It’s all on the line for David Benavidez this Saturday — not world titles for this fight, but the chance to possibly face Canelo Alvarez next May, if he gets past late notice replacement Kyrone Davis.
Benavidez (24-0, 21 KO) was originally meant to fight former titlist Jose Uzcategui in Showtime’s super middleweight main event on Saturday, a ridiculous WBC eliminator featuring a B-side who hasn’t had a decent win since 2018 and is just 3-2 in his last five fights.
Uzcategui, however, failed a pre-fight drug test, and has been replaced by Davis (16-2-1, 6 KO), a 27-year-old who turned pro in 2014 and took losses in 2016 and 2018 to Junior Castillo and Patrick Day, but broke through a bit when given a main event slot from PBC against Anthony Dirrell earlier this year.
Dirrell was, frankly, expected to cruise through that fight and set himself up to possibly be used by PBC in bigger matchups later in the year. Instead, it was a struggle all night for former titleholder Dirrell, and the draw at the end of the 12-round fight saw one card go to each man, and a third even. You really could have scored that fight either way.
Davis, though, had his own struggles in his next outing, a bout with club fighter Martez McGregor on Sept. 5 in Minneapolis. If he hadn’t benefited from point deductions, he would have lost that fight by split decision, instead winning it unanimously but narrowly.
We’re not the promoters of this event so I’m not going to tell you that Tough Contender Davis Sizes Up As Real Test For Benavidez; he doesn’t. Benavidez has trounced opposition at this level and higher already in his career. The 24-year-old “Bandera Roja” really only has himself to blame for not already fighting Canelo, perhaps. He’s a two-time WBC titleholder, stripped once for a cocaine drug test failure and another time for missing weight.
But he is the last and best hope of the current crop of 168 lbers to beat Canelo Alvarez, who has bashed through Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders, and Caleb Plant in the last 11 months to fully unify the division and become undisputed champion.
Benavidez may be a different story. He’s a little more fluid in his athleticism than Smith and certainly punches harder than Saunders or Plant. While he doesn’t have the craftier boxing skills of the latter two, those craftier boxing skills didn’t exactly help them beat Canelo.
Benavidez is a big super middleweight, can punch, and is young and fights hungry. He looks to stop opponents, and has physically dominated most of them. Canelo, of course, is an entirely different beast, but Benavidez is the fight a lot of people have thought could be the real challenge for Canelo at 168, if there is one out there.
He has to beat Davis, of course. I’m not even sure he has to dominate or look spectacular or whatever. Benavidez is already at 168, so he doesn’t have to come up in weight from 160, and Canelo doesn’t have to try 175 again. Some books have Benavidez as the early betting favorite to land that fight, which is expected to come on May 7, 2022.
On Davis’ side, it’s everything to gain and nothing to lose. He’s not expected to win. I would dare say he’s not expected to be competitive. And you could have said the same thing about his February fight with Dirrell.
Once upon a time, Jose Benavidez Jr was a true blue chip prospect. An 11-time national champion with a reported amateur record of 120-5, Benavidez turned pro at age 17 in 2010 with a good amount of hype and a lot of promise. He figured to be a world champion.
It has not quite worked out that way. Benavidez is now 29 years old and his best win to date probably came in 2014, when he defeated Mauricio Herrera. Herrera did not make that an easy night for Benavidez, but he’s done that with a lot of good fighters over the years, too. But we saw the same sort of effort in 2016, when Benavidez defeated Francisco Santana, a fighter similar in level to Herrera.
Benavidez was also shot in 2016, and didn’t fight again until 2018, when he beat Matthew Strode and Frank Rojas, two guys not as good as the records they brought into the fights. Jose then stepped up huge in class against Terence Crawford in late 2018, challenging for the WBO welterweight title, and was largely dominated and stopped in the 12th and final round.
In the Crawford fight, you could see pockets of Benavidez’s talent, but it wasn’t nearly enough, and as he nears the age of 30 with very little to show in terms of legacy, it’s hard not to consider him something of a bust. He hasn’t fought since the Crawford bout, but returns Saturday to take on Francisco Emanuel Torres (17-3, 5 KO), a 32-year-old from Argentina who has a couple of decent domestic wins and is 2-0 in fights in the U.S., though not near a top level.
Torres will have activity going for him, and also no burden of pressure. Benavidez isn’t just fighting for the first time in three years and trying to start salvaging what remains of his prime years window, he’s also fighting at home on a Showtime-televised card.
If Benavidez is near the talent level that has always been there, this shouldn’t be too difficult a fight for him, and you’d like to see a fighter whose promise was once so highly regarded break through and put together a nice streak. He’s a potential wild card at 147 or 154 (this fight will be at 154) if he can buckle down and get things going — he’s got ability and can be a terrific boxer on form, but we just haven’t seen his best too often, and it’s been over 11 years since he turned professional. This is no longer a 20-year-old kid figuring out what he does or doesn’t have.
DraftKings have both Benavidez brothers as huge favorites, understandably. David is -3000 against Davis, who sits at +1100, with Jose at -1600 compared to Torres’ +850.
How to Watch
Benavidez vs Davis airs Saturday, November 13, beginning at 10 pm ET on Showtime. Bad Left Hook will have full live coverage for the event.