Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is the king of boxing’s super middleweight division. David Benavidez, The Ring magazine’s top-ranked contender at 168 pounds, is confident he can come for the crown.
Benavidez (24-0, 21 KOs), who will takes on Kyrone Davis at the Footprint Center in Phoenix on Saturday night, is a potential opponent for Alvarez in a May 2022 bout for Alvarez’s WBA, WBC, WBO, The Ring and IBF titles. Alvarez has made quick work of the division, winning all five of his fights there with his last three victories coming by knockout.
Benavidez — a two-time WBC world champion at super middleweight — has yet to face Alvarez, in part because he missed weight before an August 2020 fight against Roamer Alexis Angulo and was stripped of his belt. If he takes care of business against Davis, he could finally get his shot, a prospect in which he is very confident.
“I have great jabs, great combinations, but I also feel like there’s a lot of things I can expose from Canelo, too,” Benavidez told Sporting News. “I see that he leaves the body open as well. A lot of other stuff that I know I can do in there.”
Here’s more on how Benavidez is approaching Saturday’s fight against Davis.
Benavidez says he is focused on Davis, not Alvarez
Despite claims from Alvarez’s trainer, Eddie Reynoso, that their team is interested in fighting Benavidez, Benavidez said his current focus is on Davis, who stepped in to take Saturday’s bout on 16 days' notice after Benavidez’s original opponent, Jose Uzcategui, tested positive for steroids.
“He’s a live dog,” Benavidez said of Davis. “He’s going there and he knows what he’s up against. I know what I’m up against, and I’ve had a tremendous training camp. We’re going to go in there and we’re going to have a fun time. It’s going to be a fun fight — he’s not scared of me, I’m not scared of him.”
Davis fought on 13 days' notice in September in a win over Martez McGregor. Davis acknowledged that experience should help him in the ring Saturday, and Benavidez said he made sure to prepare for a different fighter in his training camp.
“You got to be ready to adapt to anything that comes,” Benavidez said. “I sparred with three or four different sparring partners in sparring, so each person has a different style. So that’s how I learned to adapt to different sparring partners.”
Benavidez calls Alvarez’s victory over Plant a ‘great fight’
Benavidez has respected Alvarez’s work in the super middleweight division, especially his 11th-round knockout of Caleb Plant on Nov. 6 to become the first undisputed 168-pound champion.
“I just felt like Caleb Plant doesn’t have that punching power to keep a beast like Canelo off,” Benavidez said. “We’ve seen Caleb Plant have success with combinations and jabs, and that’s what I do good, too.”
Asked what he could provide that Plant and others cannot, Benavidez noted his punching power and combinations, something that enabled former unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin to have success against Alvarez in their two bouts despite losing twice to him.
“You look at all the other fighters he’s fought and me, I feel like I’m the strongest opponent of all of them,” Benavidez said. “I have more knockouts than anyone else, I’m the youngest one. I have a lot of confidence in myself right now.”
Does Benavidez feel disrespected as a fighter?
Benavidez is the youngest champion in the 168-pound division’s history and at 24 seemingly has a long career ahead of him. But outside-the-ring moments have kept him from being mentioned among the sport’s rising stars.
In September 2018, he tested positive for cocaine. He was later stripped of his WBC title and received a four-month suspension through February 2019. He then missed weight for his bout against Angulo in August 2020, which resulted in the WBC stripping him of his belt a second time.
Despite his undefeated record and high knockout percentage, Benavidez is perhaps missing a signature mark as a fighter, something he admitted is a result of him getting in his own way.
“It really doesn’t matter what people say,” he said, “if they want to talk good about me, talk bad about me. At the end of the day, I’m still getting these fights, I’m still training hard, I’m still looking good, how I’m supposed to look. I feel like I got 10 years left. I have a long career ahead of me.
“Obviously, if I wouldn’t have had those little mishaps, it would have been better. But you live and you learn. I feel like, still, anything that’s happened outside of the boxing ring, every time I step in the boxing ring, it’s still to show I’m amazing.”