By Per Ake Persson
One of the greatest in Yugoslavian boxing, Marijan Benes, passed away September 4 at the age of 67 in Banja Luka in what is known as Republika Srpska in what is now Bosnia, after a long time of illness.
Benes was an excellent amateur feared for his punching power and braveness and won the European championships in 1973 and participated in the 1976 Olympics.
How many amateur fights he had is a matter of dispute but somewhere between 300 and 400 appears to be close and was probably past his peak when he turned pro with German promoter Willi Zeller and fought mainly in what was then West Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.
He was indeed brave and fearless in his style and sometimes it backfired and on one night in Rotterdam in1978 he had Tiger Quaye, a journeyman with a losing record, on the ropes but walked into a counter and was knocked out. He beat Quaye twice after that and also the likes of Elisha Obed and Everaldo Costa Azevedo later the same year.
He won the EBU super welterweight title in 1979 with a win over Gilbert Cohen. He lost a non-title fight to Sandy Torres in 1979 and according to some sources it was in this fight he suffered an eye injury that would effect the remainder of his career.
He fought then WBA champ Ayub Kalule in the summer of 1980 in what was one of the toughest fights seen in Denmark and lost on points after 15 rounds. Many insiders claim that Kalule, another excellent fighter, was the never the same after this fight - and he would later go ahead and fight Sugar Ray Leonard and Mike McCallum.
The eye problem worsened and when he challenged Luigi Minchillo for the EBU title in 1982 it was claimed he was almost one-eyed. An upset loss to a late sub in Johnny Heard in 1983 pretty much ended his career.
After beating Maurice Bufi in what would he his last fight he complained of pain in the injured eye and was told the injury was beyond repair. The eye was removed and that was the sad end of a great career.
However, there were some "sparring sessions" taking place during the 90´s in the war torn soon to be former Yugoslavia that somehow have landed in the books as real fights. Benes was by then very far from what he had been and had reportedly bad eyesight in the other eye as well and had lost almost everything he had during the ongoing war.
He was also a poet and a musician and very respected in and out of the ring.