David Benavidez dismisses Ronald Ellis challenge: ‘I don’t see too much of a threat’
Former two-time super middleweight world titlist David Benavidez was nonchalant about his expectations for his upcoming fight against Ronald Ellis.
“I don’t see too much of a threat,” Benavidez told The Ring. “He doesn’t have too much power. Not too much speed, so I think I’m going to go in there and do whatever I want to do and I’m expecting to have a spectacular KO.”
While Benavidez and Ellis will square off in a WBC super middleweight semifinal title elimination bout that headlines a Showtime-televised tripleheader on Saturday (9 p.m. ET) at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, Benavidez clearly is looking ahead to bigger and better fights.
He would rather be facing a better known and more highly regarded opponent on Saturday and is actually a bit disappointed that he is facing Ellis, who recently served as Ring magazine super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez’s sparring partner for his fight last month against Avni Yildirim.
“When we first came out to camp I was originally looking at (former world titlist) Jose Uzcategui,” Benavidez said. “He turned the fight down and then we tried to get the man who beat Uzcategui, Lionell Thompson. He turned it down and I think in the position I’m in right now, since I don’t have a title no more, everybody looks at me as a threat and it’s not worth the risk. So, it was kind of hard finding an opponent.
“What are you supposed to do when you can’t get these fighters to fight you? You take the next person who’s willing to fight. That’s where we’re at with Ronald Ellis.”
Ellis (18-1-2, 12 KOs), 31, of Lynn, Massachusetts, doesn’t come with a big reputation. He lost a majority decision loss to DeAndre Ware in February 2019 and has won two fights in a row since, a majority decision over Immanuwel Aleem 10 months later and an injury stoppage of middleweight contender Matvey Korobov in December 2020 in a fight for which Ellis was five pounds overweight and Korobov could not continue after the fourth round because of a left Achilles injury.
“I’ve been pushing to make these big fights happen like with (middleweight titlist Jermall) Charlo. I could even have fought (super middleweight titlist) Caleb Plant but he decided to do his mandatory,” Benavidez said. “No disrespect to Ronald Ellis but I want the bigger names. I want to push for the bigger names, but he’s the only one who accepted the fight. I don’t see him as a big threat but I’m still not overlooking him at all.
“Maybe he can present something I didn’t see his last fights. I’ve prepared for him like he’s a world champion. I still have to give him respect. This is boxing and anything can happen. But I don’t feel like he’s a big threat. I’ve prepared extremely well and I’m going in there and think I’ll get a quick knockout.”
In the co-feature, lightweight contender Isaac Cruz (20-1-1, 15 KOs), 22, of Mexico, who is coming off a brutal first-round knockout of Diego Magdaleno in an Oct. 31 title eliminator on the Gervonta Davis-Leo Santa Cruz PPV, will face Argentina’s Jose Matias Romero (24-0, 8 KOs), 24, who will be fighting outside of his home country for the first time, in a 12-rounder. Junior middleweight Terrell Gausha (21-2-1, 10 KOs), 33, a former world title challenger from Cleveland, faces Jamontay Clark (15-1-1, 7 KOs), 26, of Cincinnati, in the 10-round opener.
But Benavidez (23-0, 20 KOs), 24, of Phoenix, is the star of the show, hoping to fulfill his prediction of an early knockout and get the buzz going for bigger fights.
While he can’t make other top fighters face him, Benavidez knows he is also responsible because he no longer has a world title that would be a carrot for others to face him. He was stripped of his first title in 2018 because he tested positive for cocaine, for which he has profusely apologized.
He reclaimed the WBC 168-pound belt by stopping Anthony Dirrell in the ninth round in September 2019 but then got stripped again before his first defense against Roamer Alexis Angulo last August because he was 170¾ pounds at the weigh-in — nearly three pounds over the division limit. Benavidez was pitching a shutout against Angulo before stopping him the 10th round but he was disappointed to leave the ring without a title.
“It was definitely a bittersweet victory,” Benavidez said. “The one thing I got out of that is I stopped a fighter who had never been stopped, but being upset and going through all that it really disappointed me a lot. But you make mistakes and you learn. I think it motivated me to another level. I came to Big Bear (California, for training camp) three months in advance.
“I’ve worked extremely hard. The thing that I’m really happy about is that time is on my side. I just turned 24 (in December) so I feel like as long as I keep training hard and reminding myself I have the potential to become the best in the weight class, I have at least 12 years left in the professional boxing game. All I have to do is work hard and opportunities will be presented. The fans love the way I fight. I’m always looking for a fight and I never shy away from it.”
The fight Benavidez really wants – just like every other fighter from middleweight to light heavyweight – is against Alvarez, boxing’s pound-for-pound king and biggest star, who would represent the biggest challenge, the most glory and the largest paycheck.
Alvarez and Benavidez have fan-friendly styles that would likely make for an exciting fight. Even Oscar De La Hoya, Alvarez’s former promoter, has said “it’s the fight that boxing needs.”
“Not taking anything away from Canelo, but I feel like the people he’s been fighting are just scared of him and they do nothing, they don’t present a challenge,” Benavidez said, referring to Alvarez’s recent opponents, Yildirim and Callum Smith. “I think people want to see Canelo with a challenge and I feel like I’m the only one who can get the job done. I’m younger than all these people (he’s been facing). I have a higher KO ratio than these fighters he’s fought. And I want this. I really want this fight and I really believe in myself.
“I believe I can beat him. With the right training camp, like one I just had for this fight — and I’m not even fighting against Canelo — this is the best I’ve ever looked and the best training camp I’ve ever had. So, imagine the motivation I will have knowing I am fighting against Canelo and I have a camp like this. It’s going to be an amazing fight, and I feel like the fans deserve it, man. They want to see a war with two of the best fighters in the division. So, we’ve got to make it happen.”
Alvarez is scheduled for a three-belt unification fight with Billy Joe Saunders on May 8 and then hopes to face Plant for the undisputed title in September. So, Benavidez knows that should a fight with Alvarez happen, it’s not going to be in the immediate future.
So, he had no problem dropping names of others he would like to fight.
“The biggest fight would be Canelo. That would be a great fight. Second, Charlo, and I think, honestly, the third biggest fight would be against Berlanga,” Benavidez said of prospect Edgar Berlanga, the unbeaten Puerto Rican knockout artist from Brooklyn, New York, who has won all 16 of fights by first-round stoppage.
“We’re very close in age. That’s a big fight people want to see,” Benavidez continued. “Definitely has a lot of buzz and would be a lot of excitement for it, and we have a lot of knockouts. There’s the Puerto Rican-Mexican rivalry. I feel like that would be a great fight.
“I’d definitely be willing to fight him. I don’t know if they want to give him a couple of fights to get him ready but it’s a fight I’d like to make happen. Whoever they put in front of me I will be extremely ready. I’ve been professional eight years. I’m a young veteran and now it’s just time to take those chances and try to become great, one of the best of my generation.
“I feel like now I kind of want to push a little more. I want to be like my idols like Marco Antonio Barrera, Prince Naseem (Hamed), Roy Jones Jr. They weren’t in their prime at 24, 25 but they were still taking the best fights possible. That’s what I’m trying to make happen right now. I feel like I’m ready for whoever right now. That’s why I’m pushing for the fights with Charlo, Berlanga, Canelo Alvarez, Caleb Plant, because I feel like my fans have been supporting me long enough and I think it’s time we give them those fights.”