The Long Weekend No. 2: The Prodigy

By Michael Schmidt on July 1, 2012
The Long Weekend No. 2: The Prodigy
History lessons in the boxing world are not particularly heeded, year after year after year

The “prodigy” unfulfilled that come quickly to mind, Wilfredo Benitez, Tony “El Torito” Ayala Jr., Edwin Valero, and Armando “Mando” Ramos…

We are “back at it” again for the long weekend. Early morning runs, wood chopping, fireworks, boat rides around the Islands, swimming in clean cold water, late night fires by the beach, shooting stars in pitch black darkness and one thousand feet of secluded beach and spring fed ponds. We have fireflies lighting up at night this year and Uncle Harry has a buddy over from Ireland who was a pro soccer player for over twenty years. We of course get into a discourse on soccer, boxing, and Barry McGuigan as I mention that I had the pleasure of spending some time with Eusebio Pedroza in Panama recently. Bronson, our German shepherd/coyote dog, Gitchi Manitou Baja Tabby Wicasa Tankala, he of the Great Spirit Coyote Cat Little Big Man (see “Bronson, Haye and Tyson Fury” and “The Long Weekend”) is snoozing, eyes closed but ears up, by the dock with a fresh but dead rabbit stuck between his jaws. He stalked the poor rabbit around a tree, doubled back the other way, and nailed the poor little one in midair cleaner than Mike Rossman dropped Mike Nixon with one of the best one-punch knockouts you would ever see!! Our “footballer” from Ireland is talking to me about great soccer “Prodigy” and I am delighted that he is a boxing fan as well.

I suppose every town has a version of “The Prodigy” who never did satisfy a talent ever so large. In our hometown of Kitchener it was probably Mr. Steve Dent. If you have the pleasure of talking to Lennox Lewis ask him about Steve Dent. Hard talent to forget that Mr. Steve Dent. Our “footballer” is telling about the legendary soccer player George Best and how, at the age of sixteen, he was already making world-class players look like “proper mugs” and how “booze and broads” left a talent not fully realized. We discuss other “Prodigy” in various life endeavors from business to gambling. “How about Stu Ungar?” I ask. “Aye, Mr. Schmidt, you’re a gaming/poker man then ‘r yea’.” I respond in fact I do not even know how to gamble. “In my line of business other people’s vices are often our devices so to speak.” He in turn, after a good strong laugh and sip of his “pint” asks me to name, off the top of my mind, “The Prodigy” of boxing, the ones that could have gone on to so much better, so much bigger and so much wealthier and healthier. Where does one start? The list goes on and on in quick thought. In Canada it is hard not to give thought to the Hilton brothers and to Eddie Melo but the “prodigy” unfulfilled that come quickly to mind, Wilfredo Benitez, Tony “El Torito” Ayala Jr., Edwin Valero, and Armando “Mando” Ramos. Each in it’s own a story of unfulfilled expectation and life disappointments.

BENITEZ: The youngest champion in boxing history. Where does one go after beating a legend in Antonio “Kid Pambele” Cervantes at the age of seventeen for a World Championship and following up with another Championship over Carlos Palomino. Downhill racing but of course. After Leonard and most certainly after his fight with Tommy Hearns, Benitez’s star, at the tender age of twenty-four, began to fade. Shortly thereafter he was out of boxing as a major title threat figure.  Who could ever forget “the radar,” “the dragon,” and his natural ability to slip, slide and counter?

AYALA: “The Baby Bull.” Die one thousand deaths and cry, cry, cry this boxing business. Another “prodigy” and we are left to ask how far he would have gone and what his legacy would have been. Ayala, who turned pro at age seventeen, has often been referred as one of the greatest prospects in the history of boxing. His ferocity in the ring likened back to Dempsey and to the future Tyson. In one case, having knocked an opponent out, he leaned over and spat on this fallen foe. His legend was already growing by way of sparring sessions, at age fourteen, with Pepino Cuevas and in the summer of 1981, while still a teenager, Ayala was a featured cover boy of Sports Illustrated. At nineteen, slotted to fight Davey Moore in early 1983 for the Jr. Middle title, young Ayala was arrested and subsequently convicted of a brutal sexual assault. As a repeat offender he was sentenced to thirty-five years in prison. Paroled some sixteen years later he resumed his career winning six by knockout before being stopped by Yori Boy Campas. One is left to imagine dream match-ups. There was talk at the time of the young teenage sensation fighting Duran. What fights that could have been between El Torito and the likes of Hamsho, Mugabi, Benitez, and given the young Torito’s age, the likes of Sweet Pea and Trinidad down the line. What station in life would The Bull now be at? All gone, “The Prodigy” no more.

VALERO: Drugs, alcohol, street fights and another reoccurring theme. Long before his nineteen consecutive first round knockouts a friend mentioned to me that this young Venezuelan boxer, in his teens, was causing quite a stir on the West Coast as a boxer/puncher with startling speed and power. YouTube videos of a young Valero sparring with the likes of Erik Morales and working the hand pads with blazing speed are astonishing. He could box brilliantly but such was his amazing power that as he moved through the ranks, winning world titles, he mixed his brutality and power more towards an in-and-out blazing executioner. Twenty-seven wins, no losses, all knockouts, and it all came to an end in April 2010 when he was arrested for allegedly murdering his wife. The next day he was found hanging in his jail cell. Again, as in the case of The Baby Bull, what a career and what fights we are left to simply dream about? Certainly his speed, power, and ability to absorb punishment, would have left Valero as an intriguing match-up for the likes of Rios, Bradley, Khan, Marquez, and style-wise, Manny Pac. 

“MANDO” RAMOS: Somewhere in the Schmidt Home Gym is a Ring Magazine, June ‘69, of young West Coast sensation Mando Ramos. At that point there was seemingly no limit to this natural talent. Some old-timers call him the most gifted and natural fighter to ever lace them up. Turning pro at age seventeen he rapidly ran off seventeen wins. He was a West Coast Warrior with a HUGE FAN BASE. Unfortunately his celebrity came with booze, drugs, and women. Ramos was flying high and natural ability was carrying him along to multiple title affairs, including establishing himself as the youngest fighter to win the Lighweight Championship. Ramos’ home was The Olympic Auditorium. When he fought, movie stars the likes of Kirk Douglas and Liz Taylor would come out to watch him. He became the highest paid teenage athlete in the world with purses, per night, that equaled or bettered established football and baseball stars. Where did it all go wrong? By age twenty-four Ramos was boxing finished. God gifted natural ability can only go so far when you are on the rollercoaster of late nights, drugs, alcohol etc. Duran, “Gato” Gonzales, Buchanan title fights never to be.                                                 

Well my footballer friend has asked and he has received. From George he might have been, could have been Best, to Stu too much gin and enough rummy, and possibly the best gin rummy Ungar, to Ramos. It seems that history lessons in the boxing world are not particularly heeded, year after year. The boxer’s ego naturally inclined towards thoughts of “not me, indestructible” and of course the ego lying as it ought to do and must do in this squared circle business.   

As for our mobile security training partner Bronson, well, he is not giving up his trophy. No ego business, no booze, no drugs (maybe some “broads” we do not know of). My Irish friend and I will stay on the deck and watch the sailboats go by. No sense trying to extract that trophy away from Bronson. He is snoozing but the ears are up and his snack is still hanging off the side of his snout. No distractions allowed and always hungry. Bronson has history!!!!

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Roberto Duran Wilfred Benitez FINAL ROUND's

Davey Moore vs Wilfred Benitez

Yori Boy Campas vs Tony Ayala Jr. (part 1)

Yori Boy Campas vs Tony Ayala Jr. (part 2)

Yori Boy Campas vs Tony Ayala Jr. (part 3)

Edwin Valero vs. Antonio Pitalua - JSFIGHT_TV

Edwin Valero vs. Antonio DeMarco

Mando Ramos vs Sugar Ramos (part 1)-great fight!!

Mando Ramos vs Sugar Ramos (part 2)-great fight!!

Mando Ramos vs Sugar Ramos (part 3)-great fight!!

Mando Ramos vs Sugar Ramos (part 4)-great fight!!

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  1. mikecasey 02:47am, 07/04/2012

    Nice article, Schmidty. Benitez was a natural wonder, one of the supreme talents before his troubles destroyed him.

  2. Don from Prov 08:44am, 07/03/2012

    Agree with Mr. Thresher on Valero being way beyond what Ayala was.
    Very good article.

  3. mike schmidt 06:05pm, 07/02/2012

    Hello James—I used the word “allegedly” only in the context that Valero was never proven guilty in a court of law (as far as I know at any rate and you may provide more on that). My primary was not to soften Valero’s outside the ring matters nor to focus on those matters as much as the “wasted talent” aspect of lost in the ring battles—all of these guys, like many fighters, had demons, BIG BIG demons—boxing was a way out, or at least it had the promise of a way out—thanks for your comments—point taken—as well as yours always Bull.

  4. THE THRESHER 04:42pm, 07/02/2012

    James, I think Valero’s sickness started when he was a little kid on his own. Horrible things happened to him then and it impacted his mental state. If ever there was a case of someone who was insane at the time of the crime he committeed, it was his situation.

    That doesn’t excuse what he did to his wife, but it does begin to peel back the onion in understanding Edwin Valero.

  5. James Nichols 04:04pm, 07/02/2012

    Hold on now there was no “allegedly” about Valero killing his wife, he did it and killed himself afterwards. Agree with everything else written here, but no need to soften on what Valero did. A sick man who beat on women outside the ring and men inside of it.

  6. MIKE SCHMIDT 12:25pm, 07/02/2012

    Yes Ted—totally agree—Valero was A GREAT FIGHTER—much emphasis put on his pure slugging but he could pretty much do it all when he wanted—and tough tough tough—in the ring mentally and physically—speed and power and cat quick on his feet.

  7. the thresher 11:34am, 07/02/2012

    Valero would have eaten the likes of Rios, Bradley, and Khan up and spit them out. Style-wise, he would have been a handful for Pac.. Only Marquez might have been his equal becuase of his countrpunching style. Valero was ten times the fighter Ayala was.

    Ayala was a sick rapist who intended evil. Valero was simply sick. There is a big difference.

  8. the thresher 11:30am, 07/02/2012

    Valero was a great fighter. He was a tragic figure, but a great figfhter who was getting better and better.

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