Wilfred Benítez

Wilfred Benítez (born September 12, 1958) is a New York-born Puerto Rican former professional boxer and the youngest world champion in the sport's history. Earning his first of three career world titles in separate weight divisions at the age of seventeen, he is best remembered as a skilled and aggressive fighter with exceptional defensive abilities, along with his fights with Roberto Durán, Thomas Hearns, and Sugar Ray Leonard.

Wilfred Benítez
Wilfred Benítez 1980.jpg
Benítez in 1980
Statistics
Nickname(s)El Radar ("The Radar")
Bible of Boxing
Weight(s)Light welterweight
Welterweight
Light middleweight
Height5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Reach70 in (178 cm)
NationalityPuerto Rican
Born (1958-09-12) September 12, 1958 (age 62)
New York City, U.S.
StanceOrthodox
Boxing record
Total fights62
Wins53
Wins by KO31
Losses8
Draws1
No contests0

Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996, he is considered among the best Puerto Rican boxers of all time, sharing the honor with Félix Trinidad, Wilfredo Gómez, Carlos Ortiz, Héctor Camacho, and Miguel Cotto.[1]

Early historyEdit

Benítez turned pro at 15, a young prodigy who was managed by his father Gregorio Benítez, was a member of one of Puerto Rico's boxing families, his brothers Frankie and Gregory Benítez having also been top contenders in the 1970s. The Benítez troop was largely directed by their mother, Clara Benítez. Young Wilfred was nicknamed "The Radar" for his uncanny ability to foresee and dodge his opponent's blows.[2] He grew up going to a neighborhood boxing gym in New York, where he learned from watching his brothers and other local, renowned fighters practice their skills.

During the early stages of his professional career, Benítez often traveled to the Netherlands Antilles and New York City for fights. He divided his fights between those locations and Puerto Rico. The proximity of those two locations to Puerto Rico helped him start to become a household name in the island while building an international following at the same time. His speed, combined with punching power and surprising ring maturity for a 16-year-old, were enough to make him a world-ranked boxer by both the WBA and WBC, then boxing's only world-title recognizing organizations.

Professional boxing careerEdit

On March 6, 1976, at age 17, with his high school classmates in attendance, he faced Lineal[3] and WBA Light Welterweight champion Antonio Cervantes. Known as Kid Pambele, the champion was 30 years old, had a record of 74-9-3 with 35 KO's, and had made 10 title defenses. The result was a fifteen-round split decision in Benítez's favor.[4] Benítez retained the championship three times, and then moved up to the welterweight division.

Moving upEdit

Benítez challenged Lineal[5] and WBC World Champion Carlos Palomino in San Juan. On January 14, 1979, Benítez won a fifteen-round split decision to become a world champion in a second weight division. Referee Zach Clayton scored the fight 145-142 in Palomino's favor, but judges Jay Edson and Harry Gibbs disagreed. Edson scored the bout 146-142 for Benítez. Gibbs also scored for Benítez, 146-143. After outpointing Harold Weston Jr. in his first defense (avenging an earlier draw), Benítez fought Sugar Ray Leonard in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 30, 1979.

Fighting Sugar Ray LeonardEdit

It was a scientific fight by both fighters, who demonstrated their defensive skills throughout the bout. Benítez suffered a third-round knockdown and a cut on his forehead, which was opened by an accidental head butt in round six. Leonard put Benítez down again in the fifteenth round and the referee stopped the fight with six seconds left in round fifteen. Leonard was ahead on all cards at the time of the stoppage. The scores were 137–133, 137–130 and 136–134, all for Leonard.[6]

Moving up againEdit

After that loss, Benítez again moved up in weight, and on May 23, 1981, at age 22, he became the youngest three-time world champion in boxing history by knocking out WBC World Super Welterweight Champion Maurice Hope in twelve rounds in Las Vegas. The knockout was named one of the knockouts of the year.

His next fight became a historic bout. On November 14, 1981, he fought future world champ Carlos Santos of Ceiba, Puerto Rico. It was the first world championship fight between two Puerto Ricans in boxing history. It was fought 3,000 miles away from Puerto Rico, at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Benítez won a fifteen-round unanimous decision. His next defense was against Roberto Durán, whom Benítez defeated at Caesar's Palace on January 30, 1982 by a fifteen-round unanimous decision. On December 3, 1982, at the Carnival of Champions in New Orleans, Benítez lost the belt to another boxing legend, Thomas Hearns, by a fifteen-round majority decision.[7]

Career declineEdit

Benítez's career went downwards after the fight with Hearns, as did his lifestyle. In 1983, he lost a unanimous decision to Mustafa Hamsho. In 1984, he tried a comeback under the hand of Yamil Chade, but this proved unsuccessful as he was knocked out in the second round by Davey Moore. On November 28, 1986, with his health declining, Benítez went to Salta, Argentina to fight against middleweight Carlos Herrera. Benítez was stopped in seven rounds. But to make matters worse, his money for the fight was stolen by the promoter, along with his documents and passport, and he was stranded in Argentina for over a year. After eventually being tracked down, and after much government huddling and talks, he was finally able to fly back home to Puerto Rico in 1988.

In 1990, with his health in increasingly worse shape, Benítez moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he tried another comeback under the tutelage of Emanuel Steward, the Kronk trainer. This also proved unsuccessful, as he went 2-2 in his last four fights. His last bout took place in Winnipeg, Canada on September 18, 1990, six days after his 32nd birthday. He lost a ten-round decision against Scott Papasadora.

Professional boxing recordEdit

Professional record summary
62 fights 53 wins 8 losses
By knockout 31 4
By decision 22 4
Draws 1
No. Result Record Opponent Type Round, time Date Location Notes
62 Loss 53–8–1   Scott Papasodora UD 10 Sep 18, 1990   Winnipeg Convention Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
61 Win 53–7–1   Sam Wilson UD 10 Aug 24, 1990   Regency Hotel, Denver, Colorado, United States
60 Loss 52–7–1   Pat Lawlor PTS 10 May 23, 1990   Tucson, AZ, United States
59 Win 52–6–1   Ariel Conde KO 7 Mar 8, 1990   Americana Motel, Phoenix, AZ, United States
58 Loss 51–6–1   Carlos Maria del Valle Herrera TKO 7 Nov 28, 1986   Salta, Argentina
57 Win 51–5–1   Harry Daniels UD 10 Sep 17, 1986   Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore, Maryland, United States
56 Win 50–5–1   Paul Whittaker UD 10 Jul 1, 1986   Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
55 Loss 50–4–1   Matthew Hilton KO 9 Feb 15, 1986   Paul Sauve Arena, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
54 Win 49–4–1   Kevin Moley UD 10 Aug 21, 1985   Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States
53 Win 48–4–1   Danny Chapman RTD 7 Jul 6, 1985   Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, District of Columbia, United States
52 Win 47–4–1   Mauricio Bravo TKO 2 Mar 30, 1985   Oranjestad, Aruba
51 Loss 46–4–1   Davey Moore TKO 2 Jul 14, 1984   Stade Louis II, Monte Carlo, Monaco
50 Win 46–3–1   Stacy McSwain UD 10 Feb 11, 1984   Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, United States
49 Loss 45–3–1   Mustafa Hamsho UD 12 Jul 16, 1983   Dunes Hotel, Las Vegas, United States
48 Win 45–2–1   Tony Cerda UD 10 May 18, 1983   Dunes Hotel, Las Vegas, United States
47 Loss 44–2–1   Thomas Hearns MD 15 Dec 3, 1982   Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States Lost WBC light middleweight title
46 Win 44–1–1   Roberto Durán UD 15 Jan 30, 1982   Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, United States Retained WBC light middleweight title
45 Win 43–1–1   Carlos Santos UD 15 Nov 14, 1981   Showboat Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, United States Retained WBC light middleweight title
44 Win 42–1–1   Maurice Hope TKO 12 May 23, 1981   Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, United States Won WBC light middleweight title
43 Win 41–1–1   Pete Ranzany UD 10 Dec 12, 1980   Sacramento, California, United States
42 Win 40–1–1   Tony Chiaverini TKO 8 Aug 1, 1980   Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, United States
41 Win 39–1–1   Johnny Turner TKO 9 Mar 16, 1980   Jai Alai Fronton, Miami, Florida, United States
40 Loss 38–1–1   Sugar Ray Leonard TKO 15 Nov 30, 1979   Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, United States, United States Lost WBC, The Ring, and lineal welterweight titles
39 Win 38–0–1   Harold Weston UD 15 Mar 25, 1979   Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States Retained WBC, The Ring, and lineal welterweight titles
38 Win 37–0–1   Carlos Palomino SD 15 Jan 14, 1979   Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States Won WBC, The Ring, and lineal welterweight titles
37 Win 36–0–1   Vernon Lewis UD 10 Dec 8, 1978   Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States
36 Win 35–0–1   Randy Shields RTD 6 Aug 25, 1978   Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States
35 Win 34–0–1   Bruce Curry MD 10 Feb 4, 1978   Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States, United States
34 Win 33–0–1   Bruce Curry SD 10 Nov 18, 1977   Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States, United States
33 Win 32–0–1   Ray Chavez Guerrero TKO 15 Aug 3, 1977   Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States, United States Retained lineal light welterweight title
32 Win 31–0–1   Easy Boy Lake TKO 1 Jul 1, 1977   Lionel Roberts Stadium, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
31 Win 30–0–1   Roberto Gonzalez KO 1 Jun 2, 1977   Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
30 Win 29–0–1   Melvin Dennis UD 8 Mar 6, 1977   Correctional Facility Prison, Marion, Ohio, United States, United States
29 Draw 28–0–1   Harold Weston PTS 10 Feb 2, 1977   New York City, United States, United States, United States
28 Win 28–0   Tony Petronelli TKO 3 Oct 16, 1976   Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States Retained WBA, The Ring and lineal light welterweight titles
27 Win 27–0   Emiliano Villa UD 15 May 31, 1976   San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States Retained WBA, The Ring and lineal light welterweight titles
26 Win 26–0   Antonio Cervantes SD 15 Mar 6, 1976   Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States Won WBA, The Ring, and lineal light welterweight titles
25 Win 25–0   Chris Fernandez PTS 10 Dec 13, 1975   San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
24 Win 24–0   Omar Ruben Realecio TKO 6 Oct 20, 1975   Felt Forum, New York City, United States, United States
23 Win 23–0   Marcelino Alicia TKO 2 Sep 1, 1975   San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
22 Win 22–0   Young Woodall KO 4 Aug 19, 1975   Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, Netherlands Antilles
21 Win 21–0 Eyue Jeudy KO 4 Aug 1, 1975   Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, Netherlands Antilles
20 Win 20–0   Jim Henry TKO 8 Jun 28, 1975   Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
19 Win 19–0   Angel Robinson Garcia PTS 10 Jun 9, 1975   Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
18 Win 18–0   Santos Solis PTS 10 May 5, 1975   San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
17 Win 17–0   Wilbur Seales TKO 4 Mar 31, 1975   San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
16 Win 16–0   Santiago Rosa KO 4 Feb 8, 1975   San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
15 Win 15–0   Francisco Rodriguez TKO 7 Jan 4, 1975   San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
14 Win 14–0   Lawrence Hafey UD 8 02/12/1974   Felt Forum, New York City, United States, United States
13 Win 13–0   Terry Summerhays TKO 6 Oct 25, 1974   Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States, United States
12 Win 12–0   Al Hughes TKO 5 Sep 16, 1974   Felt Forum, New York City, United States, United States
11 Win 11–0   Easy Boy Lake TKO 5 Aug 31, 1974   Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, Netherlands Antilles
10 Win 10–0   Carlos Crispin TKO 3 Jun 26, 1974   Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
9 Win 9–0 Ives St Jean KO 1 Jun 21, 1974   Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, Netherlands Antilles
8 Win 8–0   Easy Boy Lake KO 5 May 11, 1974   Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, Netherlands Antilles
7 Win 7–0   Juan Disla TKO 3 Apr 30, 1974   Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
6 Win 6–0   Victor Mangual PTS 8 Apr 1, 1974   San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
5 Win 5–0 Roberto Flanders KO 4 Feb 18, 1974   San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
4 Win 4–0 Joe York KO 2 Jan 26, 1974   Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, Netherlands Antilles
3 Win 3–0 Hector Amadis KO 4 Jan 07, 1974   San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
2 Win 2–0   Jesse Torres KO 2 Nov 30, 1973   Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, Netherlands Antilles
1 Win 1–0   Hiram Santiago KO 1 Nov 22, 1973   San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States

Retirement and illnessEdit

After retiring from boxing in late 1990, Benítez returned to Puerto Rico, where he lived with his mother Clara on a $200 a month pension provided by the World Boxing Council. Since 1989, Benítez has suffered from an incurable, degenerative brain condition caused by the blows that he took in the ring.[8]

In 1997, Benítez was moved to a public nursing home for medical reasons by his mother Clara, a licensed nurse.[9]

In 2002, Sugar Ray Leonard visited Benítez, who by this time had forgotten his identity.[10] During the visit, their fight was shown on television. Consequently, Benítez remembered the event and said to Leonard, "Ray, I did not train for that fight."[10]

In 2004, Benítez was diagnosed with diabetes, adding further complications to his worsening health. When his mother died in the summer of 2008, his sister Yvonne Benítez, took over his care.

In 2018, after Hurricane Maria destroyed his home and made it difficult for Benítez to receive therapy, an old friend and boxing mate, Luis Mateo, helped Benítez and his sister move to Chicago. It was their hope that in Chicago, Benítez would receive better health care.[8]

Support, recovery and public appearanceEdit

Ring 10, a non-profit organization that helps impoverished former fighters, provides a monthly stipend to Benítez and established "The Wilfred Benítez Fund" to raise more money to aid the fallen champion.[11]

During 2012, Benítez was honored with a statue in Puerto Rico.[12]

On November 27, 2012, a smiling and healthy looking Benítez attended the funeral of Hector Camacho in Puerto Rico, arriving in a wheelchair. Benítez arrived accompanied by boxers Félix Trinidad, Wilfredo Gómez, and Alfredo Escalera.[13] Surprising the mourners, Benítez rose to his feet for a boxing pose in front of Camacho's coffin.[14]

With the emotional and financial assistance of former Benitez sparring partner Luis Mateo and Chicago's Puerto Rican community, on June 1, 2018, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Wilfred Benitez, age 59, and his sister Yvonne Benitez, arrived in Chicago, Illinois, where he spent the first week in the hospital, then was moved to an apartment on Chicago's West Side. Donations from the Chicago Puerto Rican community helped pay for the plane tickets, and continue ongoing to provide expense money for the apartment, food, and other necessities, according to Mateo and Yvonne Benitez. Wilfred appears in overall better health, good spirits, has gained weight, tries to talk, and is more alert since his arrival in the mainland United States.[15]

Awards and recognitionsEdit

Benítez was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994.


Puerto Ricans in the International Boxing Hall of Fame
Number Name Year inducted Notes
1 Carlos Ortíz 1991 World Jr. Welterweight Champion 1959 June 12- 1960, September 1, WBA Lightweight Champion 1962 Apr 21 – 1965 Apr 10, WBC Lightweight Champion 1963 Apr 7 – 1965 Apr 10, WBC Lightweight Champion 1965 Nov 13 – 1968 Jun 29.
2 Wilfred Benítez 1994 The youngest world champion in boxing history. WBA Light Welterweight Champion 1976 Mar 6 – 1977, WBC Welterweight Champion 1979 Jan 14 – 1979 Nov 30, WBC Light Middleweight Champion.
3 Wilfredo Gómez 1995 WBC Super Bantamweight Champion 1977 May 21 – 1983, WBC Featherweight Champion 1984 Mar 31 – 1984 Dec 8, WBA Super Featherweight Champion 1985 May 19 – 1986 May 24.
4 José "Chegui" Torres 1997 Won a silver medal in the junior middleweight at the 1956 Olympic Games. Undisputed Light Heavyweight Champion 1965 Mar 30 – 1966 Dec 16
5 Sixto Escobar 2002 Puerto Rico's first boxing champion. World Bantamweight Champion 15 Nov 1935– 23 Sep 1937, World Bantamweight Champion 20 Feb 1938– Oct 1939
6 Edwin Rosario 2006 Ranks #36 on the list of "100 Greatest Punchers of All Time." according to Ring Magazine. WBC Lightweight Champion 1983 May 1 – 1984 Nov 3, WBA Lightweight Champion 1986 Sep 26 – 1987 Nov 21, WBA Lightweight Champion 199 Jul 9 – 1990 Apr 4, WBA Light Welterweight Champion 1991 Jun 14 – 1992 Apr 10.
7 Pedro Montañez 2007 92 wins out of 103 fights. Never held a title.
8 Joe Cortez 2011 The first Puerto Rican boxing referee to be inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame
9 Herbert "Cocoa Kid" Hardwick 2012 Member of boxing's "Black Murderers' Row". World Colored Welterweight Championship - June 11, 1937 to August 22, 1938; World Colored Middleweight Championship - January 11, 1940 until the title went extinct in the 1940s; World Colored Middleweight Championship - January 15, 1943 until the title went extinct in the 1940s
10 Félix "Tito" Trinidad 2014 Captured the IBF welterweight crown in his 20th pro bout. Won the WBA light middleweight title from David Reid in March 2000 and later that year unified titles with a 12th-round knockout against IBF champ Fernando Vargas. In 2001 became a three-division champion.
11 Héctor "Macho" Camacho 2016 First boxer to be recognized as a septuple champion in history. WBC Super Featherweight Championship - August 7, 1983 – 1984, WBC Lightweight Championship - August 10, 1985 – 1987, WBO Light Welterweight Champion - March 6, 1989 – February 23, 1991, WBO Light Welterweight Champion - May 18, 1991–1992.
12 Mario Rivera Martino 2019 First Puerto Rican boxing sports writer to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He served Puerto Rican boxing for more than 50 years as a writer and eventual commissioner.

  = Indicates the person is no longer alive

Achievements
Preceded by
Antonio Cervantes
Lineal Light Welterweight Champion
March 6, 1976 – 1979
Vacated
Succeeded by
Aaron Pryor
WBA Light Welterweight Champion
March 6, 1976 – 1977
Stripped
Succeeded by
Antonio Cervantes
Preceded by
Carlos Palomino
Lineal Welterweight Champion
January 14, 1979 - November 30, 1979
Succeeded by
Sugar Ray Leonard
WBC Welterweight Champion
January 14, 1979 - November 30, 1979
Preceded by
Maurice Hope
WBC Light Middleweight Champion
May 23, 1981 - December 3, 1982
Succeeded by
Thomas Hearns
Records
Preceded by
Tony Canzoneri
Youngest World Champion
March 6, 1976 – present
Incumbent

Non boxing related awardsEdit

Key to the City

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Sánchez, José A. (November 25, 2012). "Entre leyendas Macho Camacho". El Nuevo Día.
  2. ^ https://www.boxingscene.com/daily-bread-mailbag-canelo-kovalev-andre-ward-peds-more--143913
  3. ^ "The Lineal Junior Welterweight Champions". Cyber Boxing Zone.
  4. ^ https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2230186-ranking-the-most-unbreakable-records-in-boxing#slide1
  5. ^ "The Lineal Welterweight Champs". Cyber Boxing Zone.
  6. ^ Times, Michael Katz; Special to The New York (1979-12-01). "Leonard Stops Benitez in 15 To Win Welterweight Title Butt Hurts". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-04-09.
  7. ^ "International Boxing Hall of Fame". Ibhof.com (1958-09-12). Retrieved on 2017-07-14.
  8. ^ a b Malagon, Elvia (June 18, 2018). "Friends bring famed, ailing Puerto Rican boxer Wilfred Benítez to Chicago for medical help". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  9. ^ Too Many Beatings; The Boxer's Disease Haunts Wilfred Benitez and His Family - The New York Times. Nytimes.com (1997-11-12). Retrieved on 2017-07-14.
  10. ^ a b José A. Sánchez Fournie (2009-11-29). "Deportes". La batalla de los intocables: 30 años de Leonard-Benítez. El Nuevo Día (in Spanish). Puerto Rico.
  11. ^ Boxing 101, "Ring 10 Veterans Boxing Foundation: A Beta Bomb of Brotherhood, Part 1 - Our Suffering Champions", June 26, 2012
  12. ^ Colón, Rey (March 14, 2012). "Wilfredo Benítez honored with a statue in Puerto Rico". BoxingScene.com.
  13. ^ Hector Macho Camacho Memorial Service In Puerto Rico Photos and Images. Getty Images. Retrieved on 2017-07-14.
  14. ^ Hector Macho Camacho Memorial Service In Puerto Rico Photos and Images. Getty Images. Retrieved on 2017-07-14.
  15. ^ https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-met-wilfred-benitez-health-chicago-20180615-story.html

External linksEdit