Over the next few weeks Boxing Social’s Luke G. Williams will be running the rule over an octet of fighters aiming to topple Saul ‘Canelo’ Álvarez. Today he examines what might happen if the Mexican was to meet the talented David Benavidez…
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s dominant performance at super-middleweight against Callum Smith in December has left the boxing world pondering whether any man alive between 160lbs and 175lbs has the capability to topple the Mexican master craftsman.
Few expect Avni Yildirim – Canelo’s WBC mandatory challenger and likely next opponent – to be the man to depose him. But how might other top contenders from middleweight to light-heavyweight fare against the phenomenon from Guadalajara?
David Benavidez (23-0, 20 KOs)
Big punching, undefeated and highly marketable, on one level it is something of a puzzle why more people aren’t beating the drum for a showdown between Canelo and Benavidez. The Mexico connection alone – one would think – would sell the fight on its own (Benavidez is American born, to Mexican / Ecuadorian parents).
However, factor in Benavidez’s relative inactivity (just four fights in three years) and his unreliability – he has had two reigns as WBC 168lbs champion curtailed by issues that do not reflect well on his professionalism, namely a positive drugs test for cocaine and a failure to make weight – and the apparent lack of interest in brokering such a contest becomes somewhat clearer.
Given Canelo’s stated intention to prioritise fighting mandatories and title holders at super middleweight, one can understand why he and his handlers figure they can do without a dangerous foe who doesn’t have a belt but does have an unreliable track record.
The immediate prospects of a contest between the two men appear, therefore, to be remote, which is a shame for – in the opinion of this writer at least – of all the fighters currently operating at super middleweight, Benavidez is the opponent who might make the most entertaining dance partner for Canelo.
The Arizona-born puncher turned pro at 16 and it’s easy to forget he’s still only 24. Despite the drugs and weight lapses, Benavidez is a highly talented fighter and – more to the point – he probably punches harder than anyone else at 168lbs. He also doesn’t lack for confidence and believes he has a game plan which would unsettle Canelo.
“People that have fought him lately have tried to box him,” Benavidez told the PBC podcast this week. “They’ve been bigger guys but they’ve tried to run from him, which makes no sense to me. None of them try to earn his respect or make Canelo respect their power and that’s why he does whatever he wants.
“I understand he’s a great fighter, but you have to do something in the first round to get that respect, like Golovkin [did]. I’m the bigger guy, I’m the younger guy. I feel like I’m just as fast as Canelo. And I feel like I have more power because this is my natural weight 168.
“I feel like he has a little more trouble stopping dudes at 168. He hasn’t fought a younger fighter like me with the hunger and the desire to take over. I promise you I’ll be ready when the time comes.”
What odds that Benavidez can back up his confident rhetoric?
Given his disappointing inactivity and lack of significant victories against genuinely world-class opponents it is hard to say.
His best win remains his ninth-round stoppage of Anthony Dirrell, beyond which his professional CV is wafer thin.
However, his two-fight series with Ronald Gavril provides some interesting talking points. In this pair of fights from 2017 and 2018, Benavidez undoubtedly demonstrated the ability to improve and learn from his mistakes – dominating the rematch after winning the first showdown against the Romanian via split decision. In that first fight, Benavidez also showed heart and determination by rising from a final round knockdown.
In the debit column, however, that night in Las Vegas his stamina looked highly suspect.
On the basis of the eye test, and given his undoubted power, Benavidez would prove an interesting challenge for Canelo.
Encouragingly, the fact he recently became a father and has been training for the last month and a half in Big Bear despite not having a fight scheduled may also indicate that he is finally approaching the business of professional prize fighting with the diligence and respect it deserves.
If the two men did meet, I could therefore see a motivated Benavidez giving it a real go, using his size and power to bully, hurt and maybe even discourage Canelo early on, perhaps outworking and outlanding him over the first half of the fight.
However, Benavidez’s early attacking successes would spell doom for him in the end, with Canelo’s versatility and greater experience in gruelling championship fights proving decisive.
My pick would be for Canelo to be given a mighty scare early on before gradually catching up with an increasingly ragged and exhausted Benavidez and stopping him in the championship rounds.
Prediction: Canelo by stoppage.