Never, however, have four fighters been linked together like Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, and Roberto Duran. Dubbed the Fab Four, this quartet of pugilists dominated the boxing headlines for most of the 1980's and are all considered all-time greats.
What comes to mind for me, when I think of the Fab Four, is if this powerful group of men is missing a fighter. His name is Wilfred Benitez. Is he worthy of being the fifth member of this exclusive club?
First lets look at his accomplishments as a fighter.
Benitez certainly had a unique career. Turning pro at age fifteen and winning his first world title at seventeen - the WBA 140 pound belt against Antonio Cervantes in 1976 - is as impressive as it gets.
In 1979, Benitez added to his world title collection by out pointing the very impressive Carlos Palomino, for the WBC 147 pound title. At age 22, Benitez became the youngest three time world champion boxing ever saw, when he knocked out Maurice Hope for the WBC 154 pound title, in one of the best knockouts you will ever see.
Wilfred Benitez (53-8-1, 31 KO), known as the Bible of Boxing, is also regarded as one of the best defensive fighters of all-time. The slick Puerto Rican boxer fought the 15 round limit seven times. His resume earned him induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996. Those who seen him fight, will never forget what he gave in the ring.
So, why is he not properly linked with his contemporaries? Let's examine how the Bible of Boxing faired against the Fab Four.
Sugar Ray Leonard. Benitez defended his 147 pound title against the Sugar Man in November of 1979. Despite having a world of experience, Benitez found himself not only the underdog in this fight, but a very small supporting actor in Ray's first name above the title feature. While it was not an easy fight, Leonard proved why he was the star, with a dazzling performance over the champion. Ray was on his way to winning a unanimous decision when he stopped Benitez in the 15th round.
Roberto Duran. It what may have been the best performance of his career, the "Bible of Boxing" gave the "Hands of Stone" a boxing lesson in January of 1982. Benitez retained his 154 pound title and notched another 15 round decision victory over yet another Hall of Famer (Cervantes, Palomino).
Thomas Hearns. Benitez fought Hearns in December of 1982. Benitez should get a lot of credit for fighting Duran and Hearns back to back, another unique footnote for his career. Once again, the fight went 15 rounds. This time, Wilfred was on the wrong end of a majority decision, in a fight that only a real boxing guru could appreciate.
Marvelous Marvin Hagler. The only member of the Fab Four not to fight Benitez, and the only one of the five to never be stopped in a fight. Hagler tried to get a big payday fight with Benitez in the early 80's. Benitez opted to fight Duran and Hearns at 154 instead.
This fight almost took place however. In 1983, Benitez faced Mustafa Hamsho in a title eliminator for Hagler's undisputed middleweight title. The fight was not a success, as Benitez had no legs left and Hamsho battered him in the corner for 12 rounds. Very much on the decline, Benitez never challenged for a world title again, despite fighting until 1990.
Never getting to fight Hagler, and his big decline, are probably the main reasons why Wilfred Benitez is not part of the Fab Five. Benitez however, fought 45 rounds with the other three members of the immortal quartet and did not embarrass himself. That has to count for something.
Benitez also had a reputation for relying too much on his natural ability and often shunned training camp. He often tells the story that he did not train a lick for the Leonard fight. That has to count for more.
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