David Benavidez just turned 24 this past December, but he’s already been a “must see” favorite among knowledgeable hardcore fight fans for more than two years. He’ll be facing Ronald Ellis on Showtime this Saturday in a WBC super middleweight title eliminator, inching slowly towards a big money showdown with Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez that everyone, except maybe Alvarez, wants to see.
But why is the undefeated Phoenix, Arizona native “must see?” Primarily, because he’s a damn good fighter.
As I wrote elsewhere:
“Just one look at his genius-level offensive IQ should make any knowledgeable boxing person a true believer. Tall and lanky, he throws punches in bunches, varying placement and velocity, to create an offensive surge that is equal parts hard to defend and difficult to resist.
He moves well, defends well, and carries with him the poise and maturity of an elite-level, well-seasoned pro. Hell, he carries himself with MORE in-ring maturity and poise than many elite-level, well-seasoned pros…He was a child prodigy, made his pro debut at 16, became world champ at 20. He’s just an absolute natural in every sense of the word.”
The kid is already a two-time world champ, holding the distinction of having lost his belt twice without having ever suffered a defeat.
And that’s another reason he makes for such an intriguing follow.
Because, as mature and as poised he is inside the ring, he’s struggled with maturity and poise outside the ring. He was stripped of the WBC super middleweight title for the first time in 2018, shortly after becoming the youngest fighter to hold that title, when he tested positive for cocaine. Then, after eventually regaining the belt, he was stripped a second time this past August when he failed to make weight for the first defense of his second championship reign.
To make matters even more intriguing, he’s suddenly found himself sharing a division with the incoming Canelo Alvarez, boxing’s biggest star and someone who could serve as the ultimate springboard to breakthrough stardom. But, because of his outside-the-ring transgressions, he has no title belt to serve as leverage in enticing Alvarez into a risky bout with him. And, as the other title holders play their cards conservatively, waiting for their own chance at a Canelo money fight, nobody is all too eager to face Benavidez.
He’s been calling out names and taking his case to the media, but to no avail. WBO champ Billy Joe Saunders is facing WBC/WBA champ Canelo in May. IBF titlist Caleb Plant is waiting in the wings for a rumored September clash with Canelo. Middleweight champ Jermall Charlo, who talked about moving up in weight to fight Canelo and recently had an internet dust-up with Benavidez, is not really all that eager to seriously discuss fighting the two-time former champ. Even some of the second tier super middleweights were reluctant to fight him for this upcoming date.
“When we first came out to camp I was originally looking at (former world titlist) Jose Uzcategui,” Benavidez recently told Ring Magazine. “He turned the fight down and then we tried to get the man who beat Uzcategui, Lionell Thompson. He turned it down and I think in the position I’m in right now, since I don’t have a title no more, everybody looks at me as a threat and it’s not worth the risk. So, it was kind of hard finding an opponent.
“What are you supposed to do when you can’t get these fighters to fight you? You take the next person who’s willing to fight. That’s where we’re at with Ronald Ellis.
“No disrespect to Ronald Ellis but I want the bigger names. I want to push for the bigger names, but he’s the only one who accepted the fight.”
All of this makes David Benavidez a “must see” presence. There’s the incredible skill and talent at such a young age. There’s the world of opportunity laid out before him. And, yeah, there’s also the vulnerability of a young man in a grown man’s world, who keeps making mistakes and working through growing pains.