After a stellar amateur career, 2004 Olympian Roberto Benitez will be making his highly anticipated professional debut on April 8th on ESPN's Friday night Fights. Not only can Roberto fight, but he is also a very charismatic and well rounded individual. He is one of the good guys for the sport of boxing and boxing fans can take pride in knowing him as a good fighter and a good guy in general. It is always exciting to follow a guy's career from the very beginning of the amateur or professional ranks so when they become big you can always say I remember him from......
Check out what Roberto had to say and follow this spark as he develops into a shining star.
Danny Serratelli: Hello, Roberto... Tell me what you think it will be like making the transition from the amateur to pro ranks?
BENITEZ: It will be very thrilling to see myself at the next level of my career with much anticipation of becoming the greatest. I feel that it all will just be a new harder stage of mental thinking and longer physical preparation when it comes to the pros. I am a very conditioned fighter and have a lot of heart and determination, so I guess I would just need to adapt on making sure I hurt my opponents with blows that count instead of wasting any shots. Killer instincts and Intelligence are part of the fundamentals needed in the ring to overcome any combat. Being able to break the opponents down round by round will be a strategic agenda for me now, since there are more tools to use in the pros.
DS: What are your best memories from your amateur career ?
BENITEZ: My best memory would be when I competed in the 1998 Goodwill Games in my hometown of NYC and shined on my 18th Birthday on HBO. I have traveled all over the world, and enjoyed going to Europe and my native Dominican Republic. I have traveled to England, Azerbaijan, Ireland, Puerto Rico, Argentina and Mexico. I have fought against the very best in the nation and world. I was able to defeat the # 1 ranked fighter in the world from CUBA, Manuel Mantilla in the Goodwill Games.
I really enjoyed going to these other nations because I learned more about culture and lifestyles of people.
DS: How old are you now? How'd you get your start in boxing and where do you want to be in a few years?
BENITEZ: Baby faced- 24 years old. I got started in Boxing when I was 10 years old. I tried all kind of sports and enjoyed Boxing more because of its one on one combat. I like the individualism of knowing you can depend on yourself in there, and the only one to blame. I used to get into many fights and problems at school in the Lower East Side Alphabet City neighborhood (in New York City) and school. Many Bullies would always try to pick on me, so I wanted a way to learn self defense. I liked Karate a lot for Bruce Lee, and loved Wrestling, but my father influenced me with Boxing since he was a big fan of it. After watching it every Saturday night on Telemundo, and watching idols such as Julio Cesar Chavez, Camacho, Pernell Whittaker, I decided to go to the Harriman Boys Club. I walked in with my buddies just to fool around and spar, and ever since then I stuck with it. I kept going everyday, and the other kids stopped.
I want to be able to do things differently in this industry as well as crossover as an athlete. I know I have more qualities than just Boxing, and want to use my intelligence and image to become the best Boxing product out there, like De la Hoya and Palomino were able to do. But I do know you need the appropriate back-up and foundation to make it happen. I look at many stars from other industries who have kept their vision and have became Icons, such as JAY- Z, Damon Dash, Actor Maki Phiefer, Howard Stern... I also know I am the right product.
After my career I want to be able to have a foundation such as a Boys and Girls Club, and give back to the community. I enjoy doing public speeches at schools, Juvenile detentions, and so on. I would like to help out many teenagers and guide them to the right things in life. I have a lot of experience in Life, and can relate to many things at that age frame. I would love to become a counselor or a spokesmodel for a campaign company that could deal with interacting with Urban kids, it would help me become more of a positive role model.
DS: Tell us about how it works to get the Olympic spot on the team and also how you really know the deal from personal experience. I know most people aren't familiar with the system.
BENITEZ: Making the Olympic team is a whole new process in determining whether you can fly to the Olympics and be able to compete, first you must win a National tournament to qualify into the Olympic Trials. Once you have made it to the Trials you must win that tournament to make it into the Box-offs where the last top 2 fighters are left. This last qualifying fight determines who makes the Olympic Team. Back in 1996, once you won this position, you automatically were able to go straight into the Olympics and compete. This time around they enforced new rules to help decrease the high population of athletes at the Olympic Games. Now you must compete at an American Qualifier tournament, and win it to be able to compete at the games. In these tournaments you often compete with the South American Champions, and North Continent fighters such as Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Canada, etc. You only get 3 shots at doing this, and throughout that whole time you must be very mentally and physically prepared for the long ride in accomplishing the spot of an Olympian.
I was very proud and happy in grief once I made the US Olympic Team, by winning the Olympic Trials. But was in very bad disappointment once I got a bad decision at the American Qualifiers, when I knew my dreams were gone. I just began thinking about all the current Champions who are stars, and were not able to make it as far as I did in the Amateurs.
DS: Who do you admire as a fighter in and around your weight class?
BENITEZ: I admire Marco Antonio Barrera. Very humble talented, gifted fighter, who has proved a lot with his skills. I also enjoy fighters such as Floyd Mayweather, Bernard Hopkins, Zab Judah and Felix Trinidad, my idol. Felix Trinidad would be my main role model along with Sammy Sosa. Both men started out just as I, with not much and became big stars and maintain a good positive image. You can see the focus and charisma each one has, and this is what the people love.
DS: Do you think you have a similar style to anyone people may be familiar with?
BENITEZ: In reality I feel I do not resemble anyone. I feel I have the courage and heart of a Felix Trinidad, and rising to the occasion in any bad situation. Periodically, I adapt to any style out there and enjoy to Box and use my legs. I am learning more tools on that craft of Boxing.
DS: Where are you originally from who are your friends and fans in boxing?
BENITEZ: I am from NYC, Brooklyn NY, but grew up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan (Alphabet City) I stay in touch with all my NYC family and friends, and many in the Florida area. I have a lot of support from many Dominican people who look forward on seeing me succeed as an athlete, and become a good role model as a Dominican native.
DS: Who would you like to someday fight...down the road?
BENITEZ: I would like to fight anyone who is champion by the time I get to my prime. I would fight anyone even King Kong...
DS: Do you have any other unique interests, hobbies, etc... you want to talk about?
BENITEZ: I graduated from Northern Michigan University with an AA General Business Degree. It is such a good feeling when you know you can do more than boxing out there, and have something else to follow or fall back on. I would love to open up a business one day, and do something for the community such as a Boys and Girls Club.
I enjoy writing poetry and verses dealing with music, in Spanish or English. I am working on putting out a book in the future, dealing with Boxing and outside life. Another Interest I do have is to get involved in the TV industry, such as making commercials, movie parts and acting. This is something I know I am capable of mastering just as in boxing, if I were trained well.
I enjoy using computers and listening to merengue, bachata, Reggae, Jazz, alternative, Brazilian music, Hip-hop, and believe it or not even Country Music. I want to learn the dances to Country music. The Bible verses I have on my site are basically ones I always read over to myself as reminders of how strong those words overcome any situation you are in. It makes me spiritually feel more positive when I read them and keeps me on a positive note whenever I am stressed out. I would like to use my knowledge to help the youth such as those in Juvenile, high school students, etc….
I love rooster fights, because they signify a lot of what we go through as fighters and they have lots of heart and Instincts. They combine qualities both of warrior and gladiator. But, I enjoy relaxing and planning out things for my future. I am always on the go, and I like to stay busy in life. I would like to get into acting TV Entertainment, and become a crossover athlete.
DS: Do you have any unique training habits or tricks?
BENITEZ: I like to train mostly in the afternoons and love training to Dominican music, reggae, hip hop, and as well like Jazz music. I train to usually focusing on certain things daily. I enjoy watching my favorite fighters and then try utilizing a move they do with my own style. It's all about Arithmetic and thinking in this sweet science, you have to be sharp as you can.
DS: Thanks Roberto, you are a good man and I'm sure everyone will be looking forward to your pro debut on ESPN Friday Night fights on April 8th, 2005!
BENITEZ: Later, I want to send special gratitude to all my fans for staying tuned to my career. Especially many from Nw York City , Florida and the Dominican Republic. I will not accept leaving this sport without being World Champion, and failure will not be an option for me. Want to also send special thanks to you, Danny, www.roundcardmodels.com and www.braggingrightscorner.com for supporting me and to The Boys Club and the U.S. Olympic Education Center for all their guidance.
Recap of Roberto Benitez's distinguished amateur career:
1996 - Junior Olympic National Champion
1997 - Under 19 National Champion, National Golden Gloves Champion
1998 - Goodwill Games Silver Medalist (defeated Cuban World Champion Manuel Mantilla en route to the silver medal)
1999 - First U.S. Championships title, National Golden Gloves Champion
2000 - Second U.S. Championships title
2001 - Third U.S. Championships title, U.S. Challenge Champion, World Championships Team Member
2002 - U.S. Championships silver medal, National Golden Gloves silver medal
2003 - U.S. Championships silver medal, U.S. Challenge silver medal
2004 - Fourth U.S. Championships title, Olympic Team Trials Champion, Olympic Box-offs Champion, Named U.S. Olympian
You can learn more about Roberto on www.roundcardmodels where he is one of the featured boxers, and on his website www.slimterror.com.