Wilfred Benitez Speaker & Booking Information

Youngest World Champion in Boxing History
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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.

Benitez won consistently over relatively unknown fighters, and in 1976 he lured the far more experienced, two-time world champion and now fellow Hall of Famer Antonio "Kid Pambele" Cervantes of Colombia to San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium, to defend his World Junior Welterweight championship. Benitez stunned the boxing world by beating Cervantes. Wilfred won a 15 round unanimous decision, becoming the youngest boxing world champion in history, at the age of 17.

Benitez retained this championship 3 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 and world champion Carlos Palomino, who hailed from Mexico but lived in Los Angeles, signed up for a title fight, again was fought in San Juan, under the auspices of Goya Rice and Bacardi. It was another much-anticipated fight, and Benitez won a 15 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 6 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 of Trinidad and Tobago, in twelve rounds in Las Vegas. This one featured a knockout punch that made sports shows highlights, a right hook to the face after which Hope had to be hospitalized briefly after the fight. The knockout was named one of the knockouts of the year.

His next fight became a historic bout, because 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, in Las Vegas' Caesars Palace hotel. 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.

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 dollar a month pension provided by the WBC. 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, an illness of insidious onset which might well have hindered his performance long before it was recognized.

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

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NOPACTalent acts as a Celebrity Speakers Bureau and Athlete Booking agency for corporate functions, appearances, private events and speaking engagements. NOPACTalent does not claim or represent itself as Wilfred Benitez’s speakers bureau, agent, manager or management company for Wilfred Benitez or any celebrity on this website. NOPACTalent represents organizations seeking to hire motivational speakers, athletes, celebrities and entertainers for private corporate events, celebrity endorsements, personal appearances, and speaking engagements.

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