No bull here: David Benavidez plants his red flag
Last weekend in boxing, you will recall, was ludicrously jammed up, in a good way. Showtime ran; HBO ran and there was a Premier Boxing Champions show, from Laredo, Texas, also there for the taking in, on Saturday.
Pity the boxing widows, whose significant others were glued to a screen from 6 p.m. to 12 midnight, watching the Sweet Science and standouts like THE RING Magazine/WBC/WBO junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford and rising studs like IBF junior lightweight titlist Gervonta Davis do their thing and swing for the fences.
Going into the weekend, I had told a friend, PBC play-by-play man Ray Flores (with whom I partner on “Fightnight Live” Facebook streaming shows, as color man) that, on days like this, sometimes a guy you don’t expect steals the thunder, comes away on Sunday and Monday with a greater share of buzz than most would have predicted.
So it was on Sunday and Monday, as the David Benavidez highlight video of his stoppage combo on Rogelio “Porky” Medina on the PBC show drew over a million hits on YouTube.
Yes, David Benavidez’s stock rose higher, popped to the moon faster than any pugilist campaigning on Saturday and funny, isn’t it, how a furious KO will make that happen?
I chatted with the 20-year-old, who started out as a teen phenom and has now reached the point where he will not – and cannot – be dismissed as a mere novelty act, a guy seasoned beyond his years.
Yes, the California resident, who grew up in Arizona, told me in a phone chat, I do believe, a star was born on Saturday. “It was perfect timing,” he told me, after I paid congratulations to Nathan Lewkowicz, whose dad Sampson signed Benavidez three years ago and has been telling those who’d listen that his upside is immense. “I never had an opponent like that, like Medina, so prepared, to stay in front of me like that. I trained for four months and he wasn’t there to get beat. It made the fight really competitive.”
Yeah, until the super middleweight Benavidez, nicknamed “El Bandera Roja,” The Red Flag, which signifies he is a danger zone for any foe coming into his proximity, dropped his hammers on Medina. It was the flashiest and filthiest combo thrown on Saturday, and it came from a 17-0 guy who was on the “forgotten” card that got DVR treatment.
“My nickname means I’m dangerous to anyone in the 168 (-pound) division,” he told me. “Bulls see a red flag; you’re in the danger zone. Going in, I wanted to make a statement. I wanted to let everyone in the division know, they think this is a kid, too young. No, not only can I compete, I’m there to try and knock everybody out!”
Oh yes, that KO mentality. It’s back, I like to think. The Floyd Mayweather Jr. “Skills pay the bills mindset” prevailed for a few years, but I think many fighters have come to understand KOs bring buzz and, besides, no one shares the same skill set as Mayweather, which includes making fans care and pay to watch a guy whose defense is his top trait.
So why does Benavidez dig KOs? Because the people like it or because it is in his blood, a desire to separate foes from their senses? “Both,” the younger brother of pro Jose Benavidez (age 25; 25-0, out since last summer after being shot in the leg) stated. “People like a KO-type of fighter and I want them to know they can’t miss any round of my fight. It can end at any time.”
Does he consider himself nasty? Because I’ve interviewed him before and he is exceedingly polite, and was most humble and gracious during this chat. “I think it is the competitor in me. I train really hard and think there’s no better way to end the fight, because then I know I trained as hard as I could. And people love knockouts.”
Oh, and get this, the kid still lives with his dad. Why? Because it keeps him focused and dedicated. His next fight could come in September, back in Texas, where fans have taken to him.
And now let’s talk that combo. I told Benavidez I thought someone sent me a sped-up video. No, it was his real-deal hand speed, which had seven punches firing at Medina.
“I set it up with body shots the round before. And did I realize how great the combo was? At the time, it happened so fast! After the fight, I wanted to watch the replay. I thought it was like three punches but it was like seven.”
So, yes, a star was born on Saturday, if we judge by the hubbub surrounding and clinging to Benavidez.
“Now a lot of people, when I go to stores recognize me, want to take pictures with me,” he relayed. “It’s a little new to me, and it makes me happy, that people like me, want to see more of me!”
My take: Damn right. The dude fires a combo, a counter and is grinning while he does it! He loves to fight; he is humble and hits as hard as a mule with a mean streak and a grudge. David Benavidez is on my must-watch list.
Wave a red flag at Michael Woods and what happens? Not a doggone thing. And that ain’t no bull.
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