The boxing community has lost a legend.
Philadelphia boxing trainer George Benton died from pneumonia Monday morning at St. Joseph’s Hospital in North Philadelphia. He was 78.
Born May 15, 1933, in Philadelphia, Benton was a top rated welterweight and middleweight from 1940 to 1970.
Benton, who was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2001, posted a 61-13-1 record and held wins over Holly Mims, Lester Felton, Joey Giardello and Jimmy Ellis.
In 1970, Benton was an innocent bystander but suffered a gunshot wound that ended his ring career. He then went on to become a legendary trainer.
Benton trained a number of noted fighters throughout the years, including Bennie Briscoe, Joe Frazier, Evander Holyfield, Johnny Bumphus, Mark Breland and Mike McCallum. For 17 years, Benton worked together with Lou Duva and Main Events as the head trainer for many of their fighters.
In 1989 and 1990, the Boxing Writers Association of America awarded Benton “Trainer of the Year” honors.
“George Benton was one of the most knowledgeable teachers in the sport of boxing,” said International Boxing Hall of Fame Executive Director Edward Brophy.
“The Hall of Fame joins the boxing community in mourning his passing.”
Philadelphia Daily News columnist Elmer Smith referred to Benton as one of the most colorful characters in boxing.
“Philadelphia is a boxers’ town because it’s a place where there are a number of people who can teach kids to box — Georgie was one of the very best of them,” Smith says of his friend.
“What Georgie did so well was teach the fundamentals of the game. He was a great teacher of the game and understood it at the level that most people can’t even guess at.”
“He was one of the best ring technicians that I could remember. Georgie was not a big puncher but he was a fabulous boxer, who got absolutely the best out of his skills. There were guys who hit harder. There were guys who were quicker in the ring but nobody put it together like George. He took minor skills and turned them into a successful career as a fighter.”
As a trainer, Smith said Benton was able take kids who had minor skills and make them better than their skill set would have suggested.
“If they had really good skills, he was able to turn them into super fighters,” said Smith.
Smith often sought Benton’s advice when writing articles on boxing.
“He understood boxing in a way that I really didn’t and to have him available made it possible for me to write it as if I were an expert,” Smith added.
Benton was widely regarded as the best middleweight never to win a world title.
Philadelphia promoter Russell Peltz, a close friend of Benton, said Benton never got a title shot because of his manager, Herman Diamond.
“Benton’s real problem was his loyalty to manager Herman Diamond, who refused to do business with certain mob people and that’s why Benton never got a chance at Dick Tiger’s middleweight crown. In fact, the 160-pound title changed hands 22 times during Benton’s 21-year career and he never got a shot,” Peltz said.
A viewing will be held Sept. 26 from 9 a.m.–10 a.m., at Christlike Pleasant Green Faith Baptist Church, 2901 North 25th St. The memorial service will follow at 11.
All women must wear a dress or skirt to be admitted.