Although he’s regarded as one of boxing’s most exciting young fighters and among the best 168-pounders in the world, David Benavidez finds himself — once again — on the outside looking in of the division’s title picture.
Despite having already twice captured the WBC super middleweight title, including once at just 20 in 2017, Benavidez (23-0, 20 KOs) has also been stripped of the belt just as many times, including last August when he missed weight one day before a stoppage victory over Roamer Alexis Angulo.
But with business picking up in a huge way over the past year at 168 pounds as pound-for-pound king Canelo Alvarez attempts to unify all four titles, Benavidez is hoping to crash the party a third time entering Saturday’s return headlining a Premier Boxing Champions card on Showtime (9 p.m. ET). Benavidez will take on Ronald Ellis (18-1-2, 12 KOs) inside Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
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At 24, Benavidez believes his wayward days are behind him, including the first time he was stripped of his title in 2018 following a positive test for cocaine. The father of a six-month old son, Benavidez also moved his three-month training camp back to the isolated setting of Big Bear Lake, California, for the first time since the build to his spectacular knockout of Rogelio “Porky” Medina four years ago.
“To be honest, the thought process right now is food,” Benavidez told “Morning Kombat” on Monday with a smile. “It’s the only thing on my mind.”
Joking aside, Benavidez said he’s on pace to put any lingering weight issues from 2020 behind him and still blames missing weight ahead of the Angulo fight on his lack of preparation for the fight week restrictions brought by COVID-19 protocols, which included limited use of the hotel sauna or access to road work to help shed the final pounds.
Although the fight with Ellis, a 31-year-old grinder from Lynn, Massachusetts, who has benefitted from a late career surge, will serve a title eliminator that could see Benavidez get closer to fighting for another belt, his focus is centered upon living up to his all-action reputation.
“The thought process right now is getting back to where I was and ultimately giving the fans a great fight because this is what I’m here for,” Benavidez said. “I know a lot of fans will be barbecuing because they can’t show up to the fight so it’s my job to give them a great fight. With the belt or without the belt, I think people just love my style and they are eager to see me in the ring with the best of the best.”
Whether or not Benavidez can attract top opponents this calendar year remains a difficult question.
Alvarez unified the WBA and WBC titles in December by beating Callum Smith before keeping busy in a February win over mandatory opponent Avni Yildirim. The Mexican superstar has also announced bold plans to become the division’s first undisputed champion by facing WBO titleholder Billy Joe Saunders in May before a possible September return against IBF champion Caleb Plant.
“Canelo, I never discredit him or anything. He’s a great fighter and has always been one of the great fighters today,” Benavidez said. “But as of late, I feel like he hasn’t been really saying anything about me. Even when I had the title, everybody was receiving offers but me and I feel like that speaks volumes on its own.
“For me to be realistic, that fights need to happen. What happens after he beats Billy Joe Saunders and he beats Caleb Plant? Who else is there for him to fight? I feel like people are tired of seeing him fight older dudes and they want to see him fight a young lion. I fit the description. People want to see him in a fight with somebody like me. All I have to do now is keeping winning and that fight has to happen.”
Despite his hopes, the native of Phoenix is also realistic. He knows Alvarez could leave the division altogether should he accomplish his goal of unifying titles, meaning Benavidez might have already lost his shot at the Canelo sweepstakes when he was stripped of his title last year.
The good news, from Benavidez’s perspective, is that the division remains a deep one and he even mentioned rumors that unbeaten WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo could move up in weight sooner than later.
And then there is Plant. The beef between the two began three years ago when Benavidez’s older brother Jose, a former welterweight title challenger, exchanged heated words with Plant inside a training gym. What followed was a brief skirmish between camps that was caught on tape.
“I don’t like him and I’ve never liked him. I don’t want to get too disrespectful in here but I just want to beat his ass. Title or no title,” Benavidez said. “Even when Canelo takes [Plant’s] title away, we still have to get that fight in. There is a lot of bad blood there and I’m not going to leave that fight on the table. I definitely have to get that fight.
“I just want to shut his mouth and that’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to break his mouth.”
In the meantime, Benavidez has worked on perfecting his game by committing much more to his jab and becoming more responsible on defense.
“I feel like as a great fighter to evolve, you have to add great stuff to your game always,” Benavidez said. “That’s why I’m such a dangerous fighter and that’s why I have so much confidence in myself. I’ve broken down dangerous fighters who had never been stopped. I have made people quit and I’m only 24, I’m not even close to my prime yet.
“I’m expecting to see the best Ronald Ellis anyone has ever seen. He’s kind of older and he’s fighting a young, hungry fighter and a two-time world champion. If he didn’t train the best he ever did in his life, it’s disrespectful to me and he’s going to pay for it.”
This tripleheader on Showtime also features a fun bout at super welterweight to kick things off when Terrell Gausha returns to the ring to take on Jamontay Clark. Gausha, 33, has had a rough go of late after starting his career with a blistering 20-0 record. After dropping a decision to Erislandy Lara for the WBA and IBO at 154 pounds in 2017, Gausha is 1-1-1 in his last three and coming off a loss to Erickson Lubin last September. He gets a tough opponent in Clark, who boasts a 15-1-1 record and seven knockouts. He scored a decision win over Anthony Lenk in his only bout of 2020.
In the co-main event, Isaac Cruz Gonzalez is back in action when he faces Jose Matias Romero in a lightweight contest. Cruz, 22, has been on an absolute tear to start his pro career. He’s won four straight since beginning to fight in the United States regularly with a thudding knockout of Diego Magdaleno in his most recent contest. He gets an undefeated challenger in Romero, although the Argentine has never fought stateside and his opponent level is low.
Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr.
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Benavidez has carved out a reputation as being one of boxing’s best switch hitters, with knockout power and speed in both hands. However, the 24-year-old has also been his worst own enemy at points, twice having to relinquish the WBC super middleweight title due to his own indiscretions.
In late 2018, Benavidez was stripped of the championship after his urine sample tested positive for cocaine. The Phoenix, Arizona resident returned from a four-month suspension and would eventually regain the WBC strap with a ninth-round TKO of Anthony Dirrell in September 2019.
However, Benavidez got in his own way once again — this time on the scale, weighing 2.8 pounds overweight ahead of his slated title defense against Roamer Alexis Angulo in August 2020. Benavidez had to drop the title prior to the bout and wound up stopping Angulo in 10 rounds out of frustration. Now, Benavidez might be facing a longer path to a title shot, but is prepared to do whatever it takes to get it.
Canelo is unifiying his WBA/WBC super middleweight straps with WBO titleholder Billy Joe Saunders on May 8. If Alvarez is victorious, he’ll likely be in a rush to cement a title bout with IBF champ Caleb Plant for a shot at undisputed glory. Whether a title shot comes against Canelo or not, Benavidez can’t wait for his shot to become a three-time super middleweight champion.
“I’ve had an amazing camp in Big Bear and this is the strongest I have ever felt, so I’m looking to get an early stoppage against Ellis,” Benavidez said in a PBC press release statement. “I’m glad this is a title eliminator and it’s going to be another step to being a world champion once again.”
Ellis comes into the bout having bounced back from his lone pro loss to DeAndre Ware in February 2019 by piecing together back-to-back wins over Immanuwel Aleem and Matvey Korobov. The December victory over Korobov came via technical knockout after the Russian boxer suffered an Achilles tendon injury and couldn’t start the fifth round.
David Benavidez vs. Ronald Ellis fight date, start time
Canelo vs. Yildirim fight date, start time
- Date: Saturday, March 13
- Coverage: 9 p.m. ET/ 2 a.m. GMT
- Benavidez vs. Ellis Main event (approx): 11:30 p.m. ET/ 4:30 a.m. GMT
The David Benavidez vs. Ronald Ellis fight card takes place on Saturday, March 13 at 9 p.m. ET. Benavidez and Ellis should make their ring walks at approximately 11:30 p.m. ET, depending on the length of the earlier bouts.
Benavidez vs. Ellis TV channel, live stream
The Benavidez vs. Ellis card will be on Showtime (both the channel and app), with lightweights Isaac Cruz and Matias Romero clashing in the co-main event and Terrell Gausha vs. Jamontay Clark launching the event in a junior middleweight tilt.
Where is the Benavidez vs. Ellis fight?
The Benavidez-Ellis card will take place live from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut in a Premier Boxing Champions event.
David Benavidez record and bio
- Nationality: American
- Age: 24
- Height: 6′ 1½”
- Reach: 77 inches
- Total fights: 23
- Record: 23-0 with 20 knockouts
Ronald Ellis record and bio
- Nationality: American
- Age: 31
- Height: 5′ 10½″
- Reach: 77 inches
- Total fights: 21
- Record: 18-1-2 with 12 knockouts
David Benavidez vs. Ronald Ellis fight card
- David Benavidez vs. Ronald Ellis in WBC super middleweight title eliminator
- Isaac Cruz vs. Matias Romero; Lightweight
- Terrell Gausha vs. Jamontay Clark; Junior middleweight