David Benavidez has been in camp at Big Bear for 11 weeks, but bless his soul, he hasn’t started to get cranky, or at least he hid it well while taking questions regarding his next fight, which comes March 13 on Showtime.
The 24-year-old power hitter with a 23-0 (20 KO) mark is set to battle Ronald Ellis (18-1-2, 12 KO) in a super middleweight matchup.
Benavidez acted relaxed and pretty chatty as he touched on what he expects from Ellis, what fights he might like after this one gets done, and how fatherhood is treating him.
“I’m preparing for this as if it’s a world title fight,” Benavidez told me. “If Ellis gives me pressure, or wants to box, move on him, I’m ready for whatever. And yes, everyone is dangerous, you always got to have that mindset, in boxing anything can happen.”
Ellis comes in with a mixed message. He beat Matt Korobov last December when Korobov suffered an Achilles injury and couldn’t continue after the fourth round. But Ellis also had a nasty scale fail, weighing in five pounds heavy for the fight.
Regarding the stakes, you might know that Benavidez is ranked No. 1 by the WBC, whose super middleweight king is Canelo Alvarez. Canelo is gloving up on Saturday against Avni Yildirim, who is the mandatory challenger for the Mexican. Benavidez also enjoys a No. 2 ranking from the WBA, and yes, Canelo has their main 168-pound as well. Billy Joe Saunders has the WBO version, but it’s the IBF’s champ, Caleb Plant, who is really in the target zone for Benavidez.
“I want Caleb Plant,” said Benavidez. “He’s my number one target right now. But if not him, then fighting Anthony Dirrell again would make sense.”
Dirrell tangled with Benavidez in Sept. 2019, and Benavidez stopped him in round nine. Dirrell had a nasty cut on his right eyelid and his corner lobbied for a halt. Coincidentally, Dirrell gloves up Saturday, meeting Kyrone Davis on FOX. Benavidez is expecting Dirrell to prevail there. That battle is billed as a WBC eliminator, for the record.
Benavidez has owned that belt twice; he won the vacant title against Ronald Gavril in 2017, and beat him in a rematch in 2018. But Benavidez flunked a random PED test, getting flagged for cocaine, and had the belt yanked from him.
Dirrell beat Yildirim for the again-vacant crown in Feb. 2019, and put the strap on the line seven months later against Benavidez, who told all that he’d seen the error of his way. Benavidez triumphed, but his joy didn’t last. He missed weight for a title defense last August, and once again, the belt was taken from his possession. It has been a bit of a winding road, yes, and that belt and Benavidez have a tumultuous history.
The ex-champ thinks that Dirrell is a “dog” being thrown a bone, and maybe doesn’t really deserve getting placed into an eliminator fight. So, he says, he’d be happy to meet Dirrell again.
“If I end up fighting him again, I feel like it’ll be worse for him,” he said.
But Plant seems to be the real target. Benavidez and Plant have gone back-and-forth plenty of times on social media. And there was that time that they jawed at a gym, and it looked like it might get real ugly when David’s brother Jose got in Caleb’s face back in 2018.
“What’s Plant been waiting for? I think they’ve been giving him the easy route, so he can cash out against Canelo. He’s had back-to-back-to-back really easy fights, it makes no sense to me,” Benavidez said.
“I think they are getting him ready for Canelo. But even if he loses to Canelo, I’d still like to get in the ring with him. In that altercation, he ran behind his trainer, like a little girl. I don’t like that guy, he thinks he’s the second coming of Floyd Mayweather, but all the people he’s beaten have been over the hill. If he wants to prove himself, fighting me is really the only way. If it were up to me, that’s the route I’d take, me against Plant and the winner is mandatory to fight Canelo.
“And if I got to fight Canelo, I could hurt Canelo. I have power, youth, and speed on my side!”
There are other possibilities, too. Jermall Charlo called out Benavidez (kind) of, but put some conditions on it.
“I’m not fighting nobody under 25, and I’m not fighting nobody that don’t take the COVID vaccination,” the WBC middleweight champion said on social media. “If you don’t get the vaccination, I’m not fighting you. You have to get vaccinated for me to fight you. Boxing is already watered down. You want me to be watered down, broke, and sick? Hell no. Y’all got to take the vaccination. Get vaccinated, and have it on paper and bring it to the ring.”
As of now, Benavidez isn’t vaccinated, no surprise, being that he’s healthy, young, and has no underlying conditions.
“I’d love to beat Charlo’s ass,” Benavidez told me. “Man, all these guys should keep my name out of their mouth. That would be a great fight, two warriors, that fight needs to be made anyway. We’re both PBC with Al Haymon, fans would love to see it. And if a vaccination needs to happen to make the fight happen, I’d get vaccinated. Me against Charlo would be a bigger fight than me against Plant. Stylistically it’s better, two guys that come forward!”
Benavidez is intent on showing that his days of occasional misstepping are over. He says he adores being a dad to five-month-old Anthony, and that’s given him a renewed focus, because he wants to deliver as much as he can for his offspring. And so he reminds me that it’s Ellis who is his primary focus in boxing right now.
“My prediction for my fight on March 13, the way I’m feeling right now, so strong and healthy — stoppage. Early stoppage.”