Michael Bentt was born in London, England to Jamaican parents, and then moved to America where he was raised in Queens, New York. He attended classes at Northampton College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and studied journalism and acting. In 2003 he was the school’s first artist-in-residence playing the title role in ‘Othello: The Moor of Venice’ in the Northampton College production.
Michael was the subject of Anna Deavere Smith’s ‘Skipping Rope’, which was part of her evening of ‘journalistic portraits and sketches’ at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Furthermore, she dedicates a chapter in her book ‘Letters to a young artist’ about her inspirational meeting and friendship with Michael.
After retiring from boxing in 1994, Michael enrolled in Northampton College where he contributed articles on various subjects to the campus newspaper. Among the topics covered: the murder of Tupac Shakur and Evander Holyfield’s resounding knockout victory of ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson in 1996. His work would eventually appear in the New York Daily News and The HBO Boxing website.
His essay ‘Anatomy of a Knockout’ featured in ‘Bert Sugar’s ‘Fight Game’ magazine led to an opportunity to audition for and win the coveted role as Charles ‘Sonny’ Liston in Michael Mann’s ‘Ali’. In addition to his role of Sonny Liston in ‘Ali’, he also served as the chief sparring partner and assistant trainer for Will Smith in Smith’s Academy Award nominated portrayal of Muhammad Ali.
As former WBO World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, winner of four New York City Golden Gloves titles, five U.S. Amateur titles and former captain of the US National Boxing team that competed in the inaugural Moscow Goodwill Games and the 1987 Pan Am Games, Michael was deemed, in David E. Finger’s book ‘Rocky Lives’, as ‘the most accomplished boxer in the history of American amateur boxing never to have made the US Olympic Boxing Team’.
He has also instructed five time Grammy Award winner and film composer, Terence Blanchard, Damon Dash, the late rapper and actor Heavy D, Steven Seagal and MacArthur Grant recipient/ Tony Award nominee, Anna Deavere Smith, among others on the virtues and benefits of being ‘fighting fit’.
He has served as Personal Instructor & Artistic Associate @ Anna Deavere Smith’s ‘Notes From The Field: Doing Time in Education, The School To Prison Pipeline Project’ @ The American Repertory Theatre (Harvard University, 2016).
As an actor Michael, has worked with Academy Award Nominees, Michael Mann and Ron Shelton and Academy Award Winners, Clint Eastwood and Sylvester Stallone. In addition, he is a guest actor alum of the internationally acclaimed Joan Scheckel Filmmakers Lab.
Four months after scoring a shocking and decisive first round knockout over the heavily favored Tommy ‘Duke’ Morrison, Michael was himself KO’d in seven rounds in his last fight in March of 1994. The result of that fight left him in a coma for ninety-six hours.
On the match he said: ” I nearly paid the ultimate price and as I reflected on that moment in my life, I decided to enter a new ring that championed the untapped potential of others and myself. By sharing the stories within my journey, I hope to inspire everyone and anyone who is struggling to reset the clock, while appreciating having survived those struggles – on a new focus of energized, passionate and an ongoing pursuit of fulfillment.”