International Boxing Hall of Fame

Wilfred Benitez

"El Radar"

 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

Wilfred Benitez
Statistics
Real name

Wilfred Benitez

Nickname(s)

El Radar, Bible of Boxing

Rated at

Welterweight

Nationality

Puerto Rican

Birth date

September 12, 1958

Birth place

New York, NY

Stance

Orthodox

Boxing record
Total fights

62

Wins

53

Wins by KO

31

Losses

8

Draws

1

No contests

0

Wilfred Benitez (born September 12, 1958 in New York, New York), is a Puerto Rican boxer. He is remembered best as a skilled and aggressive fighter with exceptional defensive abilities who won world championships in three separate weight divisions, and was the youngest world champion in boxing history.

Early history

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 and Gregory Benitez having also been top contenders in the 1970s. The Benitez troop was largely directed by their mother, Clara Benitez. Young Wilfredo was nicknamed "The Radar". 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 15 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

 

In March, 1976 he defeated WBA Light Welterweight champion Antonio Cervantes in a split decision. Benitez retained this championship three times, and then the lure of a million dollar fight with 1976 Olympic champion Sugar Ray Leonard made him move up to the welterweight division. First, he challenged world champion Carlos Palomino in San Juan. Benitez won a fifteen round decision to become world champion in a second weight division. 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 scientific fight by both fighters, who demonstrated their defensive skills throughout the bout. Benitez unsuccessfully tried overcoming a third round knockdown, and a cut which was opened on his forehead by a head butt in round six, and the fight came to an end when the referee stopped the fight with six seconds left in round fifteen.

After that loss, Benitez again moved up in weight, and in May 23, 1981, he became the youngest three-time world champion in boxing history by knocking out world junior middleweight 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. The match against future world champ Carlos Santos of Ceiba, Puerto Rico, 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 the Caesar's Palace hotel in Las Vegas. Benitez won a fifteen round unanimous decision. Next came another Hall-of-Famer, Roberto Duran, whom Benitez defeated in the same hotel in 1982. Soon thereafter, at the Carnival of Champions in New Orleans, Benitez gave up his belt to another boxing legend, Thomas Hearns, after a fight that featured knockdowns from both fighters, when he lost a fifteen round unanimous decision.

Career decline

Benitez's career went downwards after the fight with Hearns, as did his lifestyle. In 1984, he tried a comeback under the hand of Yamil Chade, but this proved unsuccessful. In 1987, 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. A touching public moment in his life came when, upon leaving the airplane that brought him back, he handed his seven year-old daughter an Argentine 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 away.

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 won one fight and lost one in this last comeback. He returned to Puerto Rico, where he is now living 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 many believe was caused by the blows he took in the ring.

In 2004, Benitez was diagnosed with diabetes.

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

Preceded by
Antonio Cervantes
WBA Light Welterweight Champion
6 Mar 1976 1977
Stripped
Succeeded by
Antonio Cervantes
Preceded by
Carlos Palomino
WBC Welterweight Champion
14 Jan 1979 30 Nov 1979
Succeeded by
Sugar Ray Leonard
Preceded by
Maurice Hope
WBC Light Middleweight boxing champion
23 May 1981 3 Dec 1982
Succeeded by
Thomas Hearns