Wilfred Benítez

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Wilfred Benítez
Statistics
Real name Wilfred Benítez
Nickname(s) El Radar
Bible of Boxing
Rated at Welterweight
Nationality Puerto Rican/American
Born (1958-09-12) September 12, 1958 (age 55)
New York City, USA
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 62
Wins 53
Wins by KO 31
Losses 8
Draws 1
No contests 0

Wilfred Benítez (born September 12, 1958 in New York City), is a retired Puerto Rican boxer and youngest world champion in the sport's history. Earning his first of three career championships in separate weight divisions at the age of 17, he is remembered best as a skilled and aggressive fighter with exceptional defensive abilities.

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

Benitez as Welterweight Champ in 1980 with sportswriter Joe McLaughlin

Early history[edit]

Benitez turned pro at 15, a young prodigy who was managed by his father Gregorio Benitez, was a member of one of Puerto Rico's most famous boxing families, his brothers Frankie and Gregory Benitez having also been top contenders in the 1970s. The Benitez 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. 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, Benitez often traveled to the Virgin Islands and New York 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 career[edit]

External audio
You may watch Wilfred Benitez vs. Antonio Cervantes, here

On March 6, 1976, at age 17, with his High School classmates in attendance, he faced 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 Benitez's favor.

Benitez retained the championship three times, and then moved up to the welterweight division. Benítez challenged WBC World Champion Carlos Palomino in San Juan. On January 14, 1979, Benitez won a fifteen-round split decision to become a world champion in a second weight division. After outpointing Harold Weston Jr. in his first defense (avenging an earlier draw), Benitez fought Sugar Ray Leonard in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 30, 1979. It was a scientific fight by both fighters, who demonstrated their defensive skills throughout the bout. Benitez suffered a third-round knockdown and a cut on his forehead, which was opened by an accidental head butt in round six. Leonard put Benitez down again in the fifteenth round and the referee stopped the fight with six seconds left in round fifteen.

After that loss, Benitez 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. Ironically, the fight was fought 3,000 miles away from Puerto Rico, at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Benitez won a fifteen-round unanimous decision. His next defense was against Roberto Durán, whom Benitez 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, Benitez lost the belt to another boxing legend, Thomas Hearns, by a fifteen-round majority decision.[2]

Career decline[edit]

Benitez'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. On November 28, 1986, with his health declining, he went to Buenos Aires, Argentina to fight middleweight Carlos Herrera. Benitez was stopped in seven rounds. But that wasn't the worst part of the trip. His money for the fight was stolen by the fight's promoter, along with his documents and passport, and he was stranded in Argentina for one year. After much government huddling and talks, he was finally able to fly back home to Puerto Rico in 1988.

Two years later, Benitez moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he tried another comeback under the tutelage of Emanuel Steward, the famous 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 record[edit]

53 Wins (31 knockouts, 22 decisions), 8 Losses (4 knockouts, 4 decisions), 1 Draw [1]
Result Record Opponent Type Round Date Location Notes
Loss 15-6-1 United States Scott Papasodora UD 10 18/09/1990 Canada Winnipeg Convention Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Win 1-5-1 United States "Uncle" Sam Wilson UD 10 24/08/1990 Colorado Regency Hotel, Denver, Colorado, United States 98-91, 99-90, 96-93.
Loss 13-1 United States Pat "The King" Lawlor PTS 10 23/05/1990 Arizona Tucson, Arizona, United States
Win 0-10 Mexico Ariel Conde KO 7 08/03/1990 Arizona Americana Motel, Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Loss 54-9 Argentina Carlos Maria del Valle Herrera TKO 7 28/11/1986 Argentina Salta, Argentina
Win 14-3-1 United States Harry "Heatwave" Daniels UD 10 17/09/1986 Maryland Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore, Maryland, United States 98-95, 98-95, 97-95.
Win 19-0 United States Paul "Forest" Whittaker UD 10 01/07/1986 Louisiana Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States 6-4, 5-4, 6-3.
Loss 19-0 Canada Matthew Hilton KO 9 15/02/1986 Canada Paul Sauve Arena, Montreal, Quebec, Canada Benitez knocked out at 2:59 of the ninth round.
Win 21-1 United States Kevin Moley UD 10 21/08/1985 New York Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States 8-2, 7-3, 7-3.
Win 15-17 United States Danny "Thunderhand" Chapman RTD 7 06/07/1985 United States Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, District of Columbia, United States Chapman retired at 3:00 of the seventh round.
Win 26-2-2 Venezuela Mauricio Bravo TKO 2 30/03/1985 Aruba Oranjestad, Aruba
Loss 13-1 United States Davey "Bronx" Moore TKO 2 14/07/1984 Monaco Stade Louis II, Monte Carlo, Monaco Referee stopped the bout at 1:18 of the second round.
Win 8-7-1 United States Stacy McSwain UD 10 11/02/1984 Michigan Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, United States
Loss 36-2-2 Syria Mustafa Hamsho UD 12 16/07/1983 Nevada Dunes Hotel, Las Vegas, United States 109-118, 111-118, 111-117.
Win 14-2-4 United States Tony Cerda UD 10 18/05/1983 Nevada Dunes Hotel, Las Vegas, United States
Loss 35-1 United States Tommy Hearns MD 15 03/12/1982 Louisiana Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States WBC World Light Middleweight Title. 137-146, 139-144, 142-142.
Win 74-2 Panama Roberto Duran UD 15 30/01/1982 Nevada Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, United States WBC World Light Middleweight Title. 143-142, 145-141, 144-141.
Win 22-0 Puerto Rico Carlos Santos UD 15 14/11/1981 Nevada Showboat Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, United States WBC World Light Middleweight Title. 147-138, 145-140, 145-139.
Win 30-2-1 United Kingdom Maurice Hope TKO 12 23/05/1981 Nevada Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, United States WBC World Light Middleweight Title. Referee stopped the bout at 1:56 of the 12th round.
Win 50-4-2 United States Pete Ranzany UD 10 12/12/1980 California Sacramento, California, United States 99-92, 97-94, 97-94.
Win 37-5 United States Tony Chiaverini TKO 8 01/08/1980 Nevada Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, United States
Win 34-3-1 United States Johnny Turner TKO 9 16/03/1980 Florida Jai Alai Fronton, Miami, Florida, United States Referee stopped the bout at 2:57 of the ninth round.
Loss 25-0 United States Sugar Ray Leonard TKO 15 30/11/1979 Nevada Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, United States WBC World Welterweight Title. Referee stopped the bout at 2:54 of the 15th round.
Win 27-7-5 United States Harold "The Artist" Weston UD 15 25/03/1979 Puerto Rico Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States WBC World Welterweight Title. 149-138, 144-142, 146-145.
Win 27-1-3 Mexico Carlos Palomino SD 15 14/01/1979 Puerto Rico Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States WBC World Welterweight Title. 142-145, 146-143, 146-142.
Win 4-4 Trinidad and Tobago Vernon Lewis UD 10 08/12/1978 New York Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States
Win 31-3-1 United States Randy Shields RTD 6 25/08/1978 New York Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States
Win 15-1 United States Bruce Curry MD 10 04/02/1978 New York Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States 9-1, 7-3, 5-5.
Win 14-0 United States Bruce Curry SD 10 18/11/1977 New York Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States 4-5, 5-4, 7-3.
Win 29-6-3 Venezuela Ray Chavez Guerrero TKO 15 03/08/1977 New York Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States NYSAC Light Welterweight Title. Referee stopped the bout at 1:41 of the 15th round.
Win 8-8-1 United States Virgin Islands Easy Boy Lake TKO 1 01/07/1977 United States Virgin Islands Lionel Roberts Stadium, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands Referee stopped the bout at 2:48 of the first round.
Win -- Argentina Roberto "Speed Racer" Gonzalez KO 1 02/06/1977 United States Virgin Islands Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Win 27-8-3 United States Melvin Dennis UD 8 06/03/1977 Ohio Correctional Facility Prison, Marion, Ohio, United States 7-1, 8-0, 5-1.
Draw 22-6-4 United States Harold Weston PTS 10 02/02/1977 New York New York City, United States 7-3, 5-5, 5-5.
Win 35-1-1 United States Tony Petronelli TKO 3 16/10/1976 Puerto Rico Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States WBA World Light Welterweight Title.
Win 25-2-1 Colombia Emiliano Villa UD 15 31/05/1976 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States WBA World Light Welterweight Title. 150-138, 149-137, 148-137.
Win 74-9-3 Colombia Antonio Cervantes SD 15 06/03/1976 Puerto Rico Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States WBA World Light Welterweight Title. 148-144, 147-142, 145-147.
Win 26-11-4 Dominican Republic Chris Fernandez PTS 10 13/12/1975 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
Win 10-4-1 Argentina Omar Ruben Realecio TKO 6 20/10/1975 New York Felt Forum, New York City, United States
Win 15-16-1 Puerto Rico Marcelino Alicia TKO 2 01/09/1975 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
Win 2-0 The Bahamas Young Woodall KO 4 19/08/1975 Netherlands Antilles Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
Win -- Eyue Jeudy KO 4 01/08/1975 Netherlands Antilles Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
Win 9-16-3 Canada Jim "John" Henry TKO 8 28/06/1975 Puerto Rico Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
Win 132-71-20 Cuba Angel "Robinson" Garcia PTS 10 09/06/1975 Puerto Rico Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
Win 6-0 Puerto Rico Santos Solis PTS 10 05/05/1975 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
Win 0-3 United States Wilbur Seales TKO 4 31/03/1975 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
Win 6-8 Puerto Rico Santiago Rosa KO 4 08/02/1975 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
Win 0-4 Puerto Rico Francisco "El Presidente" Rodriguez TKO 7 04/01/1975 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
Win 37-10-3 Canada Lawrence Hafey UD 8 02/12/1974 New York Felt Forum, New York City, United States
Win 16-7-2 Canada Terry Summerhays TKO 6 25/10/1974 New York Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States Referee stopped the bout at 1:51 of the sixth round.
Win 5-16-1 Canada Al Hughes TKO 5 16/09/1974 New York Felt Forum, New York City, United States Referee stopped the bout at 2:06 of the fifth round.
Win 4-3-1 United States Virgin Islands Easy Boy Lake TKO 5 31/08/1974 Netherlands Antilles Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
Win 0-3 Puerto Rico Carlos Crispin TKO 3 26/06/1974 Puerto Rico Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
Win 0-1 Ives St Jean KO 1 21/06/1974 Netherlands Antilles Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
Win 4-2-1 United States Virgin Islands Easy Boy Lake KO 5 11/05/1974 Netherlands Antilles Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
Win 1-5-1 Dominican Republic Juan Disla TKO 3 30/04/1974 Puerto Rico Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
Win 1-1-1 Puerto Rico Victor Mangual PTS 8 01/04/1974 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
Win -- Roberto Flanders TKO 4 18/02/1974 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
Win -- Joe York KO 2 26/01/1974 Netherlands Antilles Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
Win 0-0-1 Hector Amadis KO 4 07/01/1974 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
Win 0-1 Jesse Torres KO 2 30/11/1973 Netherlands Antilles Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
Win -- Hiram Santiago KO 1 22/11/1973 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States

Retirement and illness[edit]

After retiring from boxing, Benitez returned to Puerto Rico, where he lived with his mother Clara on a $200 a month pension provided by the World Boxing Council. Benitez now suffers from an incurable, degenerative brain condition caused by the blows he took in the ring.

In 1997, Wilfredo was moved permanently to a public run nursing home for medical reasons by his mother Clara, a licensed nurse.[2]

In 2002, Sugar Ray Leonard visited his former brother-in-law Benítez, who by this time had forgotten his identity.[3] 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."[3] In 2004, Benitez was diagnosed with diabetes. His mother died in the summer of 2008.

Support, recovery, and public appearance[edit]

Ring 10, a non-profit organization that helps impoverished former fighters, provides a monthly stipend to Benitez and established "The Wilfred Benitez Fund" to raise more money to aid the fallen champion.[4]

During 2012, Benitez was honored with a statue in Puerto Rico.[5]

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 Felix Trinidad, Wilfredo Gomez, and Alfredo Escalera.[6] Surprising the mourners, Benitez rose to his feet for a boxing pose in front of Camacho's coffin.[7]

Awards and recognitions[edit]

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

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Antonio Cervantes
WBA Light Welterweight Champion
6 March 1976–1977
Stripped
Succeeded by
Antonio Cervantes
Preceded by
Carlos Palomino
WBC Welterweight Champion
14 January 1979 – 30 November 1979
Succeeded by
Sugar Ray Leonard
Preceded by
Maurice Hope
WBC Light Middleweight boxing champion
23 May 1981– 3 December 1982
Succeeded by
Thomas Hearns
Flag of Puerto Rico.svg

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 Felix "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.

     = Indicates the person is no longer alive

Non boxing related awards[edit]

Key to the City

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]