Hardships go hand in hand with the sport of boxing, how many times have we heard the stories of champions who have had to dig themselves out of poverty or have had to survive a near-death experience to make it to their dream destination? I don’t have to tell you, but Its a lot.
The last of which is something both Terence Crawford and Jose Benavidez Jr share along with the obvious undefeated records and their love affair of firearms, a double-edged sword considering both were involved in shootings.
So for Benavidez, this fight on Saturday night is a far cry from the events that took place on Aug. 22, 2016, that left doctors to deliver the devastating news that he would never fight again.
That night, the one which knocked the challenger’s world off its axis started out like many others, Jose’s girlfriend doing the dishes whilst he took his pets for a walk, a Schnauzer and something more exotic. “Like a cheetah,” he recalls. “A $10,000 cat.” if you can believe that.
It was just past midnight, within minutes away from the house, a dark figure approached as the miniature dog barked frantically perhaps sensing the impending confrontation.
The raspy voice asked, “does your dog bite? Because I’m afraid of Dogs” Jose shook his head but bent down to pick up the dog, before the man opened fire, one bullet entered the right knee, piercing the femoral artery before a follow up shot grazed the pinky of his outstretched arm in a bid to cover his face, the gunman anxiously glanced over his shoulder before taking off, the cat did the same never to be seen again.
Jose recalls shouting out”Dude, You a b—-.”
This Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska will mark the third bout back for Benavidez in his miraculous recovery, proof that the gangster exterior he likes to exhibit is more than just skin deep.
It was a long recovery process, one helped on its way by strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza who was sceptical that he would fight again, to say the least.
How can he fight? Ariza was left to ponder. his femur had been shattered, the muscle and scar tissue had braided together, Now, to ensure that the quadriceps fired properly, they had to be separated by needling, cupping and deep tissue work.
Working with the injuries sustained by the likes of Diego Corrales, Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao paled in comparison to the pain Junior had to endure “It’s like pulling the skin from your body,” Ariza said of the process. “He’d just bite down, not to cry, not to show weakness. The doctor would ask if he wanted to take a break. He’d say no. He’d get this blank stare like he was going somewhere far away.”
Both he and his brother were born not to show weakness, sometimes a rose grows from concrete where it was upon seeing his father hustle as a child that instilled the grit we see in him as a fighter.
“I always had a hustler mentality,” Junior says. “My dad taught me nothing in life is free.”
The hustle would provide Senior with an unsavoury steady income through selling drugs and the occasional car radio but he wanted more for his sons who after impressing in the amateur setup allowed him a different path to follow. one of a head trainer which he invested all his time and effort into.
Numerous hours watching fights of old, picking up tips from each and his many jaunts to different gyms provided Senior with ample learning to instil into Junior.
Before fights, he found the best practice was to give his son an incentive to win, a new pair of trainers, a mobile phone and a go-cart were all offered in exchange for victory, something which Junior become accustomed to.
in 2009, he took both his sons David (WBC Super Middleweight champion) and Junior to the WildCard gym in Los Angeles where Jr sparred the likes of Amir Khan, Shane Mosley, Paulie Malignaggi and the legendary Manny Pacquiao.
It was enough for seven-time trainer of the year Freddie Roach to state that he was his “best prospect.” a big statement considering the talent that resides there.
Everything was ticking along nicely but the honeymoon period would soon run its course, It wasn’t long before Senior had started to dictate terms with Roach.
“The more we got into it, the more jealous the dad became,” Roach says. “I had a father who was my trainer, too, so I understood the situation: The dad’s got to be in charge. The dad wanted to be the head trainer, so he took the kid back to Arizona where he could have control.”
A messy management situation with Berny Montes that resulted in death threats, shootings and a burnt out Mercedes Benz was part and parcel of the way of life for the Benavidez family.
As for Saturday’s bout with Terence Crawford, Ariza doesn’t believe Junior has given enough time for the rehabilitation of his knee but its a fight that has long been called for from the Benavidez family.
Its time to shoot their shot, but as it was in the TV series, The Wire, “When you come at the King, you best not Miss”