For the second time in his young undefeated career, David Benavidez relinquished his super middleweight championship outside of the ring.
The first instance occurred in 2018 when he was stripped of his strap after testing positive for the central compound found in cocaine. In August, after recapturing his WBC title with a KO win over Anthony Dirrell in 2019, Benavidez blew weight by 2.8 pounds for his fight against Roamer Alexis Angulo and was stripped of the belt again.
The latter mistake was a costly one considering Canelo Alvarez made it clear that he was going to enter the division with his sights set on capturing all of the titles. Alvarez picked up Benavidez’s vacant 168-pound title in December when he beat Callum Smith and promptly defended the title in February with an easy knockout win over mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim.
Benavidez (23-0, 20 KOs) now has to work his way back up to the title picture after seemingly letting a guaranteed winning lottery ticket slip through his hands. The 23-year-old returns to fight Ronald Ellis at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut on Showtime Boxing main event Saturday with a renewed focus.
“A lot of my promoters and myself were disappointed when I didn’t make weight,” Benavidez told The Last Stand Podcast with Brian Custer. “For my career I think [training in Big Bear, California] is the route I’m going to take, mentally and physically I feel like I’m at my best when I’m out here and I’m at my peak. I feel like the big fights are going to come sooner than later, so I feel like for me to be at my best shape, to get the best out of myself, I feel like I need to train up here so I’m going to be coming back.”
Big Bear has become a popular training locale for boxers in recent years. Even Alvarez has trained in the California mountains before moving camp permanently to the San Diego area.
Benavidez knows that he has to earn his stripes to have a chance to win back his belt from Alvarez.
“I want to earn the Canelo fight, I feel like the way I earn the Canelo fight is going through all these people [Billy Joe Saunders, Jermall Charlo, Caleb Plant] and I’m sure I can make it happen, I’m 100% sure I can beat all these guys,” he said. “So the only thing I need is an opportunity right now and at the end of the day boxing wins because these are the fights fans want to see.”
Benavidez was also positioning himself for a showdown with the IBF champion Plant, but without the title, Benavidez realizes he will be on the outside looking in at the championship picture — at least for now.
“I feel like [Plant is] going to sit out as long as he can until he gets the Canelo fight because for him it’s just business, and business-wise that fight makes more sense to him,” said Benavidez. “I feel like I’m more of a threat and he loses more against me than if he loses against Canelo. But even if he gets the Canelo fight and he beats him or loses I still want to fight Caleb Plant either way. I feel like there’s a lot of unsettled business we need to settle.”
With Alvarez and Plant not being viable options at the moment, Benavidez is instead focusing on a meeting with 160-pound WBC champion Jermall Charlo.
“I’m going to keep calling him out, I’m going to keep antagonizing him, I’m going to keep pushing his buttons until he has to see me in the ring,” said Benavidez. “Hopefully that fight happens, I feel like for me just talking about which way my career wants to go I feel like that has to be one of the fights I have to get … That’ll be his last fight at 168, I’ll send him back down to 160.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com