David Benavidez (26-0, 23 KOs) produced a dominant display of power punching to capture the Interim WBC super middleweight title by halting David Lemieux in the third round, last Saturday.
Benavidez delivered the type of performance many expected from him, but given that too many fighters are risk adverse, even against over-matched opposition, ‘Red Flag’ deserves credit for despatching of the heavy-handed former IBF middleweight champion in devastating fashion.
At just 25-years-old, Benavidez is already a two-time 168lbs world champion. On both occasions, the Phoenix, Arizona native lost his title outside the ring. In September 2018, Benavidez tested positive for cocaine and was stripped on the WBC strap. Having regained the belt by beating Anthony Dirrell, Benavidez forfeited the title on scales ahead of the scheduled first defence of his second reign, against Roamer Alexis Angulo.
Benavidez appears to have learned from his past indiscretions and with the combination of talent and a fan-friendly style, he could go on to become a star in the sport. Of course, to do so Benavidez requires top-level opposition. The quickest route to stardom for Benavidez would be by beating Canelo Alvarez, but ‘Red Flag’ is of the belief that the Mexican will not face him, despite the fact that he is the mandatory challenger for the WBC 168lbs title, currently in Canelo’s possession.
In the aftermath of the Lemieux victory, Benavidez’s promoter, Sampson Lewkowicz proposed three fighters his charge could face next.
Here we take a look at those options, along with a wildcard:
David Morrell (6-0, 5 KOs)
Despite having only turned professional in 2019, the Cuban has fast forged a reputation for himself.
The southpaw appears to be able to do it all: box, move and punch. Yes, his opposition to date has been modest, but Morrell has passed every test with flying colours. In just his third fight, Morrell captured the “regular” WBA super middleweight title, defeating Lennox Allen by unanimous decision. Morrell successfully defended his belt against against Kalvin Henderson with a fourth round stoppage on June 4.
While the belt holds little value, the fact that the former World Youth amateur champion was able to go the championship distance during the infancy of his career was impressive nonetheless. Morrell defends his strap on June 04, against Kalvin Henderson. It is a fight the 24-year- old is expected to win, and to look good doing so. Morrell has been vocal in his pursuit of a clash with Benavidez, recently proclaiming: “There is no bitch in me, after my fight, I’m going to make you my bitch.” Such statements are lifted straight from the scripted world of professional wrestling, but they will invariably help the marketability of the fight.
For someone who has only fairly recently escaped a communist state, Morrell appears to have grasped capitalism quickly. It is likely we are yet to see the best of either Benavidez or Morrell, a fight against each other would extend both fighters and determine who is the best young fighter at 168lbs.
Caleb Plant (21-1, 12 KOs)
A fight between former IBF super middleweight champion, Caleb Plant, and Benavidez had been discussed for September, but talks ultimately broke down. It is a bout that makes a lot of sense.
Arguably, they are the best fighters at 168lbs not named Canelo Alvarez, both men fight under the PBC banner and there is plenty upside for each of them.
With all four world title belts in the possession of Alvarez, who is scheduled to face Gennadiy Golovkin for a third time, this is likely the most lucrative and meaningful contest available. Plant gave a good account of himself when he faced the Mexican to determine an undisputed champion at super middleweight, barring a strange moment in the ninth round where he sought assurances from his opponent that he was: “Pretty good,” but was eventfully stopped in the 11 th round.
Plant has not fought since coming up short against the former pound-for pound ruler, and he is in danger of fading into obscurity, a win over Benavidez would prevent that from happening. For Benavidez, if he could stop Plant sooner than Canelo did, he would make a statement – one which would not harm his chances of winning the Canelo sweepstakes in the future.
Jermall Charlo (32-0, 22 KOs)
The foundations for this one were laid in April when Jermall Charlo and Benavidez traded insults at the AT&T Centre in Arlington, Texas, ahead of the unification between Errol Spence Jr. and Yordenis Ugas. As is always the case in this day and age, the altercation was captured on video and uploaded onto the internet.
The histrionics are unnecessary as this fight requires little ‘beef’, artificial or organic, as it’s simply, a good bout. Two unbeaten boxers, both skilled operators that are capable of highlight-reel knockouts, what’s not to like? Charlo is a two-weight world champion, having previously held the IBF super-welterweight title before moving up to capture the WBC middleweight strap.
The ‘Hit Man’s’ run at 154lbs culminated in a devastating knockout of Julian Williams, a performance which looked set to put Charlo on course for stardom. However, his reign one division north has been underwhelming. That is not necessarily Charlo’s fault as the majority of the top fighters at 160lbs had broadcast deals with DAZN which prohibited showdowns with the Premier Boxing Champions boxer.
To find meaningful opponents, Charlo may have to go to 168lbs and, at present, Benavidez would be the pick of the bunch. Charlo must first take care of Maciej Sulecki on June 18. If Benavidez were to win against Charlo, it would undeniably be the biggest win of his career to date. Charlo v Sulecki was postponed on June 7 after the champion suffered a back injury.
Daniel Jacobs (37-4, 30 KOs)
An option not put forward by Lewkowicz, but a viable one, nonetheless. ‘The Mircale Man’ is a promotional free agent and despite coming off a disputed loss to John Ryder, Jacobs still maintains plenty credibility.
Jacobs gave Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin tough fights at middleweight an although he is yet to recapture that form at 168lbs, he would be perceived as a solid opponent for Benavidez. The three aforementioned fighters above Jacobs here would all make for better fights, but how often do the best available bouts get made? It is likely that Benavidez will face at least one of the others on this list at some point, but perhaps just not next. Jacobs would be a perfectly serviceable place holder.