SI Vault
Edited by Kostya Kennedy
January 08, 1996
Stopping the Bleeding
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January 08, 1996


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Wide receiver

Jerry Rice, 49ers


Bruce Armstrong, Patriots


Ruben Brown, Bills


Curtis Whitley, Panthers


Larry Allen, Cowboys


Leon Searcy, Steelers

Tight end

Ben Coates, Patriots

Wide receiver

Isaac Bruce, Rams


Brett Favre, Packers

Running back

Emmitt Smith, Cowboys

Running back

Barry Sanders, Lions


Larry Centers, Cardinals



Bruce Smith, Bills


Dan Saleaumua, Chiefs


Wayne Martin, Saints


Reggie White, Packers

Outside LB

Ken Harvey, Redskins

Cover LB

William Thomas, Eagles

Rush LB

Bryce Paup, Bills

Middle LB

Micheal Barrow, Oilers


Phillippi Sparks, Giants

Strong safety

Blaine Bishop, Oilers

Free safety

Merton Hanks, 49ers


Dwayne Harper, Chargers



Morten Andersen, Falcons


Lee Johnson, Bengals


Brian Mitchell, Redskins



Ray Rhodes, Eagles


Brett Favre, Packers


Curtis Martin, RB, Patriots

Stopping the Bleeding

Twenty years after becoming the youngest fighter, at 17, to win a world title, Wilfred Benitez of Puerto Rico is making boxing history of a different sort. Suffering from a brain disease and destitute after gambling away the roughly $10 million he took home in his 17 years of boxing, Benitez is the first beneficiary of a new Puerto Rican law that will provide a pension and other assistance to down-and-out boxers from the commonwealth. It is believed to be the first such government-subsidized program for boxers—and it might save Benitez's life.

"It was the least we could do," said commonwealth senator Ramon Luis Rivera Jr., chairman of the committee that drafted the bill. "[He] put Puerto Rico on the map. Now he is sick and needs our help."

The benefit package includes a pension of $600 a month and access to a social service program administered by the Puerto Rican boxing commission. Best of all, it sets a precedent in a sport that, sadly, operates without organized relief for its former athletes in need.

"This law is wonderful," says trainer Emmanuel Steward, who in 1984 took Benitez into his Detroit home when the fading ex-champ came to town for an undercard bout. "Other professional sports have pensions, annuities, retirement funds. Boxers are helpless when they grow old or lose their money. They go on fighting when they shouldn't."

That's what Benitez did. A three-time world champion who won the WBA junior welterweight title in 1976, he went on to million-dollar paydays in hard-fought, 15-round losses to Sugar Ray Leonard in '79 (then the richest nonheavyweight title bout in history) and Thomas Hearns in '82. After losing to Hearns, Benitez won only six of his final 15 bouts. He continued fighting even after learning in 1986 that he had symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy—the syndrome commonly known as punch-drunkenness. Now, at 37, Benitez is being cared for by relatives and is barely coherent.

Puerto Rican lawmakers made a generous gesture in coming to the aid of a once glorious favorite son. It's too bad that there aren't enough people in boxing with the will to establish a similar relief system throughout the sport.

Aerial Moves

The wrestlers had gone 10 days since their last international competition, so when this one began, somewhere over the Atlantic, they were rested and ready. On a recent flight from London to Minneapolis, U.S. Olympic hopefuls Kevin Bracken, Brian Keck and David Surofchek were seated near some besotted British and Irish tourists who began pelting each other with bread and bananas. Soon little kids in the group were stealing miniatures from the liquor cart, and some of the adults went from food fighting to fistfighting.

When the most belligerent of the tourists, 130-pound Michael Purcell, became so rowdy that the captain had to leave the cockpit to discipline him, the American grapplers entered the fray. While Bracken (who wrestles at 136½) locked Purcell in an "arm-bar"—securing one of Purcell's arms behind his back—Surofchek (198) barred the other arm, and Keck (heavyweight) applied a choke hold.

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