NINO BENVENUTI was an Italian sports legend before his first pro fight. He won European junior middleweight amateur titles in 1957 and 1959 and captured a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
All of Benvenuti's early fights took place in Italy. Several top American fighters -- such as Isaac Logart, Gaspar Ortega and Denny Moyer -- traveled across the Atlantic to face him. Each one came home a loser. In 1965, Italy was beset by a Civil War when Benvenuti challenged reigning world junior middleweight champion Sandro Mazzinghi. Benvenuti knocked out Mazzinghi in the sixth round to win the crown. He made two title defenses before Ki-Soo Kim dethrone him in Seoul, Korea.
In 1967, Nino jumped to middleweight and traveled to New York City where won the title from Emile Griffith at Madison Square Garden. Griffith won a rematch but Benvenuti reclaimed the 160-pound belt in their third meeting in 1968.
Nino made title defenses against American contenders Don Fullmer, Fraser Scott and Luis Rodriguez. In 1970, Tom Bethea, a hard-punching New Yorker, knocked Benvenuti out in the eighth round of a non-title fight. Displaying honor often unusual for the fight game, Benvenuti granted him a rematch with the title on the line. This time Benvenuti knocked out Bethea in the eighth round.
Benvenuti lost the title in November of 1970 when Argentina's Carlos Monzon knocked him out in 12 rounds. A rematch took place a year later and Monzon won again, scoring a third-round knockout this time.
Benvenuti retired in 1971.
Born: April. 26, 1938