Philly Boxing History

April 02, 1991


'Junk' Counts Final 10 Over Richie Bennett

Ex-middleweight falls to monster foe in North Philadelphia

By Pete Innaurato - News of Delaware County (4/10/91)

He knew the glamour of the fight game at a relatively young age. The big, bold front-page headlines. The marquees which shouted his name. The hefty purses.

At 21, Darby's Richie "The Bandit" Bennett had it all. He was a kid who owned a couple of fists which could induce sleep with one blow and a heart as big as the fight houses they used to pack to watch him do what few his age could do better.


But something happened, something tragic happened sometime during the past few years, something which breaks my heart every time I try to figure it out. Richie decided to forego his sure-to-be-a-success route down the Yellow Brick Road, opting to travel down a side street which offers nothing but dead ends.

The trip ended for Richie eight days ago somewhere in North Philly. At 32, he was dead, a victim of "an adverse reaction to drugs." That's how Richie's death was phrased by a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's office last Thursday.

I ain't ashamed to tell you that I got teary-eyed when I learned about this absolute waste of life. For Richie Bennett, regardless of how he died, will always be remembered by me with respect, no matter if his final day on Earth was spent in the ghetto with junkies and other scum.

I remember when Richie's life was spent in the boxing gym. I remember when his pop - Richie, Sr. - first brought him to the Upper Darby Police Youth Association. He was 15 then, a tall, skinny kid with big dreams and limited physical tools. By 18, he started beefing up, owning a pair of linebacker-like shoulders and track-star legs.

It all came from the intense workouts he enjoyed putting in daily. A year later, he found himself fighting for pay, destroying opponents with punches which made you cringe.

By 21, he was fighting top-notch pugs, among them Bennie Briscoe, the legendary Philadelphia middleweight who Richie would battle twice in 1980, winning the first and dropping the latter.

The world of boxing, as they say, was his for the talking. Foe he would conquer 25 of 33 pro fighters, sending 18 of them into dreamland. The problem for Richie, though, would be that he thought he could whip for number 34.

It proved a deadly mistake.

Now he's left behind those who genuinely cared about him. Those are the folks with broken hearts. And there are other with glowing memories of a time when he was very healthy and heading towards wealthy.

The promise, obviously, didn't pan out.

Junk changed Bennett's life for the worse. It replaced the boxing article with obituary headlines. It replaced classy fight arenas with a garbage-littered drug section of North Philly. It robbed him of most, if not all, of the paychecks he earned during his glory days in the ring.

Most tragically, it crippled his reputation with the people who once adored his courage and skill in the ring.

Sure, Richie was as tough as they come when it came to fighting other men. But his last foe was no man. It was a monster. Number 34 was always an undefeatable monster, but Richie didn't understand.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Richie Bennett was inducted into the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame on May 21, 2017.

  1977 - Saoul Mamby W10 Mike Everett at Municipal Auditorium in San Antonio, TX
  2005 - Steve Cunningham W10 Guillermo Jones at the DCU Center in Wocester, MA
  1991 - Richie Bennett