Benavides was the 1981 National AAU Light Flyweight Champion and 1983 National ABF Bantamweight Champion. Jesse Benavides also was the 1981 Light Flyweight National Golden Gloves Champion, the 1982 Flyweight National Golden Gloves champion, and the 1983 Bantamweight National Golden Gloves Champion. Benavides was runner up at the 1984 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Benavides began his career in 1984 and in 1991 won the WBO super bantamweight title with a win over Orlando Fernandez. He defended the belt once before losing it to Duke McKenzie in 1992. He retired in 1996 after a KO loss to Marco Antonio Barrera for the WBO super bantamweight title.