Floyd Favors weathered some solid punches and Jesse Benavides' windmilling southpaw style to earn a 4-1 decision tonight in the final of the 119-pound division at the National Sports Festival.
It was a battle between two 1982 festival winners and both fought like champions, as they entertained the sellout crowd of 7,200, largest to see an event in the Air Force Academy Fieldhouse. Three judges picked Favors by a point, one judge by two.
Favors, the world amateur champion, seemed to have the bout under control in the third round. But Benavides, who won at 112 a year ago, landed a solid left that rocked Favors back into the ropes. During the last minute, each scored heavily to the head, although neither seemed in serious trouble.
Benavides several times rushed at Favors, driving him backward, and Favors complained of head butts, although no warnings were given.
"I was dodging his head and his punches," said Favors, a Prince George's Community College student from Capitol Heights, Md. "I wasn't fighting a person with two hands, I was fighting a person with two hands and a head."
Favors frequently went left-handed himself, attempting to confuse Benavides. He also threw an unusual number of right leads from an orthodox stance, particularly in the first round, and missed frequently. Late in that round, Favors shook Benavides with a left hook and followed it with some good rights.
In the second round, Benavides backed Favors into the ropes, but he took as much as he gave in a wild exchange. Again in the third round, Benavides, stung by a solid right, charged at Favors and drove him against the ropes while Favors continued to swing away.
"He hasn't changed a thing since 1980," Favors said. "He was in better condition than I expected and I wasn't well rested. But I made him fight my fight. He thought I'd come after him, but instead I did the counterpunching and I'm a better counterpuncher than he is. I think my coming out in a southpaw stance confused him, too, because after that he didn't know when I'd switch."
Afterward, Favors reiterated his intention to quit boxing after the 1984 Olympics and seek a college degree in aviation or computer technology.
"Only a few pro boxers make it," he said. "Look at the fighters who don't make it. Everybody tells me Sugar Ray Leonard made it, but I just tell them, 'There's only one Sugar Ray Leonard. Call me Pretty Boy Floyd or something else.' "
Favors' victory gave him a step up on a Pan American Games berth, although Benavides can take it away on either a knockout or two decisions during boxoffs in St. Louis in early August.
Another world champion, super heavyweight Tyrell Biggs, earned a 5-0 decision over Al Evans. But Steve McCrory, world champion at 112, dropped a 4-1 verdict to Todd Hickman.
Bernard Gray whipped Andrew Minsker, 5-0, at 125 pounds, but brother Clifford was beaten, 4-1, by world champion Pernell Whitaker at 132.