Wilfred Benítez was born on September 12, 1958, in the Bronx in New York City. He is the youngest of seven children. His mother, Clara Rosa, was a nurse by profession and his father, Gregorio "Goyo" Benítez, was a boxing trainer. The family returned to Puerto Rico in the middle of the 1960s and settled in the Saint Just sector of the municipality of Carolina, where his father established a boxing gym. Goyo trained many boxers there, including his sons, Gregory, Frankie and Wilfredo, who was just seven years old.
During his adolescence, he boxed as an amateur. After 154 amateur bouts, he turned professional at 15 years of age with his father as his trainer and manager. On November 22, 1973, he had his first professional fight, against Puerto Rican boxer Hiram Santiago, whom he knocked out in the first round. In the following years, he amassed many victories.
On March 6, 1976, Wilfredo Benítez sought the World Boxing Association (WBA) world title in the super lightweight or junior welterweight category, which includes professional boxers who weigh between 135 and 140 pounds (61.237 to 63.503 kilograms). In Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, he defeated the champion in that weight category, the Colombian boxer Antonio "Kid Pambelé" Cervantes, by a split decision. With that win, he became the youngest boxer in the history of the sport to win a world championship.
After defending his title three times, Benítez decided to step up to the welterweight category, for professional boxers who weigh between 140 and 147 pounds (63.503 kilograms to 66.678 kilograms). He won three bouts in that category before facing World Boxing Council (WBC) champion Carlos Palomino of Mexico on January 14, 1979 in Hiram Bithorn Coliseum in San Juan. Benítez defeated Palomino by a split decision, winning his second world title.
He defended his title against Harold Weston and then faced Sugar Ray Leonard, the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) welterweight champion. In that exciting bout on November 30, 1979, in Ceasar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Wilfredo Benítez was knocked down once in the third round and suffered a cut in the sixth. He lost the championship on a technical decision when the referee stopped the fight with just six seconds left in the fifteenth and final round.
After that defeat, Wilfredo decided to move up to the super welterweight or junior middleweight or light middleweight category, professional boxers between 147 and 154 pounds (66.678 to 69.853 kilograms). He won his third world title by defeating boxer Maurice Hope of Antigua, whom he defeated by a unanimous decision. This made him the youngest boxer to win three world titles in three different categories.
His first defense of his super welterweight title was against fellow Puerto Rican Carlos Santos on November 14, 1981, in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was the first time in history that two Puerto Ricans faced each other in the ring for a world title. Benítez defeated Santos by a unanimous decision. He defended his title against Roberto "Stone Hand" Durán of Panama, whom he defeated by a unanimous decision. He then faced Thomas Hearns of the United States on December 3, 1982, in New Orleans, who was known as an aggressive puncher. Benítez lost the super welterweight title by a majority decision.
He fought twice the following year, once against Tony Cerda of the United States, which he won by unanimous decision, and once against Mustafa Hamsho of Syria, which he lost by unanimous decision. After that defeat, his boxing career began a gradual decline. He continued boxing in the following years until 1986, when he went to Argentina to face Carlos María del Valle Herrera, even though he was not in good shape. After losing the fight by a technical knockout, he remained in Argentina for more than a year, alleging that the promoters owed him money. He returned to the island in January of 1988, in deteriorating health.
About that time, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative condition of the brain caused by cerebral trauma. In other words, the condition was caused by the blows he received as a boxer. Despite his condition, Wilfredo Benítez tried to return to the ring in 1990, but he was forced to retire that same year because of his diminished reflexes and his physical and mental deterioration.
Over the course of his professional boxing career, Wilfredo Benítez amassed a total of 53 wins (31 by knockout), eight losses (four by knockout) and one draw. He was known as an orthodox boxer, one with good technique in the ring, both on defense and offense. His defensive skills, particularly his ability to evade blows, earned him the nickname of "Radar."
Wilfredo Benítez was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996. He currently lives in a nursing home.
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"Wilfred Benítez". BoxRec.com. BoxRec Boxing Encyclopaedia. Web. 8 abril 2010.
"Wilfred Benítez". La Red Biográfica de Puerto Rico. Dr. Cirilo Toro Vargas, 30 junio 1999. Web. 8 abril 2010.
Autor: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 08, 2014.