The Crying Game

08.11.06 - by Ernesto Morales - The Kid was only 5 years old when his dad, Don Goyo, had him sparring with his two very talented, older brothers EVERY DAY! Gregory Jnr and Frankie were both good enough to turn pro at early ages and had a combined 34-7-1 record. Gregory as an amateur represented Puerto Rico a couple of times in international competition, turned pro at 16 and won his first 10 pro fights before losing 2 razor thin boooooed decisions before calling it quits. One loss came to eventual Alexis Arguello conqueror; the more experienced Vilomar Fernandez, then 11- 1. He got disgusted and helped his father train his other brothers, sparring with them on a daily basis.
Frankie turned pro at 15 years old and won all but one of his first 24 fights. After losing 2 straight, one to the vastly experienced 32yr old Chris fernandez, who had 2 recent wins over yet world champ Saoul Mamby, who also defeated Doc McClendon twice, Angel Robinson Garcia, future 147lb world champ, Angel Espada and future world WBC 140lb champion Miguel Velasquez Fernandez, all in his opponents home turf. He also went the distance losing close decisions to Bruno Arcari and Ken Buchannan..
Frankie's other loss came to experienced Josue Marquez, who two years earlier lost a 15rd split decision to Antonio "Kid Pambele" Cervantes, one of the best 140lb'ers of All Times. Frankie was ONLY 18yrs old!!! But drifted away from the gym and would fight sparingly, often ill trained or over weight.
Wilfred was forced to spar with the other young hard-hitting stars of the Benitez stable, Esteban DeJesus and Alfredo Escalera. Both Esteban and Alfredo were bitter enemies. After an altercation while jogging at the Sixto Escobar Stadium, Escalera left Don Goyo's stable and split for New York and later New Jersey.
As a 12yr old Wilfred was already too talented for most 15-16yr old amateurs. His father continually had him sparring with grown men or experienced pros. These pros refused to be humiliated and fooled by the hard to hit, fast handed Kid, who was nicknamed "El Radar". They had to hustle to keep up with Wilfred. They tried to hurt The Kid, trying to keep him humble. The Kid couldn't block them all. Hard, heavy, experienced blows of ADULT FORCE would land on his still very young and still fragile head and body. No effects were noticed. The Kid only got better and better and at the super tender age of 17yrs old, still a boy, Wilfred became a champion in a mans sport.
Former Commission MD, Dr Amuary Capella along with Dr Hugo Ramirez, an old friend of our family, once sat with Don Goyo after his win over Carlos Palomino and expressed their concern of "El Radar". They said that Wilfred had taken a lot of 'blows by his brothers and by the other older/ bigger young men as an infant. The young child had absorbed 'Adult' punishment and blows at a tender age. Since winning the 140lb title his training sessions had intensified while his dedication had dwindled. They advised Goyo to prepare The Kid for a short career, save and invest all that they could. They warned that although Wilfred hadn't taken any serious punishment in any particular fight, the accumulation of the blows he's already received, to both head and body, was enough. Don Goyo, with more greed than concern, looked at them with a, "What do you guys know" look, smiled and walked away. Later Dr Hugo told this to both my dad and me as we watched the Duran fight.
Wilfred had a love/hate relationship with his father. You got to understand the younger of the Benitez boxing clan was a 17yr old champ with very little formal education when he took the title, TOO YOUNG to sign contracts, TOO YOUNG to control his finances, TOO YOUNG..... "Daddy Dearest" had full control. Wilfred "sparred" more with his father over money than he did in the gym. When The Kid wanted to buy a motorcycle.... they fought…… a car.... they fought…….a gift for his girlfriend.... a trip to New York.... they fought and fought and fought. A month before his fight with Leonard he wanted to know "How much advanced money?" was given by the promoters and demanded half. His father denied the facts but he knew his Dear Ol' Dad was lying. The Kid didn't have much schooling but he KNEW his dad and he also had proof so he walked out of the gym and refused to fight, refused to make another dime for his father. The press became very aware of The Kid's absence, day after day, one week going on two. Where's Wilfred??" the press and media asked. So did the fans. Practically ALL of Puerto Rico wanted to know. This was one of the usual ploys "El Radar" would resort to get even with "Daddy". He knew "Daddy" was spending money on Cervezas, Bacardi, Women.... and HORSES. He even went partners on a stable of 4 legged losers.
Sadly, the MDs had been right and Wilfred is now in a nursing home. Rarely taken out for anything, not even boxing functions. He's really out of it. He accomplished what no other fighter has. ONE World Title at the tender age of 17yrs old, TWO World Titles at 20, THREE World Titles while still only a very young 22!!!! All this when winning a title REALLY MEANT something! Back when there were only TWO sanctioning bodies, unlike the watered down FOUR we have these days!!........ Too bad his "Daddy" didn't listen. "Daddy" is no longer around. He passed years ago. He died broke. Wilfred is destined to die a similar death.... penniless.

I was there in the crowd when he won his first 2 titles and witnessed him KO Maurice Hope on TV……and I was there just a few short months ago at the Centro Medico Hospital…..What a contrast...... What a fighter…….but no longer the young 17 year old kid who created history……………Boxing can make grown men cry but it will forever be indelible in the hearts of all fight fans.

He once said they [his brothers] were never asked if they wanted to be fighters, his father decided that for them. His father knew at least ONE of them had to make it, make it BIG, "that ONE" was The Kid, El Radar, Wilfred Benitez. Peace.

Article posted on 08.11.2006

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