Wilfred Benitez was a true rawcore ring warrior and boxing’s youngest world champion in its sport history. His career is astounding and in my eyes, a pure genius that doesn’t get the recognition he truly deserves. Benitez turned pro at 15, a young prodigy who was managed by his father Gregorio Benitez. With a career record no one could denounce other than being elite ended up as: 53-8-1, 31 KO’s. His record speaks volumes especially by way of fighter’s he faced during his career such as, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns, and Carlos Palomino to name just a few.
He fought in a spectacular era in the history of boxing and hooked most of us to the sweet science! On March 6, 1976, at age 17, he faced WBA Light Welterweight Champion Antonio Cervantes. Known as “Kid Pambele”, the champion was 30 years old, had a record of 74-9-3, 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. On January 14, 1979, Benitez faced champion Carlos Palomino in San Juan, PR and 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. Benitez won a fifteen-round unanimous decision. His next defense was against Roberto Duran, 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. 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 was stopped in two, by the late Davey Moore.
On November 28, 1986, with his health declining, he went to Buenos Aires, Argentina to fight middleweight Carlos Herrera. Benitez was stopped in seven rounds. His last bout took place in Winnipeg, Canada on September 18, 1990, when he lost a ten-round decision against Scott Papasadora.
So my lovelies that love and respect the sweet science and its many great fighters surely must agree, I am well within my rights to proclaim, Wilfred Benitez was a flawlessly – superior fighter to many ring warriors from days gone by through today.
WB for sure is on my Elite List for eternity……