Anthony Dirrell will making the first defence of his WBC super-middleweight title against former champion David Benavidez as the chief support to the welterweight unification between Errol Spence and Shawn Porter.
In February, Dirrell became a two-time world champion in fortuitous circumstances, prevailing via technical split-decision over rugged Turkish contender Avni Yildirim in the tenth round of a thoroughly competitive affair.
Contesting for the vacant WBC title after the previous champion – Benavidez himself – tested positive for cocaine in September, Dirrell appeared to be getting roughed up and largely out-hustled by his counterpart, before sustaining a cut that was deemed untenable by the tenth round; courtesy of an accidental head clash three rounds prior.
Yildirim was visibly indignant as scorecards were tallied and Dirrell was declared the winner by the narrowest of margins, and his management team vigorously but unsuccessfully petitioned the WBC for an immediate rematch.
Now, however, a seemingly revitalised and disciplined David Benavidez has the opportunity to fully atone for his past mistakes and continue with his career after making an emphatic statement in February on the Spence-Garcia undercard in Dallas, obliterating seasoned veteran J’Leon Love in two rounds.
A victory would enable the Phoenix, Arizona native to directly replicate the feats of his opposite number Dirrell in becoming a two-time WBC champion at the weight, after originally outpointing Romanian Ronald Gavril in 2017 and then retaining the title more emphatically in a February 2018 rematch.
Although Dirrell is patently longer in the tooth – as evidenced by championship fights against the likes of Sakio Bika and Badou Jack – it would be fair to say that Benavidez is the one who is carrying the momentum coming into this fight, and is therefore heavily favoured to win.
His superior experience levels and tricky defensive style notwithstanding, the fact remains that in Benavidez, Anthony Dirrell is not only facing someone stronger and fresher but also on his day, arguably the most formidable fighter in the division.
Expect Benavidez to make a statement with the clinical nature of his win against Dirrell, setting a relentlessly fast pace from the outset before eventually pummelling his opponent into submission with surgical, rapid-fire combinations in the later rounds.
Article by: Navi Singh
Follow Navi on Twitter at: @DarkMan________