We knew it was happening, but now we know the context and the supporting cast. WBC super middleweight champion David Benavidez is officially set to headline an April 18th Showtime tripleheader in Phoenix, which features a “WBC Lightweight Title Eliminator” between Michel Rivera and Marcos Villasana Jr. and opens with Alberto Puello vs. Rances Barthelemy for the interim WBA super lightweight belt.
Benavidez (22-0, 19 KO), a red-hot 23-year-old with a bevy of brutal finishes under his belt, figures to be a prohibitive favorite in the first defense of his second reign. He was originally slated to face WBC-mandated challenger Avni Yildirim, then Caleb Truax, only for both two ultimately withdraw.
“I’m very excited to be fighting Angulo on SHOWTIME and in front of my hometown crowd,” said Benavidez. “I haven’t fought in Phoenix in five years. It’s exciting to be back. I expect Angulo to come in ready. I know he just pulled an upset in his last fight and he’s not taking any shortcuts, but neither am I. Angulo has never been stopped, so I want to be the first person to stop him. I feel like I’m more motivated with a hungry fighter like him in front of me, and you will see it in my performance.”
Angulo (26-1, 22 KO) is coming off a sizable upset of Anthony Sims Jr., his most notably victory since an unsuccessful crack at Zurdo Ramirez in 2018. He can hit, theoretically, but there’s little else going his way.
“I’m very motivated by this great opportunity to fight for the world title again,” said Angulo. “Benavidez is a talented world champion who is clearly one of the best super middleweights in the world. This is going to be a great fight for the fans because of the style I bring to the ring. My Mexican style of fighting will be too much for Benavidez and I will have my hand raised on April 18.”
The soon-to-be-22 Rivera (18-0, 12 KO) is a strong-looking up-and-comer from the Dominican Republic with some very solid victories under his belt, notably future Balderas-buster Rene Tellez Giron and veteran Fidel Maldonado Jr. Villasana (25-6, 14 KO) is on a nice little run of his own, knocking out Jose Felix Jr. and three undefeated fighters during his current 11-fight unbeaten streak.
For the record, I have no idea exactly what this eliminator will lead to. Rivera’s unranked by the WBC, Villasas ranked 10th, and whoever wins between Luke Campbell and Javier Fortuna for the vacant title will immediately have to face “champion in recess” Devin Haney.
Puello (17-0, 9 KO) vs. Barthelemy (27-1-1, 14 KO) was originally scheduled for the March 28th tripleheader headlined by Luis Nery vs. Aaron Alameda, but it seems plans have changed. Puello will be fighting for the first time outside his native Dominican Republic, where he beat Jonathan Alonso for the totally necessary interim WBA super lightweight title last July, while Barthelemy will be making his second bid at 140-pound gold after losing his rematch with Kiryl Relikh the first time around.