|Nickname(s)||El Radar ("The Radar")|
Bible of Boxing
|Height||5 ft 10 in (178 cm)|
|Reach||70 in (178 cm)|
|Born||September 12, 1958|
The Bronx, New York City, U.S.
|Wins by KO||31|
Wilfred "Wilfredo" 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.
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, Edwin Rosario and Miguel Cotto.
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. 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 career
On March 6, 1976, at age 17, with his high school classmates in attendance, he faced Lineal 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. Benítez retained the championship three times, and then moved up to the welterweight division.
Benítez challenged Lineal 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 Leonard
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.
Moving up again
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.
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 record
|62 fights||53 wins||8 losses|
|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, U.S.|
|60||Loss||52–7–1||Pat Lawlor||SD||10||May 23, 1990||Amigos Indoor Soccer Stadium, Tucson, Arizona, U.S.|
|59||Win||52–6–1||Ariel Conde||KO||7 (10), 1:47||Mar 8, 1990||Americana Motel, Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.|
|58||Loss||51–6–1||Carlos Herrera||TKO||7 (10)||Nov 28, 1986||Salta, Argentina|
|57||Win||51–5–1||Harry Daniels||UD||10||Sep 17, 1986||Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.|
|56||Win||50–5–1||Paul Whittaker||UD||10||Jul 1, 1986||Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.|
|55||Loss||49-5–1||Matthew Hilton||KO||9 (10), 2:59||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, New York, U.S.|
|53||Win||48–4–1||Danny Chapman||RTD||7 (10), 3:00||Jul 6, 1985||Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington D.C., U.S.|
|52||Win||47–4–1||Mauricio Bravo||TKO||2 (10)||Mar 30, 1985||Oranjestad, Aruba|
|51||Loss||46–4–1||Davey Moore||TKO||2 (10), 1:18||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, U.S.|
|49||Loss||45–3–1||Mustafa Hamsho||UD||12||Jul 16, 1983||Dunes Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.|
|48||Win||45–2–1||Tony Cerda||UD||10||May 18, 1983||Dunes Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.|
|47||Loss||44–2–1||Thomas Hearns||MD||15||Dec 3, 1982||Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.||Lost WBC light middleweight title;|
For vacant The Ring light middleweight title
|46||Win||44–1–1||Roberto Durán||UD||15||Jan 30, 1982||Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.||Retained WBC light middleweight title|
|45||Win||43–1–1||Carlos Santos||UD||15||Nov 14, 1981||Showboat Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.||Retained WBC light middleweight title|
|44||Win||42–1–1||Maurice Hope||KO||12 (15), 1:56||May 23, 1981||Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.||Won WBC light middleweight title|
|43||Win||41–1–1||Pete Ranzany||UD||10||Dec 12, 1980||Sacramento, California, U.S.|
|42||Win||40–1–1||Tony Chiaverini||TKO||8 (10)||Aug 1, 1980||Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.|
|41||Win||39–1–1||Johnny Turner||TKO||9 (10), 2:57||Mar 16, 1980||Jai Alai Fronton, Miami, Florida, U.S.|
|40||Loss||38–1–1||Sugar Ray Leonard||TKO||15 (15), 2:54||Nov 30, 1979||Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.||Lost WBC and The Ring welterweight titles|
|39||Win||38–0–1||Harold Weston||UD||15||Mar 25, 1979||Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico||Retained WBC and The Ring welterweight titles|
|38||Win||37–0–1||Carlos Palomino||SD||15||Jan 14, 1979||Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico||Won WBC and The Ring welterweight titles|
|37||Win||36–0–1||Vernon Lewis||UD||10||Dec 8, 1978||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|36||Win||35–0–1||Randy Shields||RTD||6 (10), 3:00||Aug 25, 1978||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|35||Win||34–0–1||Bruce Curry||MD||10||Feb 4, 1978||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|34||Win||33–0–1||Bruce Curry||SD||10||Nov 18, 1977||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|33||Win||32–0–1||Ray Chavez Guerrero||TKO||15 (15), 1:41||Aug 3, 1977||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|32||Win||31–0–1||Easy Boy Lake||TKO||1 (10), 2:48||Jul 1, 1977||Lionel Roberts Stadium, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands|
|31||Win||30–0–1||Roberto Gonzalez||KO||1||Jun 2, 1977||Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands|
|30||Win||29–0–1||Melvin Dennis||UD||8||Mar 6, 1977||Correctional Facility Prison, Marion, Ohio, U.S.|
|29||Draw||28–0–1||Harold Weston||PTS||10||Feb 2, 1977||New York City, New York, U.S.|
|28||Win||28–0||Tony Petronelli||TKO||3 (15), 0:53||Oct 16, 1976||Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico||Retained WBA and The Ring light welterweight titles|
|27||Win||27–0||Emiliano Villa||UD||15||May 31, 1976||San Juan, Puerto Rico||Retained WBA and The Ring light welterweight titles|
|26||Win||26–0||Antonio Cervantes||SD||15||Mar 6, 1976||Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico||Won WBA and The Ring light welterweight titles|
|25||Win||25–0||Chris Fernandez||PTS||10||Dec 13, 1975||San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|24||Win||24–0||Omar Ruben Realecio||TKO||6 (10)||Oct 20, 1975||Felt Forum, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|23||Win||23–0||Marcelino Alicia||TKO||2 (10)||Sep 1, 1975||San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|22||Win||22–0||Young Woodall||KO||4||Aug 19, 1975||Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles|
|21||Win||21–0||Eyue Jeudy||KO||4||Aug 1, 1975||Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles|
|20||Win||20–0||Jim Henry||TKO||8||Jun 28, 1975||Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|19||Win||19–0||Angel Robinson Garcia||PTS||10||Jun 9, 1975||Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|18||Win||18–0||Santos Solis||SD||10||May 5, 1975||San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|17||Win||17–0||Wilbur Seales||TKO||4||Mar 31, 1975||San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|16||Win||16–0||Santiago Rosa||KO||4||Feb 8, 1975||San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|15||Win||15–0||Francisco Rodriguez||TKO||7||Jan 4, 1975||San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|14||Win||14–0||Lawrence Hafey||UD||8||Dec 2, 1974||Felt Forum, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|13||Win||13–0||Terry Summerhays||TKO||6 (8), 1:51||Oct 25, 1974||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|12||Win||12–0||Al Hughes||TKO||5 (8), 2:06||Sep 16, 1974||Felt Forum, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|11||Win||11–0||Easy Boy Lake||TKO||5||Aug 31, 1974||Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles|
|10||Win||10–0||Carlos Crispin||TKO||3||Jun 26, 1974||Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|9||Win||9–0||Ives St Jean||KO||1||Jun 21, 1974||Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles|
|8||Win||8–0||Easy Boy Lake||KO||5||May 11, 1974||Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles|
|7||Win||7–0||Juan Disla||TKO||3 (10)||Apr 30, 1974||Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|6||Win||6–0||Victor Mangual||PTS||8||Apr 1, 1974||San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|5||Win||5–0||Roberto Flanders||KO||4||Feb 18, 1974||San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|4||Win||4–0||Joe York||KO||2||Jan 26, 1974||Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles|
|3||Win||3–0||Hector Amadis||KO||4||Jan 7, 1974||San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|2||Win||2–0||Jesse Torres||KO||2||Nov 30, 1973||Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles|
|1||Win||1–0||Hiram Santiago||KO||1||Nov 22, 1973||San Juan, Puerto Rico|
Retirement and illness
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.
In 1997, Benítez was moved to a public nursing home for medical reasons by his mother Clara, a licensed nurse.
In 2002, Sugar Ray Leonard visited Benítez, who by this time had forgotten his identity. 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."
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.
Support, recovery and public appearance
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.
During 2012, Benítez was honored with a statue in Puerto Rico.
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. Surprising the mourners, Benítez rose to his feet for a boxing pose in front of Camacho's coffin.
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.
Awards and recognitions
Benítez was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994.
Puerto Ricans in the International Boxing Hall of Fame
|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 (counting championships from minor sanctioning bodies). 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.|
|13||Miguel Cotto||2022||He is a multiple-time world champion, and the first Puerto Rican boxer to win world titles in four weight classes, from light welterweight to middleweight. In 2007 and 2009,|
= Indicates the person is no longer alive
- Carolina, Puerto Rico (1984)
- List of light welterweight boxing champions
- List of welterweight boxing champions
- List of light middleweight boxing champions
- List of WBA world champions
- List of WBC world champions
- List of boxing triple champions
- List of Puerto Rican boxing world champions
- Sports in Puerto Rico
- Afro-Puerto Ricans
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