, Mercado came off the canvas in the third round to drop and then stop former top contender Earnie Shavers in the seventh round in McAfee, New Jersey, in a Howard Cosell commentary ABC Sports televised upset shocker.
The victory over Shavers propelled Mercado into the number one heavyweight contender position in the worldwide ratings, and put Mercado in position to possibly get a fight with either World Boxing Council World Heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, or the comebacking former World Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali. However, Mercado got stopped in the ninth round in October 1980 of a World Boxing Council eliminator for a shot at then World Heavyweight champion Larry Holmes by former World Heavyweight champion Leon Spinks at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. A ten round loss to heavyweight contender Randall “Tex” Cobb in November 1980 at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ended Mercado’s chances.
Over the next eight years, Mercado won six minor comeback bouts over lesser undistinguished opponents, before getting knocked out in Australia by a future heavyweight contender, the late Jimmy Thunder, then undefeated, in December 1989. Mercado then retired at age 37. Including Thunder, Mercado mixed it with four former or future world champions, and three world ranked contenders. A native of Monteria, Columbia, between 1975 and 1989, Mercado’s career record as a professional was 33-5 with 28 knockouts.