Marijan Beneš (Serbian Cyrillic: Маријан Бенеш; born 11 June 1951) is a former Yugoslavian boxer from Bosnia and Herzegovina, still considered one of the best in Yugoslav history. After a brilliant amateur career, culminating in the gold medal in European Amateur Boxing Championships in Belgrade, he turned professional in 1977, and won the European Boxing Union title in the light welterweight in 1979. Beneš withdrew from the ring in 1983, after a severe eye injury.
Marijan was born in Belgrade to Croat father Josip and mother Marija (née Vukić). Under the influence of his father, a music teacher, Marijan played piano and violin in his childhood. He had three brothers and one sister. He spent his childhood in Tuzla. However, his life will take a radical turn when he (allegedly) entered the ring at the age a 10 and won against an 18-year-old opponent. When he was 16, he signed for the Slavija boxing club in Banja Luka, where he would stay during his amateur career.
He is a staunch opposer to "Greater Serbs and Greater Croats", maintaining his Yugoslav identity.
During his amateur career, Beneš won 9 titles in SR Bosnia, 4 titles of Yugoslavian champion, and a number of other competitions. In 1973, he won the European title in light welterweight in Belgrade and he received the "Golden Badge", an award for the Best Athlete of the year in Yugoslavia. Soon after he caught hepatitis, a fact that could mean the end of the career. "Radically stubborn" (as he said himself), and devoted to boxing, he decided to continue. He also participated in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, but lost in the second round.
He turned professional in 1977, rising quickly to the European top. On 17 March 1979, in his hometown Banja Luka, he won the EBU title knocking down the defender, French boxer Gilbert Cohen, in the fourth round. He defended the title successfully four times, and lost on points in 1980 to then WBA champion Ayub Kalule, in a match regarded as one of toughest in the Denmark ever. He eventually lost the EBU crown to Louis Acaries in 1981.
A heavy injury on the left eye effectively sealed his career. It is not exactly known which match caused it; by one account, it was a match with Luigi Minchillo in 1983, and by another, it originated from the 1979 match with Sandy Torres in Zenica, and the condition worsened since. During the career, he suffered a number of other injuries: 26 bone fractures and damaged vocal cords, that cause him to speak silently and slowly. He is currently blind on his left eye. Beneš withdrew from the ring in 1983, fighting only two more exhibition matches in 1990s.
His brother was killed in 1992, during the Bosnian War. Marijan participated in the war. At the end of the war in 1995, Beneš was forced to leave Banja Luka after a number of threats. He sold his possessions cheaply, and during the war he stayed in Medulin and Zagreb, in Croatia, in poverty. He divorced from his wife Stana, who moved to Niš, Serbia, with their daughters Žanet and Marijana. As he put it, "everything turned around; people started hating each other overnight… there are great people, but the war helped me realize who is the real people and who is scum." He returned to Banja Luka in 1996, after the end of the war, continuing to live in modesty. "I lived in Croatia, people respected me, but I'm used to the old friends".
In 2004, a documentary film of Beneš's life, titled Bio jednom jedan šampion (Once Upon a Time There Was a Champion) was recorded in the production of Independent Television Banja Luka. Despite modest ambitions, it toured all over the former Yugoslavia, and Beneš was frequent guest on promotions.
Beneš still lives in Banja Luka, in modesty, mostly financed by his sister Ljiljana. He published a book of poems Druga strana medalje (Another Side of Coin), devoted to sports, and he said that he has written a dozen more, and that he plans to publish them. He still trains every day and has healthy diet.
Boxing record as a professional
|32 Wins (21 knockouts, 11 decisions), 6 Losses (3 knockouts, 3 decisions), 1 Draw |
|Win||--||Cliff McCourry||KO||2||02/02/1997||Pozega, Croatia|
|Win||9-2||Salvatore Di Salvatore||TKO||5||03/05/1991||Banja Luka, Yugoslavia|
|Win||25-14-2||Maurice Bufi||KO||6||02/12/1983||Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle, Stuttgart, Germany|
|Loss||20-32-1||Johnny Heard||KO||1||16/04/1983||Salzburg, Austria|
|Win||7-4||Mbayo Wa Mbayo||RTD||6||31/03/1983||Split, Yugoslavia|
|Win||11-3-1||Darwin Brewster||PTS||10||27/01/1983||Rijeka, Yugoslavia|
|Loss||39-2||Luigi Minchillo||MD||12||28/10/1982||San Severo, Italy||EBU Light Middleweight Title. 116-116, 116-118, 114-118.|
|Win||7-4-2||Gordie Lawson||KO||4||10/06/1982||Titograd, Yugoslavia|
|Win||--||Tony Desroche||KO||2||09/03/1982||Sarajevo, Yugoslavia|
|Win||14-11-3||Randy Milton||KO||1||19/12/1981||Split, Yugoslavia|
|Win||15-5-2||Franz Dorfer||TKO||4||06/11/1981||Vienna, Austria|
|Win||8-2-4||Andre Mongelema||PTS||10||18/09/1981||Vienna, Austria|
|Loss||29-3||Louis Acaries||PTS||12||19/03/1981||Paris, France||EBU Light Middleweight Title.|
|Win||12-4-1||Antonio Alejandro Garrido||TKO||9||09/02/1981||Vienna, Austria|
|Win||32-14-4||Sandy Torres||PTS||10||20/12/1980||Split, Yugoslavia|
|Win||37-8-5||Georges Warusfel||TKO||5||06/10/1980||Paris, France||EBU Light Middleweight Title.|
|Loss||33-0||Ayub Kalule||UD||15||12/06/1980||Randers Hallen, Randers, Denmark||WBA World Light Middleweight Title. 145-149, 142-149, 147-149.|
|Win||10-8-2||Freddie Boynton||KO||3||28/03/1980||Berlin, Germany|
|Draw||29-4-1||Damiano Lassandro||PTS||12||13/02/1980||Pesaro, Italy||EBU Light Middleweight Title.|
|Win||19-0-2||Adrie Huussen||TKO||3||05/11/1979||Sportpaleis Ahoy, Rotterdam, Netherlands||EBU Light Middleweight Title.|
|Loss||29-12-4||Sandy Torres||TKO||6||25/08/1979||Zenica, Yugoslavia|
|Win||26-0||Andoni Amana||TKO||8||06/06/1979||Bilbao, Spain||EBU Light Middleweight Title.|
|Win||23-13-1||Zip Castillo||KO||1||28/04/1979||Belgrade, Yugoslavia|
|Win||20-2-1||Gilbert Cohen||KO||4||17/03/1979||Banja Luka, Yugoslavia||EBU Light Middleweight Title.|
|Win||72-17-27||Everaldo Costa Azevedo||PTS||10||18/11/1978||Berlin, Germany|
|Win||68-5-4||Elisha Obed||PTS||10||02/09/1978||Berlin, Germany|
|Win||3-11||Tiger Quaye||PTS||8||29/05/1978||Sportpaleis Ahoy, Rotterdam, Netherlands|
|Win||8-4-2||Peter "Cricket" Neal||KO||5||06/05/1978||Frankfurt, Germany|
|Win||3-10||Tiger Quaye||KO||1||07/04/1978||Berlin, Germany|
|Loss||2-10||Tiger Quaye||TKO||3||15/02/1978||Sportpaleis Ahoy, Rotterdam, Netherlands|
|Win||28-7-3||Pat Thomas||PTS||8||16/01/1978||Rotterdam, Netherlands|
|Win||12-8||Wa Bukasa||KO||3||16/12/1977||Vienna, Austria|
|Win||21-7-1||Steve Angell||TKO||4||10/12/1977||Berlin, Germany|
|Win||19-5-1||Alain Ruocco||PTS||8||18/11/1977||Vienna, Austria|
|Win||10-8-2||Mick Minter||TKO||2||31/10/1977||Sportpaleis Ahoy, Rotterdam, Netherlands|
|Win||23-32-4||Scottish John Smith||PTS||8||10/10/1977||Sportpaleis Ahoy, Rotterdam, Netherlands|
|Win||--||Rhida Hakima||KO||2||01/10/1977||Vienna, Austria|
|Win||15-12-5||Pascal Zito||PTS||6||24/09/1977||Vienna, Austria|
|Win||31-11-4||Clement Tshinza||PTS||4||06/08/1977||Deutschlandhalle, Charlottenburg, Germany|