Written by Tré Berry III | 01/14/2021
On this date, January 14th, 1979, RING/WBC Welterweight Champion of the World “King” Carlos Palomino (27-1-3, 15KO👊) came into this bout, having a firm stranglehold over the ⚖️147 lb. division for 3 years dating back to the year 1976. Accompanying Palomino to the ring on this night was gifted prodigy 🇺🇸🇵🇷Wilfred “El Radar” Benitez (36-0-1, 24KO👊), who had already left his mark in the sport by becoming the youngest ever to win a Title after beating the great 🇨🇴Antonio Cervantes at Junior-Welterweight.
Carlos Palomino established himself as the leader of the pack in the Welterweight division when he managed to defeat London standout 🇬🇧John H. Stracey to take the Welterweight Titles from his possession. Carlos was attempting to make his 8th title defense, and the anticipation swelled for this bout.
Benitez was fresh off of his victory over 🇺🇸Randy Shields, and a journeyman that followed, Wilfred at the age of 20, was set to headline in front of his home crowd in Puerto Rico. He still had standing as the Junior-Welterweight King, so effectively two World Champions were stepping into the ring that day.
WILFREDO AND PALOMINO WENT TO WAR
The fight that resulted was certainly one for the 📖books. Benitez in the first round established his sharp jab, and they seemed to have a little extra pop than usual behind them. Palomino began to find a groove by the 4th round, landing multiple bombs and winning the round pretty wide.
In the 5th stanza, Carlos was able to hurt Benitez badly at the end of the round with a sledgehammer right cross. In round 6, Wilfred decided to change up his attacks and give Carlos different looks, resorting to and sustaining a heavy body attack. Benitez was able to conjure up two dominant rounds in a row, that featured shots landing at will, beautiful ring generalship, and a wobbled Champion at the end of the 7th.
The 9th round, all hell broke loose and produced one of the greatest rounds of the era. Benitez was getting the best of Palomino in those exchanges and hurt him multiple times. Not often did you see Benitez throwing caution to the wind to trade power punches, but he looked damn good doing so. Every round, Benitez looked sharper and sharper, while the Champion gradually look more confused and frustrated.
When the 14th round came about, Benitez started to toy with Carlos, and authored up a picture-perfect beautiful display of counterpunching off of the ropes in the last 30 seconds, and landed some serious combinations to punctuate the round. In a rare scene, the fans collectively in the stands at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico were all jumping up and down in unison, coupled with a roar and excitement, knowing their man was once again on the verge of history.
In the last round, Benitez closed the show how a Champion should. On my scorecard, the fight was even after 6 rounds, but I gave Benitez every round after that. Somehow the fight verdict was rendered a Split-Decision, but they awarded the right man, making him the new Welterweight Champion of the World, as well as a 2-division Lineal World Champion simultaneously. Benitez at this point was on top of the world.