A Championship Family
By Richard E. Baker on July 28, 2020
One can feel his energy, the breezes from his punches like a desert wind. (Richard E. Baker)
No man wants a home more for his boys than a man who has not had one for himself. He wants his boys to be raised correctly, in a safe environment, to grow and prosper, have decent jobs, and to feel safe and secure. A man who understands that well is Jose Benavidez Sr., trainer and father to WBA world super lightweight interim champion Jose Benavidez Jr. and WBC super middleweight weight champion David Benavidez.
Jose Sr. has been almost on his own since he was three years old. His parents divorced and left him in the hands of his grandparents, and old couple without means of support, even for themselves. Their house was patched together with wood fragments and many times they could not feed themselves, much less a growing boy. That lack of food may have contributed to Jose’s small stature. He is a tight package, good-looking, with tight muscles, and dark eyes glowing like two beacons in a desert. A quick brain lies behind those eyes, one that soaks up knowledge, processes the information with alacrity, puts everything into files to study and brought forth when needed.
By the age of five Jose was already hunting rabbits to help feed his grandparents and himself. He chased them with sticks, dust rising in curls around his feet as they swirled through the dried sagebrush. As he got older he hired himself out to clear sage and brush for farmers from dawn to dusk. Still, there were many days when no food was available.
“I prayed to God and asked what had I done to deserve this kind of life.”
He started to get involved with various gangs. They appeared to take care of one another.
“It took me a while to realize they were just using me to steal for them and I was small so they could push me through windows.”
When his mother remarried, she came and took him to Los Angeles. Things did not go well. He had difficulty with his stepfather.
“I was pretty bad so it was not his fault. I was too wild then and I got into drugs and mixed up with gangs again and started selling drugs.”
He realized the gang and drug scene was the wrong path. A person must live. That life seemed to be the only choice. Then he realized that many of the people in that situation did not have the desire to try and change their lives.
They eventually moved to Arizona. There was no improvement, too many bad influences. At the age of 15 he had his first son, Jose Jr.
“That changed my life. This was the family I had always wanted.”
He secured a job at the Ritz Carlton. The hotel is one of the best in the world. The work was hard, the pay was good, the tips were generous. He now had a decent job, a girlfriend, and soon two sons. The future looked bright. Then, as often happens, he returned home from work one day and girlfriend said she did not love him anymore and she was leaving.
“I said the only thing we really have are the boys. Let’s part without animosity. If you want the boys you can take them. If not, I will be happy to take them.”
They left the decision to the boys. They chose their father. Because he wanted to do the best he could by them, he started them in sports. He let them try every venue. They graduated to boxing, the one sport Jose knew nothing about.
“I did not choose boxing for them. They chose boxing. They seemed to be naturals for fighting. I was at a loss. I knew nothing about boxing.”
That did not stop Jose. He is a quietly determined man. He started learning everything he could about boxing, from the history to various techniques. He watched the way different boxers fought, the way each one threw jabs or hooks or uppercuts. He watched their body movements and the way they moved their feet, from dancers to plodders. One thing he knew for certain: find the way a fighter wants to fight and don’t change it. Work with what he has. Attempting to change him will only cause problems.
Jose went even farther with his boys. He started working with various trainers and learning from them. He noticed how each one trained and learned as much from their faults as from their proficiencies.
“Freddie Roach is a good trainer. His biggest fault is he wants to make everyone fight like Pacquiao. That does not work with a fighter who wants a different style. Abel Sanchez is a tough man and wants his boxers to be tough. He is not much on style. His fighters come ahead looking for war and bring out the heavy guns fast. Robert Garcia is very patient with his fighters. He never yells or berates them.”
At first Jose wanted to find a top trainer for his sons. Jose realized that he had learned as much as most trainers and he could train them.
“Top trainers are always working with 4 or 5 boxers. My boys needed a full-time trainer. I took on the job. I could help them and keep an eye on them.”
Keeping an eye on them caused some hard feelings. What fathers and sons do not have their problems? His boys started hanging with the wrong crowd in Arizona. He knew it would not be long before they succumbed to drugs. He decided to move to the safest place he could find, Buried Washington.
Jose not only learned about boxing, he also learned about the management of boxing. Boxers are constantly screwed. Chicanery in the game seems to be the normal. He was not going to let that happen to his boys. They eventually signed decent contracts with Top Rank and with PBC.
In the gym he is working with son David (22-0, 19 KOs). They are preparing for an upcoming fight with Roamer Alexis Angulo, (26-1, 22 KOs) on August 15. Angulo is no pushover and the fight promises to be an exciting one.
After stretching, David dons his head gear and steps into the ring. He faces three sparring partners this day.
“He does not enjoy working out but he loves to spar,” said Jose. “His brother, Jose Jr., does not like being the gym as much and I must push him to spar. Not David. I must stop him or he will keep going.”
That is a common boast with trainers and not always true. They enjoy building up their fighters. In this case, Jose was telling the truth. That certainly is apparent as soon as David moves against his first partner. He wants to work and to work hard. Any time there is a lull in the action, David encouraged him to move forward and to give him a fight. After 4 tough rounds, the next victim, Al Stanton, is called. Stanton is a tank and moved forward like a T-34. David is now warm and he removes his shirt. David knocked him about the ring. Stanton continues to crawl forward, always steady, always tossing hard rights.
Between rounds, Jose waters David and gives advice. He listens intently and respectively. The sweat is flowing freely. He goes out and continues working. One can feel his energy, the breezes from his punches like a desert wind.
David is a remarkable athlete. When he was about 14 years old, he weighed 267 pounds, not exactly in fighting trim. He understood that if he wanted to be a successful boxer he needed to get into better shape. He started to watch what he ate and to do the work need to take off the pounds. “I took off 100 pounds,” he said. “I intend to keep it off.”
Hard hitting Patrick Ferguson (16-2, 12 KOs) steps into the ring. Ferguson is preparing for a fight next week in Mexico. He looks tough. He looks good. Better than the first time they sparred. But he looked sluggish and was knocked down. One cannot be sluggish with David. Ferguson has learned his lesson and now holds his own.
When the sparring is over David has gone 12 rounds. He wants more. This is not a bluff. He means it. He has a grin the size of Montana on his face. Every round has given him increased pleasure. Jose will not let him go another round. Enough is enough. Besides, a reporter from Sports Illustrated is waiting for him.
David sits on the ring apron as Jose wipes him down and removes his gloves and wrappings. He is all smiles as Jose offers him advice, what he has done correctly, what he has not. He moves over to meet the writer, slouches in a chair, speaks clear and loudly. Jose watches with pride. Moving to Washington was the right choice. He has now been here 5 years and recently opened the gym. He has never looked back.