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Wilfredo Benitez

Wilfredo Benitez (born September 12, 1958) is a perfect example of a person who takes off too fast and crashes hard.

Benitez, 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 Benitez[?] and Gregory Benitez[?] also being top notch contenders in the decade of the 1970s[?]. The Benitez troop was also commandereed by their mother, Clara Benitez.

During the early stages of his professional career, Benitez often traveled to the Virgin Islands and New York, (where he was born), 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 stunning speed, combined with punching power and incredible ring maturity for a 15 year old, took the boxing world by storm. Benitez kept on winning, and in 1976, he lured the far more experienced, 2 time world champion and now member of the hall of fame Antonio 'Kid Pambele' Cervantes[?] of Colombia to San Juan's Hiram Bithorn [?] stadium, to defend his world Jr Welterweight championship. Benitez stunned the world by offering Cervantes a boxing lesson, connecting whenever Cervantes would get open and slipping away "Pambele"'s punches whenever Cervantes tried to attack. Wilfredo won a 15 round unanimous decision, becoming the youngest boxing world champion in history, at the tender age of 17.

(It was his ability to slip punches that earned him the nickname 'The Radar').

Benitez retained this championship 3 times, and then the lure of a Million Dollar fight with a certain 1976 Olympic champion named Sugar Ray Leonard, then made him move up to Welterweight. He and world champion Carlos Palomino, a tough and brilliant powerpuncher who hailed from Mexico but lived in Los Angeles, signed up for a title fight, which again was fought in San Juan, under the auspices of Goya Rice and Bacardi. It was another tough fight, but Benitez's brilliancy was once again shown and he won a 15 rounds decision to become world champion for the second time. After a defense against Harold Weston Jr[?], which ended in a Benitez unanimous decision win, Benitez and Leonard signed for a fight in Las Vegas in November, 1979. It was a brilliant exhibition of scientific boxing by both, but Benitez unsuccessfully tried overcoming a 3rd round knockdown and a cut which was opened on his forehead by a headbutt in round 6, and his brave showing came to an end when the referee stopped the fight with 6 seconds left in round 15.

After that loss, Benitez moved up in weight, and in May,1981[?] he became the youngest 3 time world champion in boxing history, by knocking out world Jr. Middleweight[?] champion Maurice Hope[?] of Trinidad & Tobago, in 12 rounds in Las Vegas. This one was a frightening knockout and Hope had to be hospitalized briefly after the fight. The knockout was named one of the knockouts of the year.

His next fight became a historic bout because when he met future world champ Carlos Santos[?] of Ceiba, Puerto Rico , it became the first world championship fight between two Puerto Ricans in boxing history. Ironically, the fight was fought 3,000 miles away from Puerto Rico, in Las Vegas' Caesars Palace[?] hotel, and Benitez demonstrated the young and talented Santos who the superior boxer of the 2 was, winning a unanimous decision. Then came Roberto Duran, given a boxing lesson in the same hotel in 1982, but at the Carnival of Champions in New Orleans, Benitez had to give up his belt to that other boxing legend, Thomas Hearns, after a good fight that featured knockdowns from both fighters, losing a 15 round unanimous decision.

Benitez's career went downwards after that night with Hearns, and so did his lifestyle. In 1984 , he tried a comeback under the hand of Yamil Chade[?] but this proved to be unsuccessful. In 1987, with his health clearly declining already, he went to Buenos Aires, Argentina to fight Middleweight Carlos Herrera[?]. Benitez put on a brave effort, but he was stopped in 7. But that wasn't the worst part of the trip. He got his money for that fight stolen by the promoter, along with his documents and passport, and was stranded in Argentina for 1 year. After much government huddle and talks, he was finally able to fly back home to Puerto Rico in 1988. One of the most touching moments in his life came when, upon leaving the airplane that brought him back, he handled his 7 year old daughter an Argentinian toy doll he had bought for her before his fight there, and told her he hadn't forgotten her one single day during his time there.

2 years later he moved to Tucson[?], Arizona, where he tried another comeback under the tutelage of Emanuel Steward, the famous Kronk[?] trainer. This also proved unsuccessful and he moved back to Puerto Rico, where he is now living with his mother Clara, on a 200 dollar a month pension provided by the WBC.

Benitez is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 1996.



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