Words for Wilfred

By Paul Magno on July 13, 2017
Words for Wilfred
His showings again Carlos Palomino, Maurice Hope and Roberto Duran were phenomenal.

This is a companion piece to the article I recently wrote at FightHype.com. Give that one a read after reading this…

(Writer’s Note: This is a companion piece to the article I recently wrote at FightHype.com, Wilfred Benitez: The Dark Side of a Warrior’s World. Give that one a read after reading this.)

“As a fighter he represented hope for everyone in Puerto Rico. I don’t know any kid who didn’t want to be like him. As a Puerto Rican he was a symbol of national pride, the son of Puerto Rico.”—Javier Varela, Philadelphia, Pa., trainer of flyweight sensation Miguel Cartegena

“Wilfred Benitez was a phenomenon in the world of boxing by anybody’s standards. He won the world light welterweight title at the tender age of 17 years, 5 months, and 23 days. More than that, at his peak he had the best head movement and upper body movement of any boxer that ever lived—he was known as ‘the Radar’ when he was at his brilliant best. My father used to say about Benitez’s upper body movement and defense, he’d say ‘you couldn’t hit Benitez with a handful of stones.’ He was that elusive.

“Wilfred turned pro at 15 and was World Champion a little over two years later. His performance against Cervantes beggars belief for a teenager and his subsequent showings again Carlos Palomino, Maurice Hope, Roberto Duran (my favorite all-time fighter) and even his losing performances against Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns were phenomenal. Because he was a defensive genius it is all the more upsetting that he’s ended up with major brain damage as a result of punches to the head, how could that have happened to ‘The Radar?’ But if it can happen to the incomparable Muhammad Ali, it can happen to any professional boxer. I hope it is a salutary lesson to all professional boxers to get out of the game at the right time, with your faculties intact.

“God be good to Wilfred and I hope this benefit raises enough to help him ride out the rest of his life getting the type of care he needs to be comfortable, that’s the least he deserves.”—Barry McGuigan, Hall of Famer Boxer, Promoter

“Wilfred Benitez was a Mozart in boxing trunks. He was 17 when he defeated Antonio Cervantes in 1976 to capture the junior welterweight championship. Less than three years later, he added the welterweight belt to his collection by edging Carlos Palomino. The junior middleweight strap was his in 1981. He defended his title against Roberto Duran, and lost it by split decision to Tommy Hearns. Benitez was blessed with extraordinary defensive skills. Offensively, his counterpunching drove opponents nuts. He could punch a little as well, scoring 31 knockouts in 53 fights. He fought and beat most of the best fighters of his generation.”—John Raspanti, writer

“I remember being seven years old and already having my first amateur fight. Wilfred Benitez inspired me to realize that age was only a number and that if you dedicated yourself to the sport of boxing you could achieve anything.”—Syd “The Jewel” Vanderpool, former middleweight contender

“He was only 19 when he won the welterweight title from Carlos Palomino. The fight was at the Robert Clemente Ballpark in San Juan. I was there. The noise of the home town crowd was overpowering. It was a wonderful event for all Puerto Ricans.”—Bill Caplan, Hall of Fame Publicist

“Wilfredo was an incredible athlete and a humble human being. A great, great fighter.”—Carlos Palomino, former welterweight champion of the world

“Benitez is sort of a boxing Bobby Fischer. Like Fischer, his genius flared just long enough to secure its place and then it was gone. Watching him paintbrush Duran, seeing him take Cervantes to school at prom age, is the art of fist fighting at its finest.” —Cliff Rold, writer

Please consider donating to the Wilfred Benitez Fund. Spread the word by sharing this article.

Special thanks go to “The Iceman” John Scully for inspiring this piece and for all the great work he has done in raising funds and awareness for this cause.

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  1. Kid Blast 07:39am, 07/13/2017

    Very nice, Paul. This is what the dark side of boxing is all about. It’s real nd will b apart of boxing as long as boxing is allowed, Chacon, Jimmy Young, Pep, Joe Louis, SRR, —if this can happen to our best, what of the others?  It’s very scary.

  2. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:19am, 07/13/2017

    Maurice Hope would probably concur with the assessment that Benitez “could punch a little”

  3. tlig 05:01am, 07/13/2017

    Was he really 17 when he won the title? I have read of articles that had him as being 16 in a boxing tournament back in 1972. I think he was born at least two years earlier than his official age.

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