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Michael Bentt

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Michael Bentt
Bentt (left) vs. Savón at the 1987 Pan American Games
Born (1965-09-04) September 4, 1965 (age 58)
London, England
Height6 ft 3 in (191 cm)
Reach79 in (201 cm)
Boxing record
Total fights13
Wins by KO6
Medal record
Men's amateur boxing
Representing  United States
North American Championships
Gold medal – first place Beaumont 1985 Heavyweight
Silver medal – second place Toronto 1987 Heavyweight
World Cup
Bronze medal – third place Seoul 1985 Heavyweight
World Championships
Bronze medal – third place Reno 1986 Heavyweight
Pan American Games
Bronze medal – third place Indianapolis 1987 Heavyweight
Goodwill Games
Bronze medal – third place Moscow 1986 Heavyweight

Michael Bentt (born September 4, 1965) is a British-born American film and television actor, and former professional boxer who competed from 1989 to 1994. Of Jamaican heritage, he was born in East Dulwich, London, but raised in the Cambria Heights section of Queens in New York City. Bentt won the WBO heavyweight title from Tommy Morrison in 1993, losing the title in his first defense in 1994 to Herbie Hide.

As an amateur, he won bronze medals at the 1986 World Championships and 1987 Pan American Games. He currently has the shortest professional boxing career of any heavyweight world champion in history, for only 1,867 days spanning 5 years between 1989 and 1994.

As an actor, Bentt is best known for co-starring as Sonny Liston in the 2001 film Ali, and as Biggis/El Plaga in the 2005 film State Property 2. He is featured in the first episode of the 2019 American web television documentary series Losers.

Amateur career[edit]

One of the most decorated amateur boxers in US history, Bentt won four New York City Golden Gloves titles, five United States Amateur Boxing Championships and three (New York State) Empire State Games gold medals. After having won the bronze medal at the 1986 World Amateur Boxing Championships and the 1987 Pan American Games he placed a controversial second-place finish at the 1988 United States Olympic Trials and Box-off's to the Seoul Olympics eventual gold medalist, Ray Mercer. Sport writers frequently misspelled his second name, writing "Bent" or "Bennet" instead of "Bentt," and after he defeated Tommy Morrison, HBO's host Larry Merchant ironized in a way that he's finally have to add the third "T" to his name.[1]

As both his mother and father are Jamaican citizens, he won the right to fight on the Jamaican Olympic Boxing Team after stopping the island nation's top amateur heavyweights in the 1988 Jamaican Olympic Trials. However, when confronted with the provision that he would have to relinquish his United States citizenship in order to accompany the Jamaican team to Seoul, he refused. Bentt is regarded as the most decorated boxer in the history of American amateur boxing never to have competed on a United States Olympic boxing team.[2]

His other amateur titles included the 1981 New York City Police Athletic League Champion, 1980 NYC Kids Gloves Champion, Empire State Games Heavyweight Champion (1982, 1983, 1984). He was a three-time selected member of the United States All-American National Boxing Team (1985, 1986, 1987), captain of the 1986 United States Goodwill Games Boxing Team and the 1987 United States Pan American Games Boxing Team. He was a bronze medalist in each of those competitions. At the Pan American semifinals and North American finals he faced Félix Savón, to whom he lost by unanimous decision twice in nine days, cutting his way to the 1987 World Cup in Belgrade.[3] He also received the bronze medal at the 1985 World Amateur Championships in Seoul, South Korea and the gold medal at the 1985 North American Championship in Beaumont, Texas.

Though he didn't compete at the 1985 AAU National Championships, deciding to take some time off after losing a decision to Alexandr Yagubkin of the Soviet Union in the semifinals of the World Cup,[4] he was the recipient of the 1985 Sugar Ray Robinson Award as the most outstanding boxer in the New York Golden Gloves tournament that year (among the 85' class of Golden Gloves champions were future professional champions Riddick Bowe, Kevin Kelly and Junior Jones). Bentt was also a three time member of the United States All-American Amateur Boxing Team. After winning the Pan American Box-offs he was ranked #1 U.S. amateur heavyweight by the United States Amateur Boxing Federation.[5]

Bentt counts avenging an earlier defeat, suffered at the hands of, then, three-time USSR World Amateur Heavyweight Champion, Alexandr Yagubkin, at the 1986 World Championships in Reno, Nevada as one of his most precious moments. Before the loss to Bentt, Yagubkin had been victorious over every American heavyweight he encountered during a three-year period. This included a Moscow decision-win over Bentt's older brother Winston, himself a member of the United States National Team. Domestically Bentt went undefeated for a four-year period before being denied an Olympic team berth at the 1988 United States Olympic Trials.

In an homage to Stephan Johnson, a former amateur teammate at the Bed-Stuy famed (Bedford-Stuyvesant) Boxing Association and fellow Golden Glover who succumbed to injuries suffered in a professional boxing match in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Michael privately presented Stephan's mother with a pair of his own New York Golden Gloves champion medallions.

Although he was the officially selected team alternate at 201 lbs Bentt declined to serve as an alternate on the 1988 Olympic Boxing Team.


Bentt finished his amateur career with a record of 148 wins, 8 losses (no stoppages.)

Professional career[edit]

Bentt turned professional under Emanuel Steward; and was knocked-out in the first round by Jerry Jones in his pro debut. Bentt maintained that neither he nor Steward knew Jones was a southpaw but counts both the devastation and humiliation suffered that night as "hugely valuable and key" to his massive upset of Tommy Morrison some four years later. After a 20-month hiatus following the loss to Jones, Bentt returned to boxing. After a few wins he signed with manager Stan Hoffman, and was trained by former light heavyweight champion Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. Bentt then put together a modest winning streak, lost to Herbie Hide and retired with an 11–2 record.

For a two-year period in the early 1990s served as chief sparring partner for then world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.

In October 1993, Bentt caused a huge upset with a ninety seven second first-round knockout of Tommy Morrison to capture the WBO heavyweight championship. The American-based boxer lost his WBO belt to Herbie Hide at The Den, Bermondsey, United Kingdom, in 1994. The fight would be his last after being rushed to the hospital and told he could never fight again. Bentt had suffered brain injuries in the loss, and although the injuries did not negatively affect the quality of his thoughts or mental sharpness, it was feared that future impacts to the head could result in permanent long-term injury or even death.[6]

At various times after relocating to numerous U.S. states, Bentt passed written exams and awaited entrance into police academies in New York City, Miami, Florida, and Las Vegas, Nevada

Acting career and life after boxing[edit]

Bentt attended Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he studied radio/TV. Turning to acting, he was the second actor cast after Will Smith in Michael Mann's Ali. Michael landed the coveted role of Sonny Liston, while also serving as both Smith's chief sparring partner and assistant trainer during the six months of boxing training before principal photography began on the film.

Bentt has contributed essays as a writer for Bert Sugar's Fight Game and the HBO boxing website. He has commentated on boxing matches for Bob Arum's Top Rank Boxing on ESPN in the United States, Filmnet in The Netherlands, and BBC Radio in the United Kingdom.

In 2006, he had an on camera audition in Puerto Rico as part of HBO World Championship Boxing's search for an expert boxing commentator for the network's newest boxing segment. Eventually the candidates were narrowed down to Bentt and the then recently retired former Heavyweight Champion, Lennox Lewis.

In 2003, he was the first actor-in-residence at Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania, where he played the title role in 'Othello'.

He has worked with directors, Ron Shelton (twice), Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, Bill L. Norton (five times), and Michael Mann (five times); one of his notable Mann roles was in Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp as John Dillinger. Mann handpicked Bentt to play Herbert Youngblood, who, along with Dillinger, staged the infamous Crown Point Jail break. He also starred as Biggis (El Plaga) opposite Beanie Sigel, Noriega, and Damon Dash in the Dash-directed hip hop cult classic State Property 2.

Among his guest starring roles in television dramas are 'Calvin Trainier', a Suge Knight-esque record label honcho in Michael Mann's Robbery Homicide Division, as 'Charles Lambert', an NFL linebacker who years earlier suffered sexual abuse at the hands of his adoptive father, and as 'Dion'- an imprisoned homosexual snitch in Sons Of Anarchy.

In the winter of 2011 and summer of 2012 Bentt directed the critically received off-Broadway production of 'Kid Shamrock', a play about the struggles, triumphs, demons and redemption of 1970s Long Island New York middleweight contender 'Irish' Bobby Cassidy Sr.

Bentt is cited by jazz and film composer, Terence Blanchard, as having provided the inspiration for his Opera Theatre Of St.Louis' 2013 production of 'Champion'. This play is based on the real life ring fights and subsequent death of Benny 'Kid' Paret at the hands of Emile Griffith, a bisexual boxer in 1962. Over the years while training Blanchard in boxing, Bentt, would share with him the transcendent and tragic elements that befell the two fighters.

Bentt served as a faculty member and Co-Teacher for the 'Anna Deavere Smith Project: Empathy and Acting' at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco during 2013.

Professional boxing record[edit]

13 fights 11 wins 2 losses
By knockout 6 2
By decision 5 0
No. Result Record Opponent Type Round, time Date Location Notes
13 Loss 11–2 Herbie Hide KO 7 (12), 2:50 Mar 19, 1994 The Den, London, England Lost WBO heavyweight title
12 Win 11–1 Tommy Morrison TKO 1 (12), 1:33 Oct 29, 1993 Convention Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S. Won WBO heavyweight title
11 Win 10–1 Mark Wills UD 10 Jul 15, 1993 Foxwoods Resort Casino, Ledyard, Connecticut, U.S.
10 Win 9–1 Danny Wofford UD 8 May 28, 1993 New York City, New York, U.S.
9 Win 8–1 Kenneth Myers TKO 3 (8) Sep 25, 1992 Friar Tuck Inn, Catskill, New York, U.S.
8 Win 7–1 Jerry Arentzen TKO 3 (6) Aug 14, 1992 Etess Arena, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
7 Win 6–1 David Graves MD 6 May 2, 1992 Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.
6 Win 5–1 Rick Honeycutt TKO 1 (6), 2:53 Mar 11, 1992 Paramount Theatre, New York City, New York, U.S.
5 Win 4–1 Lynwood Jones PTS 6 Nov 19, 1991 Issy-les-Moulineaux, France
4 Win 3–1 Willie Johnson TKO 1 (6) Sep 13, 1991 Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.
3 Win 2–1 Lynwood Jones PTS 6 May 16, 1991 Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.
2 Win 1–1 James Holly KO 1 (4) Dec 12, 1990 Royal Albert Hall, London, England
1 Loss 0–1 Jerry Jones KO 1 (4), 2:59 Feb 7, 1989 Trump's Castle, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.


Year Film Role
1999 Shadow Boxers Himself
2000 Black People Hate Me and They Hate My Glasses Supreme
Girlfight Fight Pro
2001 Ali Sonny Liston
2002 Niche David
Dark Blue Officer Clay
2003 Hollywood Homicide Club Security Guard
2004 El Padrino Loc N. Load
Collateral Fever Bouncer
Million Dollar Baby Boxer
2005 State Property 2 Biggis (El Plaga)
Fighting Tommy Riley Mosley
2007 The Neighbor Police Officer
2009 Redemption Peanut
Public Enemies Herbert Youngblood
Blue Mr. Parker
Risen Archie Moore

Television appearances[edit]

Year Series Episode Role
1985 Saturday Night Live Howard Cosell and Greg Kihn Boxer
2001 The Invisible Man Den of Thieves Prison Guard
2002 Robbery Homicide Division Alton Davis Redux Calvin Tranier
Firefly War Stories Viktor
2004 The Guardian Remember Charles Lambert
2005 Medium A Priest, a Doctor and a Medium Walk Into an Execution Chamber Guard
JAG Dream Team Chief Master at Arm
Threshold Pulse Officer
Progeny Detective
2009 Heartland I Make Myself Into Something New Joseph Hanratty
Lincoln Heights Persons of Interest Det. Resendez
Sons Of Anarchy Gilead Dion
2019 Losers The Miscast Champion Himself


  1. ^ Michael Bentt vs. Tommy Morrison - WBO Championship
  2. ^ Finger, David E. (2005). Rocky Lives!: Heavyweight Boxing Upsets of the 1990s. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, Inc. ISBN 1-57488-905-2.
  3. ^ Sports News, Lethbridge Herald, Aug 31, 1987, p. 9.
  4. ^ Bent wins second US amateur heavyweight championship (AP,) Joplin Globe, April 6, 1986, p. 25.
  5. ^ Boxing: Rankings of the top American amateur boxers by the USA Amateur Boxing Federation, Farmington Daily Times, October 13, 1987, p. 10.
  6. ^ "Sports People: Boxing; Bentt Released From Hospital". The New York Times. New York, NY. 22 March 1994. p. B-15. Retrieved 27 August 2009.

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Amateur boxing titles
Henry Milligan
U.S. heavyweight champion
Jerry Goff
Jerry Goff
U.S. heavyweight champion
Ray Mercer
World boxing titles
Preceded by WBO heavyweight champion
October 29, 1993 – March 19, 1994
Succeeded by