New Faces: David Benavidez
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
Weight class: Super middleweight
Height/ Reach: 6-feet-2 (188 cm) / 74½″ (189cm)
Amateur record: 15-0
Turned pro: 2013
Pro record: 17-0 (16 knockouts)
Trainer: Jose Benavidez Sr., Carlos Alvarez (second assist)
Manager: David A. Garcia
Promoter: Sampson Lewkowicz
Best night of pro career: Although Benavidez sports an exemplary record of 17-0, he expects his upcoming meeting with Rogelio Medina to be his best performance to date. “I feel like, every fight, I keep improving,” Benavidez told RingTV.com. “Every fight I’m more relaxed. I see things better and I’m boxing smarter than I was my first couple of fights.
“I feel, this fight, I’m going to make a statement. I want to prove to everybody and myself that I can fight at a high level and that I can be the best at 168 pounds.”
Worst night of pro career: The 20-year-old is least pleased with his second-to-last outing. “If there was one, I’d say it was against (Denis) ‘Momma’s Boy’ (Douglin). I injured my hand in the first round and that fight didn’t go how I thought it would. But it was good. I overcame some adversity, going to the 10th round and still getting the knockout.”
Next fight: On Saturday, Benavidez will step up a level and face battle-hardened Mexican Rogelio Medina in a WBC super middleweight eliminator on FS1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT from the Laredo Energy Arena in Laredo, Texas. “I think ‘Porky’ Medina’s a very good fighter with a lot of experience,” Benavidez acknowledged. “He really knows what he’s doing inside that ring but I think I’m going to go in there and box him and use my jab. He likes to put a lot of pressure on, so I’m going to set traps for him, box him and it’s going to be a good night for me.”
Medina (37-7, 31 KOs) is just one fight removed from giving IBF titlist James DeGale all he could handle in defeat in April 2016. The 28-year-old from Hermosillo, Mexico, also scored a shock win over J’Leon Love in August 2014, stopping the Mayweather Promotions contender in three rounds.
However, Medina frequently loses when he steps up in class (to WBO titleholder Gilberto Ramirez (L TKO 6), Jose Uzcategui (L UD 10) and former WBC titlist Badou Jack (L TKO 6)).
This fight looks like a rite of passage for Benavidez. If he can emerge victorious, he’ll have moved from prospect to contender and be in striking distance of fighting for the WBC 168-pound title. Callum Smith and Anthony Dirrell are due to square off for the vacant title, on a date and venue to be decided, and Benavidez finds the match up intriguing.
“They’re both really good fighters but (although) Dirrell’s a veteran in the division, I think Callum Smith is a little bit better,” he said. “I think Smith might take it. For me, it would be an honor to face him.”
First, however, Benavidez must get past Medina and he’ll be favored to do so. A stoppage would open a few eyes and if he can add to his spate of early KOs, he’ll garner even more attention on a busy weekend of boxing.
Why he’s a prospect: Benavidez had minimal amateur experience and there were two reasons for this. “My dad always trained me a professional style,” he explained. “Once you go into the amateurs, you pick up a lot of bad habits. You’re not really throwing your punches all the way. You kind of slap; that’s how we felt, so my my dad thought it would be a good idea to practice that pro style.
“Also, I was really heavy when I was younger – about 250 pounds, when I was 13, so it took me two years to lose the weight. That’s another reason why I didn’t really fight in the amateurs.”
Benavidez didn’t fight in any tournaments but made up for that with sparring some of the best fighters in the world. Most recently, Benavidez was in camp with Gennady Golovkin, helping the IBF/WBA/WBC middleweight king prepare for Daniel Jacobs. He estimates that they sparred in the region of 30 to 40 rounds.
At just 16 years old, he sparred with Kelly Pavlik and then Golovkin. Benavidez has since locked horns with Peter Quillin, Gabriel Rosado and Lateef Kayode. The first pro with whom he sparred with Pavlik.
“It was a really great experience to go in there and feel that power,” said Benavidez in relation to his work with the former middleweight champion. “It was definitely a change up to feel the power of a champion (compared) to an amateur. I kind of had to learn from a young age how to handle the power.”
Benavidez has been able to handle the upper echelon sparring because of his overall ability and having his man strength from a young age.
“I feel like I’ve kind of developed it but not developed it all,” Benavidez said. “We do a lot of strength and conditioning. That helps me to improve with strength a little bit.”
He is a very good offensive fighter. To date, only one man has lasted the distance with him and only two have gone past six rounds.
When asked for his best attributes as a fighter, Benavidez says, “My jab and maybe the left hook to the body. I love using the jab; setting everything up, you keep that distance. Sometimes I don’t even have to throw that jab. I just like to keep the distance to see how available that person is. If I want to keep them off me, I just snap that jab. The jab is definitely my favorite.”
His father Jose Sr. is very happy with how his son is progressing, “I think he has power in both hands,” he said. “We’ve been practicing the body shots a lot; those are the biggest things.”
Why he’s a suspect: To this point, the lack of amateur experience hasn’t had an adverse effect on the youngster. The only adversity he’s faced has been the injured hand against Douglin. Otherwise Benavidez has had things his own way. Could he be a front runner? The Medina fight could give us the answers.
Although he’s enjoyed countless rounds of high-class sparring, the fighter knows as “El Bandera Roja” (“The Red Flag”) has only had 44 rounds as a professional.
“I can improve in a lot of things but, right now, we really work on everything,” said Benavidez. “We like to keep calm, throw that jab, control the distance. I feel like everything we do right now is perfect for any opponent we face. There’s really not too much stuff that we need to change right now. Until we see a problem, then we’ll change it.”
Benavidez Sr. is constantly working to improve his son’s skill set.
“He’s so ahead of his game,” stated Benavidez Sr. “I’m just trying to polish him a little bit more, to stay a little bit lower every time he throws a combination, not to stand in front of his opponent; try to use angles. He’s getting much better at that.”
Storylines: Benavidez lives with his father in Arizona but trains in a variety of gyms in the Los Angeles area, including Big Bear. He has two brothers and two sisters. His older brother Jose Jr. competes in the junior welterweight division. He was shot in the knee and hasn’t fought in 10 months. He’s only 24 years old, however, and is rehabilitating his knee before a return later this year. His other siblings are still young and may follow their older brothers into boxing.
“I’ve been boxing since I was three years old,” he said. “A lot of my early life was about boxing, waking up, going for an early run, going to the gym. As a little kid, nobody likes to train but, over the years, you learn to love it.
“The thing I loved about it was to stay disciplined. You learn how to control things and then you see the progress. That’s what made me love boxing. Boxing’s a hard sport – it’s not for everyone. If you make it past that, when you’re a little kid, it says a lot about you.”
Despite being 6-foot-2, Benavidez has no issues making 168 pounds. “I make it easy,” he said last Wednesday. “Right now I’m 170. I only have two pounds to lose.”
The goals for the young contender are the obvious ones. “Just winning fights, fighting great fighters, giving the fans great fights and ultimately becoming champion,” said Benavidez.
“You really have to put everything into it. When I’m not boxing, I don’t really have a life. I like to stay home, relax, watch TV, go to the movies, go to a nice restaurant. I wait for my two weeks’ rest to be over, then go back to the gym.”
Benavidez is a gym rat and openly yearns to be back in the gym, “It’s really boring (not training). I’d rather be in the gym learning new things.”
Jan. 28 – Sherali Mamajonov – KO 2
Aug. 5 – Denis Douglin – TKO 10
June 25 – Francy Ntetu – TKO 7
April 30 – Phillip Jackson Benson – KO 2
Jan. 19 – Kevin Cobbs – KO 2
Nov. 14 – Felipe Romero – TKO 1
Sept. 5 – Alberto Gutierrez – TKO 1
May 15 – Ricardo Campillo – TKO 2
April 25 – Rollin Williams – TKO 1
Dec. 20 – Azamat Umarzoda – UD 6
Oct. 11 – Juan Hernandez – TKO 1
Aug. 23 – Jairo Dolores – TKO 1
May 24 – Erick Revueltas – KO 4
April 11 – Arturo Martinez – TKO 1
Jan. 31 – Omar Aispuro – TKO 1
Dec. 4 – Edgar Galvan – KO 1
Aug. 17 – Erasmo Mendoza – KO 1
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright.