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Benitez Out of Coma

October 15, 1996

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Former champion Wilfred Benitez regained consciousness Tuesday after nearly losing his seven-year battle with an inflammation of the brain.

``The first words he said to me were `God is good,‴ said his mother Clara Benitez.

She said her 38-year-old son was being treated in the hospital’s general medicine wing and doctors had to give him strong sedatives to calm him.

``There’s no way of telling when he’ll be able to come home,″ she said. ``But thank God he’s alert.″

Wilfred Benitez was taken to an area emergency room Friday after his mother found him passed out in bed in their Carolina home. He was later transferred to nearby University Hospital in San Juan for special treatment.

``When I look at him now and think of the way I found him, it’s a miracle,″ Clara Benitez said.

Her son is afflicted with post-traumatic encephalitis, a common condition among boxers.

Benitez was born in New York in 1958, the youngest of eight children, and came to Puerto Rico at age 7.

He quickly became one of Puerto Rico’s top boxers, winning the first of his three titles shortly before his 18th birthday. He beat Antonio Cervantes of Colombia to take the junior welterweight crown.

Benitez captured the welterweight championship in 1979 and then the super welterweight in 1981 before worsening brain damage forced his early retirement.

``He just didn’t have the reflexes anymore ... after all those hits he took,″ Clara Benitez said. ``Finally, he couldn’t even be trusted to live alone and not get lost, so I brought him to live with me.″

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