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David Benavidez overcomes slow start to pound Caleb Plant over 12

David Benavidez beat Caleb Plant by unanimous decision (Photo by Esther Lin/SHOWTIME)
Fighters Network

The animosity was so great between David Benavidez and Caleb Plant that neither would touch gloves before their WBC super middleweight interim title fight on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. That ended when they started throwing punches at each other.

Through 12 rounds, that anger morphed into mutual respect, and Benavidez morphed along with it, going from an undisciplined young man into a greater threat at 168 pounds, after winning a unanimous decision over Plant before a sellout crowd of 13,865 on a PBC event on Showtime pay-per-view.

Benavidez (27-0, 23 knockouts) was not only tasked with conquering Plant, but he had to endure the inept performance of otherwise solid referee Kenny Bayless in winning by varied scores from judges Tim Cheatham (115-113), Dave Moretti (116-112) and Steve Weisfeld (117-111).

Defeated in two of his last three fights, Plant (22-2, 13 KOs) deployed a tactic used by Evander Holyfield the first time he fought Mike Tyson in 1996. Holyfield would box Tyson from a distance, and each time Tyson neared, Holyfield would grip him up to offset his power inside. Plant used the same approach with Benavidez early on, opting to box and move behind a jab, while clenching Benavidez each time he came close.

Only, Benavidez was the fighter being warned about holding—not Plant.

“I was trying to hold him when necessary, punch him when necessary, and throw my combinations when necessary,” Plant said. “But when the best get in there with the best, you roll the dice and someone is going to come out with their hand raised and someone will come up short. And one thing that I pride myself on is that I roll with the best in the world. I haven’t ducked anyone and maybe we can have a rematch in the future.”

By the seventh round, Benavidez began finding his distance and using a tactic of his own. Each time Plant neared, he would step back to nullify the hold, while giving him space to fully extend his punches.

By the eighth, Benavidez was in full control. He slammed an overhand right on the side of Plant’s head. That caused problems for the former IBF super middleweight titlist. He was palpably hurt when Bayless interfered with 48 seconds left in the round, so the ringside doctor could look at a cut over Plant’s right eye, stopping Benavidez’s momentum.

“Kenny Bayless is a helluva referee but he didn’t give Caleb Plant any warnings the whole fight,” Benavidez said. “But it is what it is and I still had to work through it. He was a tough fighter and we had figure out a way around that. It was a great fight.

“I knew I had to take it step by step and round by round. Caleb is a tough fighter. He’s not going to give you everything in the first few rounds so you have to find him. But I feel like I didn’t just show that I was a power puncher tonight. I showed that I had defense and head movement and I was able to move around the ring and cut the ring off really good. I hit him with a lot of hard shots. I would talk shit but I like this guy now and I don’t want to keep it going.”

With 2:52 remaining in the ninth, Plant was finally warned by Bayless—for a low blow. By now, Benavidez was now coming on and midway through the ninth, he invited Plant to hit him.

It didn’t matter.

Plant had nothing left.

In the 10th, Benavidez erupted with a right uppercut that snapped Plant’s head back. A minute later, he crushed another right uppercut that landed on Plant.

Courage and character were the only things keeping Plant up.

Before the 11th, Plant’s trainer, Stephen “Breadman” Edwards, warned his fighter he would stop it if he saw Plant wasn’t able to fight back.

With his face covered in blood, Plant did try and fight back in the 12th. Benavidez, however, had a firm hold of the fight.

“I want to shout out Caleb Plant,” Benavidez said. “I know there was a lot said between us but in the end we settled this like men. He’s a helluva fighter. I’m happy we gave the fans the best rivalry of the year or the last five years. I’m just very happy.

“I just want to tell everyone that I have a lot of respect for Canelo Alvarez but he has to give me that shot now. That’s what everyone wants to see. Let’s make it happen. I don’t think Canelo is trying to avoid me. I just feel like he has a lot of options. But now the fans are calling for this fight, the legends are calling for this fight, so let’s make it happen.”

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/ since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Follow @JSantoliquito