Wilfred Benítez

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Wilfred Benítez
Joe McLaughlin interview with Wilfred Benitez WW Boxing Champ 1980.jpg
Benítez (right) with sportswriter Joe McLaughlin, 1980
Statistics
Nickname(s) El Radar ("The Radar")
Bible of Boxing
Rated at Light middleweight
Light welterweight
Welterweight
Height 5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Reach 70 in (178 cm)
Nationality Puerto Rican
Born (1958-09-12) September 12, 1958 (age 58)
New York City,
New York, U.S.
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 62
Wins 53
Wins by KO 31
Losses 8
Draws 1

Wilfred Benítez (born September 12, 1958) is a 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.

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 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 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 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[edit]

On March 6, 1976, at age 17, with his High School classmates in attendance, he faced Lineal[2] 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 Benitez's favor.

Benitez retained the championship three times, and then moved up to the welterweight division. Benítez challenged Lineal[3] and 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.[4]

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 Salta, 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 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[5]
Result Record Opponent Type Round Date Location Notes
Loss 53–8 (1) United States Scott Papasodora UD 10 18/09/1990 Canada Winnipeg Convention Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Win 53–7 (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 52–7 United States Pat Lawlor PTS 10 23/05/1990 Arizona Tucson, Arizona, United States
Win 52–6 (1) Mexico Ariel Conde KO 7 08/03/1990 Arizona Americana Motel, Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Loss 51–6 (1) Argentina Carlos Maria del Valle Herrera TKO 7 28/11/1986 Argentina Salta, Argentina Benitez was stranded one year in Argentina after the fight
Win 51–5 (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 50–5 (1) 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 50–4 (1) 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 49–4 (1) United States Kevin Moley UD 10 21/08/1985 New York (state) Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States 8-2, 7-3, 7-3.
Win 48–4 (1) 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 47–4 (1) Venezuela Mauricio Bravo TKO 2 30/03/1985 Aruba Oranjestad, Aruba
Loss 46–4 (1) United States Davey 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 46–3 (1) United States Stacy McSwain UD 10 11/02/1984 Michigan Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, United States
Loss 45–3 (1) Syria Mustafa Hamsho UD 12 16/07/1983 Nevada Dunes Hotel, Las Vegas, United States 109-118, 111-118, 111-117.
Win 45–2 (1) United States Tony Cerda UD 10 18/05/1983 Nevada Dunes Hotel, Las Vegas, United States
Loss 44–2 (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 44–1 (1) 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 43–1 (1) 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 42–1 (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 41–1 (1) United States Pete Ranzany UD 10 12/12/1980 California Sacramento, California, United States 99-92, 97-94, 97-94.
Win 40–1 (1) United States Tony Chiaverini TKO 8 01/08/1980 Nevada Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, United States
Win 39–1 (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 38–1 (1) United States Sugar Ray Leonard TKO 15 30/11/1979 Nevada Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, United States, United States Lineal and WBC World Welterweight Title. Referee stopped the bout at 2:54 of the 15th round.
Win 38–0 (1) United States Harold Weston UD 15 25/03/1979 Puerto Rico Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States Lineal and WBC World Welterweight Title. 149-138, 144-142, 146-145.
Win 37–0 (1) Mexico Carlos Palomino SD 15 14/01/1979 Puerto Rico Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States Lineal and WBC World Welterweight Title. 142-145, 146-143, 146-142.
Win 36–0 (1) Trinidad and Tobago Vernon Lewis UD 10 08/12/1978 New York (state) Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States
Win 35–0 (1) United States Randy Shields RTD 6 25/08/1978 New York (state) Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States
Win 34–0 (1) United States Bruce Curry MD 10 04/02/1978 New York (state) Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States, United States 9-1, 7-3, 5-5.
Win 33–0 (1) United States Bruce Curry SD 10 18/11/1977 New York (state) Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States, United States 4-5, 5-4, 7-3.
Win 32–0 (1) Venezuela Ray Chavez Guerrero TKO 15 03/08/1977 New York (state) Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States, United States Lineal and NYSAC Light Welterweight Title. Referee stopped the bout at 1:41 of the 15th round.
Win 31–0 (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, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands Referee stopped the bout at 2:48 of the first round.
Win 30–0 (1) Argentina Roberto "Speed Racer" Gonzalez KO 1 02/06/1977 United States Virgin Islands Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Win 29–0 (1) United States Melvin Dennis UD 8 06/03/1977 Ohio Correctional Facility Prison, Marion, Ohio, United States, United States 7-1, 8-0, 5-1.
Draw 28–0 (1) United States Harold Weston PTS 10 02/02/1977 New York (state) New York City, United States, United States, United States 7-3, 5-5, 5-5.
Win 28–0 United States Tony Petronelli TKO 3 16/10/1976 Puerto Rico Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States Lineal and WBA World Light Welterweight Title.
Win 27–0 Colombia Emiliano Villa UD 15 31/05/1976 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States Lineal and WBA World Light Welterweight Title. 150-138, 149-137, 148-137.
Win 26–0 Colombia Antonio Cervantes SD 15 06/03/1976 Puerto Rico Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States Lineal and WBA World Light Welterweight Title. 148-144, 147-142, 145-147.
Win 25–0 Dominican Republic Chris Fernandez PTS 10 13/12/1975 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
Win 24–0 Argentina Omar Ruben Realecio TKO 6 20/10/1975 New York (state) Felt Forum, New York City, United States, United States
Win 23–0 Puerto Rico Marcelino Alicia TKO 2 01/09/1975 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
Win 22–0 The Bahamas Young Woodall KO 4 19/08/1975 Netherlands Antilles Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, Netherlands Antilles
Win 21–0 Eyue Jeudy KO 4 01/08/1975 Netherlands Antilles Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, Netherlands Antilles
Win 20–0 Canada Jim "John" Henry TKO 8 28/06/1975 Puerto Rico Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
Win 19–0 Cuba Angel Robinson Garcia PTS 10 09/06/1975 Puerto Rico Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
Win 18–0 Puerto Rico Santos Solis PTS 10 05/05/1975 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
Win 17–0 United States Wilbur Seales TKO 4 31/03/1975 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
Win 16–0 Puerto Rico Santiago Rosa KO 4 08/02/1975 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
Win 15–0 Puerto Rico Francisco "El Presidente" Rodriguez TKO 7 04/01/1975 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
Win 14–0 Canada Lawrence Hafey UD 8 02/12/1974 New York (state) Felt Forum, New York City, United States, United States
Win 13–0 Canada Terry Summerhays TKO 6 25/10/1974 New York (state) Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States, United States Referee stopped the bout at 1:51 of the sixth round.
Win 12–0 Canada Al Hughes TKO 5 16/09/1974 New York (state) Felt Forum, New York City, United States, United States Referee stopped the bout at 2:06 of the fifth round.
Win 11–0 United States Virgin Islands Easy Boy Lake TKO 5 31/08/1974 Netherlands Antilles Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, Netherlands Antilles
Win 10–0 Puerto Rico Carlos Crispin TKO 3 26/06/1974 Puerto Rico Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
Win 9–0 Ives St Jean KO 1 21/06/1974 Netherlands Antilles Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, Netherlands Antilles
Win 8–0 United States Virgin Islands Easy Boy Lake KO 5 11/05/1974 Netherlands Antilles Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, Netherlands Antilles
Win 7–0 Dominican Republic Juan Disla TKO 3 30/04/1974 Puerto Rico Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
Win 6–0 Puerto Rico Victor Mangual PTS 8 01/04/1974 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
Win 5–0 Roberto Flanders TKO 4 18/02/1974 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
Win 4–0 Joe York KO 2 26/01/1974 Netherlands Antilles Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, Netherlands Antilles
Win 3–0 Hector Amadis KO 4 07/01/1974 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, United States
Win 2–0 Jesse Torres KO 2 30/11/1973 Netherlands Antilles Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, Netherlands Antilles
Win 1–0 Hiram Santiago KO 1 22/11/1973 Puerto Rico San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States, 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.[6]

In 2002, Sugar Ray Leonard visited Benítez, who by this time had forgotten his identity.[7] 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."[7] 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.[8]

During 2012, Benitez was honored with a statue in Puerto Rico.[9]

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.[10] Surprising the mourners, Benitez rose to his feet for a boxing pose in front of Camacho's coffin.[11]

Awards and recognitions[edit]

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

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 boxing champion
May 23, 1981 - December 3, 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 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.

     = Indicates the person is no longer alive

Non boxing related awards[edit]

Key to the City

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]