Top Rank puts Benavidez, 17, on fast track

Only days after Jose Benavidez signed a contract with Top Rank, the 17-year-old made his professional boxing debut at the Hard Rock Hotel. The timetable for his second fight is almost as urgent.

Benavidez, a super lightweight from Phoenix, isn’t old enough to party at The Joint, but he didn’t need to stick around long to win his first bout, knocking out Steven Cox in 81 seconds on Jan. 16.

It’s little wonder Top Rank chairman Bob Arum is wasting no time getting Benavidez back in action. The talented teen has been added to the big Latin Fury-Pinoy Power card Saturday at the Las Vegas Hilton, facing Milwaukee’s Matt Ellis (1-1) in a four-round fight.

“It was great to debut in Las Vegas and have all those fans cheering for me,” Benavidez said. “I wasn’t really nervous, but I’m glad I got that first fight out of the way.”

Arum said Benavidez, despite his age, is mature enough to handle major exposure so early into his pro career.

“He’s got unbelievable boxing skills, smarts and ability,” Arum said. “This kid is a prodigy. He reminds me of Floyd (Mayweather Jr.) when he came out of amateurs or Wilfred Benitez. He’s that special a talent. That’s why we’ve got him on a fast track, because he can handle it.”

Benavidez is training with Freddie Roach at Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles. While preparing Manny Pacquiao to fight Joshua Clottey on March 13, Roach put Benavidez in the ring to spar with Pacquiao on Tuesday.

Benavidez compared it to stepping on a basketball court and playing one-on-one against Kobe Bryant.

“That was amazing,” he said. “I’m just 17 and I’m sparring with Manny. But it was good. He’s a fast guy, and I learned a lot from him. I’m learning a lot from everybody. That’s what makes it so great.”

Benavidez said Roach isn’t altering his technique but expanding his repertoire.

“Freddie wants me to work the body more,” Benavidez said. “He said you can stop a guy with a good body shot as easily as going to the head.”

• SAM’S SUIT — Las Vegas heavyweight Samuel Peter said he still hasn’t received all his purse from his technical knockout loss to Vitali Klitschko on Oct. 12, 2008, and he’s taking the promoters to court.

Peter (33-3, 26 KOs) is suing Duva Boxing and Don King Productions for $181,500. The suit was filed in Las Vegas District Court on Jan. 27. Theodore Parker, Peter’s Las Vegas attorney, said the promoters reneged on their original signed agreement with Peter.

“It’s the same old story; the promoters make promises that look good early. Then when it’s time to make good on those promises, they don’t deliver,” Parker said. “To me, it’s an open-and-shut case. The terms were set; he never got paid.”

Peter was supposed to make $4 million for the fight, which was stopped by the referee in the eighth round. Peter is preparing to fight Nagy Aguilera on March 12 in Grapevine, Texas.

• HELP FOR HAITI — The Jan. 30 welterweight title unification fight between Shane Mosley and Andre Berto, a Haitian-American, was called off because of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.

But merchandise from the fight is still being sold, with net proceeds going to Haitian relief. Items are available at Mandalay Bay’s The Fight Museum store and online at goldenboystore.com.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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