Benavidez aims to become youngest 168-pound champion in boxing history

David Benavidez wasn’t even born when Darrin Van Horn, at 22, became the youngest boxer in history to win a 168-pound title in May 1991. But tomorrow night, the 20-year-old Benavidez has an opportunity to make history himself in the Fight Capital of the World.

David Benavidez

David Benavidez stopped rugged vet Rogelio Medina his last time out. A win tomorrow night in Las Vegas would make the 20-year-old Benavidez the youngest 168-pound champion in boxing history. (Edgar Ramos/Premier Boxing Champions)

With his 11th round knockout of Lindell Holmes in May 1991, a then-22 year old Darrin Van Horn became the youngest boxer in history to win a super middleweight title.

David Benavidez wasn’t even born yet. In fact, the unbeaten boxer from Phoenix, Arizona, who won’t turn 21 until December, wasn’t born when Van Horn’s career ended in 1994. But the top rated super middleweight contender is old enough—and, more importantly, mature enough—to have positioned himself to make history with a win in his next fight.

Should he emerge victorious over Ronald Gavril Friday night in their 10-round title fight at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT), Benavidez (18-0, 17 KOs) will not only establish himself as the youngest super middleweight champion in boxing history, but beat the old record by more than two years.

Not lost on the knockout artist is the fact that he has to win first in order to achieve that goal, which is why he’s trained non-stop for three months. He opened camp shortly after his knockout victory over Rogelio Medina this past May.

“My training camps are always fairly long,” said Benavidez. “I only take a week off after every fight and go back into training. This will be my best performance ever. As long as they put top-notch guys in front me, they will always bring the best out of me.”

His upcoming opponent perfectly fits the bill.

Gavril (18-1, 14KOs) is more refined than most of the opponents that Benavidez has faced to date. The 31-year old Romanian, who now lives and trains in Las Vegas under the Mayweather Promotions banner, is a fundamentally sound boxer who also likes to get his hands dirty and feel like he’s been in a fight.

That much is reflected in his current seven-fight win streak, which includes five straight KO victories. He scored a third round stoppage of DeCarlo Perez in April, which came on the heels of a thrilling 10th round technical knockout of Christopher Brooker last October.

This will be my best performance ever. As long as they put top-notch guys in front me, they will always bring the best out of me. Unbeaten 168-pound contender David Benavidez

Gavril ignored the critics following the lone loss of his career, an eight-round decision to Elvin Ayala in March 2015. Instead he treated the loss as a learning lesson, and punched his way into title contention.

Gavril arrived at this title opportunity by winning and being in the right place at the right time. Gavril stepped in when former champ Anthony Dirrell was forced to withdraw from the bout after suffering an undisclosed injury.

With a win, the streaking Gavril can join Lucian Bute as the only Romania-born boxer ever to capture a super middleweight title. He knows what he’s up against and how the general public believes things will shake out. That’s why he left nothing to chance from the moment he was offered the chance.

“I feel really sharp and I’m really happy with how everything has gone during training,” said Gavril. “This is the opportunity that I’ve worked so hard to get and I’m definitely not letting it slip by. I know that everything needs to be 100 percent on fight night so I’m pushing myself to be ready to do whatever it takes to leave with the belt.

“Benavidez is a strong guy who’s coming in with a lot of support behind him, but I’m not going to let any of that distract me from my preparation. Me and my trainer (former light heavyweight champion Eddie Mustafa Muhammad) are going to have a great game plan for him. I know he wants to be active and smother me and we’re going to show him all of the parts of my game.”

His unbeaten opponent only hopes that to be true.

"I have been watching film on him,” says Benavidez, whose older brother Jose Jr. is a former super lightweight titlist.

“He's more of a boxer, but he does have a brawling ability. He was a great amateur as well. He had a lot of fights, but we're training hard. I'm working with a lot of different types of boxers and brawlers, so whatever he brings on the 8th I'll be ready.”

And with a little luck, he will also become a part of boxing history.

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