Wilfred Benitez vs. Sugar Ray Leonard

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Leonard drops Benitez in the third round

1979-11-30 : Sugar Ray Leonard 146 lbs beat Wilfred Benitez 144½ lbs by TKO at 2:54 in round 15 of 15


Notes

  • The fight was televised live in prime time on ABC. The telecast also included Undisputed World Middleweight Champion Vito Antuofermo's draw with Marvin Hagler and Marvin Johnson's knockout of Victor Galindez to win the WBA Light Heavyweight Championship.
  • Leonard was a 3 to 1 favorite.
  • Benitez's purse was $1.2 million, and Leonard's was $1 million.
  • At the time, this was the richest fight ever between two fighters below the heavyweight division.
  • There was a capacity crowd of about 4,600 at the Caesars Palace Sports Pavilion.
  • Leonard floored Benitez with a left jab in the third round.
  • Benitez suffered a cut on his forehead due to an accidental headbutt in the sixth round.
  • Leonard put Benitez down in the fifteenth round with a left hook. Benitez rose quickly and walked to a neutral corner as he took the mandatory eight-count. Leonard moved in for the finish, and referee Carlos Padilla stopped the fight after several unanswered punches.
  • On an episode of ESPN Classic's Ringside, historian Bert Sugar said the stoppage, with just six seconds left in the fight, may have been influenced by the death of Willie Classen, who died two days earlier as a result of injuries sustained in his fight with Wilford Scypion.

Quotes

  • Angelo Dundee, Leonard's trainer: "From a technical standpoint, there was more done in this fight than I've seen done for a long time. You saw two smart, scientific fighters—two champions in the ring at the same time. They brought the best out of each other."
  • Sugar Ray Leonard: "No one, I mean no one, can make me miss punches like that."
  • Wilfred Benitez: "Sugar Ray is the best in the world now. I was happy to get a fight with him. He was a great challenger and will prove to be a good champion."

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