Benfield's eyes on the prize

Shane Benfield practices at his gym in York.
Shane Benfield practices at his gym in York.

When he was playing football and basketball at York Comprehensive High School, Shane Benfield figured out pretty quickly there wasn't much demand for an NFL quarterback or NBA shooting guard who stood 5-foot-10.

He started boxing.

"If I was going to be a pro," Benfield said, "that was going to be the best route."

He just didn't realize how long the road was going to be to get where he wanted to go in a world where you have to be tough, talented and patient.

After a successful amateur career, winning six state Golden Gloves titles, Benfield turned pro in 2002. He's 17-0 with nine knockouts since.

He's getting the title shot he's been battling for Saturday, taking on DeAndrey Abron at the Fitz Hotel and Casino in Tunica, Miss., in a scheduled 12-round bout for the Northern American Boxing Association's vacant light heavyweight title. Benfield, 32, is ranked No. 8 in the NABO top 10 and Abron, 35, is No. 9.

The winner is likely to move up in the rankings and perhaps get a title shot in one of boxing's four major organizations -- World Boxing Association, World Boxing Council, the International Boxing Federation or the World Boxing Organization. The NABO title is administered by the WBO and covers the United States, Mexico and Canada.

"This is my biggest fight by far," said Benfield, who last fought in February, scoring seven knockdowns and knocking out Karl Willis in the fourth round at The Plex in Charleston.

Abron scored a first-round knockout of Marvin Hunt in July, his second fight since February, to run his record to 13-1 with 10 knockouts. Eight of Abron's fights, including the past four, have been in Tunica, where he has become a local favorite.

It will be like a road game for Benfield, but he's familiar with Abron, an Army veteran and former Army and U.S. National Amateur champion. In the U.S. National Amateur Championships at Disney World in 1999, Abron scored a 14-9 decision over Benfield.

"This is my redemption," Benfield said. "When I got the chance to fight him, I jumped all over it. In that first fight, I respected him too much. I know what I'm facing. A lot of people thought I won that fight. This time I plan to go in and be more aggressive."

Benfield will give up about four inches and some reach to the 6-foot-3 Abron. But Benfield plans to do what he did in their first meeting -- get inside, pound the body and try and eliminate the reach advantage. In the first fight, judging was based on Olympic scoring, which doesn't count body blows.

This time they count.

"I tried to press him in the first fight," Benfield said, "and that's what I'm going to do this time."

Benfield has never gone more than eight rounds and Abron no more than six. The two heavy punchers have 19 knockouts and 10 unanimous decisions.

But Benfield has been training for 12 rounds, working out two to four hours a day, including running three to five miles and getting in some ring work at his gym in York and in Charlotte.

It's been a crash course getting ready. Benfield hadn't fought since February, his longest inactive stretch since he turned pro, and took the fight on three weeks notice.

"This is something I've been waiting for," he said. "When you get a call like this ... it's what everybody fights for."