By: Anthony Whitby
If you follow my work long enough than you know I make no bones about it, my writing at times serves a purpose to discuss the Arizona boxing landscape and at least acknowledge that the talent pool here is much stronger than many would believe. There is no doubt at the helm of the ship is a young 19 year old named Jose Benavidez Jr. At times as a writer and as a fan we see young men who are 5-0 or 10-0 and we think they are destined to become special fighters. For the case of this light welterweight, with a record of 11-0, the question is more of what do you do with a special fighter like Benavidez who at a young age has surpassed every test and challenge that has come his way? All while displaying a humble demeanor.
Jose Benavidez Jr. started boxing at the age of 6 years old when his avid fight fan dad, Jose Benavidez Sr., decided to train him and together they began learning the ins and outs of the fight game together. “From the moment I first picked up a pair of gloves I fell in love with the sport and knew that this is what I wanted to do.” Growing up in a section of Phoenix more commonly known as “Maryvale” and then moving into the more southwest part of Phoenix, I can tell you from my own youth these were the same streets I roamed ten years before. The Benavidez family came from a hard nose; blue collar part of town where nothing is ever given to you and the two things that will help you survive is a strong family and hard work.
While he was a mere teenager he was going up against fighters 10-15 years older than him and handling his opponents fairly easily. The buzz about the kid began to grow at an early. After he won the 2009 Golden Gloves he went to California while using Freddy Roach’s Wild Card facilities at the age of 16, Roach told his father that he could make Jose Benavidez Jr. a world champion.
Some writers always like to point out that Jose Benavidez Jr. passing up a shot of the Olympics may not have been the best move for him. “I got presented with this other opportunity so I took it, why pass it up,” he states. That opportunity was to be signed with a signature boxing promotion company like Top Rank promotions, arguably the best promotion company at building a fighter from a prospect to a champion.
So the young boxing protégé stayed in California sparring some of biggest names in the game from Amir Khan to Timothy Bradley and of course even Manny Pacquiao. To put this into perspective, this should tell you how much potential this kid holds as he spared world champions before he could legally purchase a 12-pack of beer. This easily paints the picture of the future greatness this kid may embrace.
He moved back to Phoenix to be closer to his friends and family training out of his father’s Central Boxing gym. Now he has the chance to fight in front of his hometown crowd and when speaking with him you could hear his voice change with added excitement that he not only gets to headline an event but more importantly his friends and family get to come to the bout. It should be noted that it has taken this long for a hometown fight to be held due to the heinous immigration laws passed in Arizona.
I found it interesting that at one point in the interview I was talking about the importance of his role in the Arizona boxing community and yet he is still in a growing phase as a fighter and he handled it like a seasoned veteran. “If one of us comes up and then all of us can come up. There are a lot of good fighters that can bring a lot people to the fights, it’s not just me.” I find it honorable that a hot prospect that has this massive amount of potential is so quick to point out, he isn’t the only hot commodity in town and a “high tide-floats all boats” mentality is quickly grasped by the young man.
We started talking about what he learned from his last fight against James Hope which was on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley bout. He spoke real cerebral about how he learns from every fighter, every round while working in the gym. Jose Benavidez Sr. started to go into how since his son is so young he wants him to really focus on the basics and fundamentals and quickly explained the importance of the type of jab he expects his son to throw and how it would benefit him throughout his career.
Jose Benavidez Sr. discussed about how getting fighters in the ring with his protégé can be difficult due to how good his son is at such a young age. Whether it’s a fighter canceling a bout or pricing them out of the fight it seems they want to stay on course. No matter whom they face, each bout serves as a proper test on his son. As a pro Jose Benavidez Jr. has limited round experience at (26 rds), however considering Benavidez Jr. has been fighting prime competition his whole life and yet has so much more room to grow, both fighter and trainer and as father and son agree that there is a proper way in guiding his career, not rushing is important.
When talking about his fighting style Benavidez Jr. considers himself as a fighter who wants to use his jab and counter punch with a “hit and not get hit” mentality. I will add, his hard body shots are a great attribute he uses and isn’t a fighter to bore a crowd. He may stay real technical but he slowly draws his opponent to make more mistakes than himself and then capitalizes eventually going in for the kills. We did agree on how he does use his first round like many fighters do to figure out his opponent’s style. This process embodies who the kid is, always learning constantly discovering and utilizing the wisdom he gains and when the timing is right takes full advantage of a situation.
A light-hearted question of what’s your favorite punch and favorite part of training he said “a left hook to the body is my punch. My favorite part of training is hitting the pads especially when my dad puts on the body shield and I give him that left hook to the body”. Moments later his dad lifts his shirt and displays a bruise slowly healing the size of baseball on his rib cage everyone in the room laughs.
When looking at the kid outside of the ring with his black framed glasses you get the misconception he isn’t a fighter at all but inside the ring, he is a trained assassin. Yet, even though the large pay days still haven’t filled his bank account he still has found time to be a humanitarian for the city. His gym ran a blanket drive in middle of winter and for this homecoming bout he is donating a percentage of his purse to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital (Showdown promotions who is putting on the event is also contributing a percentage to the hospital as well).
As a writer and fan, we always read about the fighter who feels they are under appreciated in their division and that they are actually better than what anyone wants to give them credit for and yet the skills don’t match their feelings. In this case I got the sense he knows what he can do with his talents and it’s more of continuing to study and work on honing his own craft more than anything else.
I left the interview thinking how intelligent the kid is. Just from the way he responded to the questions, I felt his answers were genuine yet too intelligent for a 19 year old to give. It must be how a college professor feels when a junior high student blazes through their test. He seems focus and trained on every single possible level, yet grounded enough to know who he really is and what he is capable of doing.
It reminds me of what someone once told me, “A man who questions himself only holds doubt and this leads to fear however a person, who truly understands who they are, holds no doubt of one’s abilities it makes them more powerful.” This Saturday in Chandler a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona we will get to see a long overdue homecoming for an Arizona fighter who has the potential to do great things in the sport of boxing – it’s only a matter of perseverance and timing. The dangerous thing is Jose Benavidez Jr. knows that.
For ticket information: http://www.wingilariver.com/index.php/wild-horse-pass/entertainment-events/RumbleAtRiver
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