The rebirth of David Benavidez: Aiming for his boxing future to pound away at past
David Benavidez sat inches away from Anthony Dirrell in a recent face-to-face segment for “PBC on FOX” and managed to keep his composure, never once getting aggravated or out of character while words were being exchanged.
Fight week is underway, with Benavidez challenging Dirrell for the WBC super middleweight title as the co-feature of the Errol Spence Jr.-Shawn Porter main event at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Saturday night.
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Leading up to the bout, there’s a cool confidence about Benavidez — and why shouldn’t there be? He has never lost the WBC title in the ring and enters the fight unbeaten at 21-0, including 18 KOs.
He only lost the strap last September by testing positive for cocaine from a urine sample collected by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) the month prior, thus being forced to vacate the championship. He was also slapped with a four-month suspension through February.
That same month, Dirrell (33-1-1, 24 KOs) defeated Avni Yildirim to grab the WBC belt, and that’s what paved the way for this showdown. The more Benavidez thinks about it, that’s when he loses his cool and his “El Bandera Roja (The Red Flag)” nickname comes into play.
“Me knowing that I never lost the belt to anybody, it’s kind of made me hungrier seeing someone else take my belt,” Benavidez told Sporting News. “There’s kind of a fire burning inside of me. It opened up an animal in me because I won’t stop until I get my belt back.”
That’s precisely why the 22-year-old is viewing Los Angeles as the epicenter for not only his two-time championship coronation, but the rebirth of his career.
“This will be the start of everything,” Benavidez said. “September 28, my life is going to change for the better. This fight is going to open so many opportunities for me, my career, my family, so I’m taking this fight very seriously. I know my life is going to change after this fight, so I can’t be more motivated than this.
“I’m extremely motivated to go and get my title back. I feel like the timing is right.”
It’s also Benavidez’s hope that those who haven’t turned the page on his past indiscretion will finally do so, but he isn’t overly concerned about outside noise. After all, Benavidez reasons that he already apologized last September. He plans on letting his future boxing accomplishments pound away at his past.
“At the end of the day, people are always going to put [the failed drug test] and me together,” Benavidez said. “They’re always going to label me that until my career ends. You know what? It’s something that just doesn’t bother me anymore. Whatever people are going to say, they’re going to say.
“I’ve been very close to my team, very close to my father, I’ve been training extremely hard. My job is to become the best super middleweight in the world, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Benavidez wants to reclaim the WBC title by knocking out Dirrell, something that has never happened to the grizzled veteran in a pro career that has spanned nearly 15 years.
“Dirrell has never been stopped, he has never been hurt,” Benavidez said. “He says there’s no way that I could beat him, that he’s been boxing more than I’ve been alive. Anthony Dirrell, just be ready and willing because you’re going to get knocked out September 28.”
For whatever it’s worth, IBF super middleweight champion Caleb Plant is expecting Benavidez to get past Dirrell without much of a problem. But that could simply be attributed to Plant and Benavidez both wanting a unification fight.
Perhaps Benavidez will show Plant a preview of things to come Saturday night against Dirrell.
“I know whoever I put my hands on, I’m going to hurt,” Benavidez said.
While a Teofimo Lopez or Ryan Garcia might hog the shine for 22-and-under fighters, Benavidez has already made the boxing history that they crave by being the youngest super middleweight world champion of all time — and that’s the only adulation that he cares about.
“Me being in the limelight really doesn’t matter,” Benavidez said. “I’m looking to stand alone in history. I turned professional when I was 16 years old. I’m about to turn 23, so I’ve been here for a while. People know about me, but I feel like my era is going to start September 28.”
Or rather restart. Benavidez is ready for his second coming.
Story by Mark Lelinwalla
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