Wilfred ("No 'O,' please") Benitez suffered the invasion of the privacy of his dressing room by the press today, but he wasn't a model of hospitality.
He struck a "cool breeze" pose but, as his luck would have it, he took a comb to his hair and dropped it. He curled his lips inward and disdained to pick it up. A handler was left to retrieve it and comb the welterweight champion's curls as he fielded somewhat unwelcome questions.
Benitez referred to Roberto Duran as "Robert" and, as he tried to talk about his short end of the odds in halting English, was upstaged by others in his entourage, including his father Gregorio, who speaks better English. And thereby hangs a tale of the tape.
Theirs has been a love-hate, father-son relationship that has evolved into a psychodrama of a sort. Gregorio is the unique parent who sold his son -- for $75,000 -- to present manager Jimmy Jacobs of New York City.
"I sold Wilfredo's contract to people who could get him big money bouts," Gregorio said. The decision is bearing fruit. Benitez will receive $1.2 million for exposing his welterweight championship Friday night to Sugar Ray Leonard, who will receive $1 million as challenger.
Benitez got only $90,000 when he won the World Boxing Council title from Carlos Palomino in January, while champion Palomino got $465,000.
"Now, we are both making more money," Gregorio Benitez said of his son's alliance with Jacobs, noting that he will be cast in the minor role of "second" himself. Yet, his presence in his son's corner may become of major significance.
Gregorio was not the full-time trainer of Wilfred for the challenge to Palomino's title. Former middleweight champion Emile Griffith was. During the fight, Gregorio was seen arguing heatedly with Wilfred in the corner.
In another of Wilfred's bouts, Gregorio slapped his son in the face to "wake him up," as he explained it afterwards.
Gregorio did not appear at all in his son's corner for his last fight, the successful first defense of his title against Harold Weston, by decision.
"I told him," the elder Benitez said, "'You're not training hard, so I won't be with you.' He said things like, 'Don't worry, Pappy,' like he didn't need me (note the use of North American slang attributed to Wilfred). If I ever would tell he had an easy fight in any bout, he wouldn't train."
Most mystifying was Gregorio's lending his name to an article in Ring magazine, "Why Benitez Will Lose His Title." Now, Gregorio is saying he did it to incite his son to a rousing effort.
Wilfred sweated profusely during the interview and Gregorio observed with approval, so close to the day of the fight, "See -- he's hot; that means he's worked hard for this fight. If he beats this guy Friday. Wilfredo will become the best welterweight who ever lived."
It is the emotional contrast to the almost studied calmness in the Leonard camp and Benitez's eight-month layoff since beating Weston that account in part for the odds favoring challenger Leonard.
Some boxing insiders are calling the odds an overlay and are reading the tension in Benitez's camp as edginess indicating that he is in the ideal mood to upset form.