Here’s a list of some of PBC's top rising stars. Boxers on this list are on a hot streak, like a slugger in baseball on a hitting streak or a running back in football who keeps posting 100-yard rushing games. They’re not ranked in any particular order. We’ll leave that to you—the reader.

Mario Barrios, 140 pounds (19-0, 11 KOs)

Mario Barrios was already a tall order for 130 pounders, but the 6-foot tall, 22-year-old has been even more impressive since rising to 140. He will pursue his fourth consecutive stoppage in the new division when he meets Naim Nelson on FS1 Toe-to-Toe Tuesdays on September 19.

The match against Nelson represents Barrios’ fourth straight fight with trainer Virgil Hunter. In his last fight, Barrios stopped Jose Luis Rodriguez in the seventh round in June. The San Antonio native has strategically risen in weight since making his professional debut at 122¼ pounds in November 2013.

Barrios fought three times in 2016, including unanimous decision victories over Edgar Gabejan and Devis Boschiero at 135 and 130 pounds, respectively. Before facing Rodriguez, Barrios stopped Claudio Rosendo Tapia and Yardley Armenta Cruz.

Mario Barrios

Mario Barrios (Nabeel Ahmad / Premier Boxing Champions)

David Benavidez, 168 pounds (19-0, 17 KOs)

David Benavidez overcame an injured middle left knuckle and rose from a final round knockdown for a split decision victory over Romanian slugger Ronald Gavril on September 8. In doing so, he became the youngest world champion in division history at 20 years old, and boxing’s youngest current titleholder.

Trained by his father, Jose Benavidez Sr., “El Bandera Roja” (The Red Flag) surpassed 22-year-old Darrin Van Horn’s accomplishment in May 1991, and ended the 31-year-old Gavril’s 7-fight winning streak (five by KO).

Benavidez was 7-0 - all knockouts - before his 18th birthday. He has also registered 13 of his 17 career stoppages within two rounds. Benavidez displayed two-fisted power on the way to securing his 10th straight knockout, scoring three knockdowns during an eighth-round stoppage of former title challenger Rogelio Medina in May. The finish to that fight is widely considered a candidate for boxing's 2017 Knockout of the Year.

David Benavidez

David Benavidez (Edgar Ramos / Premier Boxing Champions)

Jermell Charlo, 154 pounds (29-0, 14 KOs)

Jermell Charlo will be after his fourth straight stoppage and the second successful defense of his title against southpaw Erickson Lubin on SHOWTIME ON Oct. 14 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. In his last fight, Charlo scored a sixth-round KO of Charles Hatley.

Charlo made history with an eighth-round KO of John Jackson in May to win his world title, joining his twin, Jermall, as the first siblings to simultaneously hold 154-pound titles. Jermall has since vacated his 154-pound title to move into the 160-pound division.

Charlo sparred 50 rounds with welterweight champion Errol Spence, Jr., before the Hatley match. Charlo will again prepare for Lubin by sparring with Spence, with whom he shares trainer Derrick James. 

Jermell Charlo

Jermell Charlo (Tom Casino / SHOWTIME)

Jermall Charlo, 160 pounds (26-0, 20 KOs)

Jermall Charlo wasted no time making his mark at 160 pounds after vacating his 154-pound title, scoring a fourth-round TKO victory in his division debut against Jorge Sebastian Heiland in July at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

With the victory Charlo became the mandatory challenger for one of the world titles held by unbeaten Gennady Golovkin, who will defend his unified championship against Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 16.

The stoppage represented the 18th in his past 20 fights and the second straight for Charlo, who was in his first fight since a gaining an impressive three-knockdown, fifth-round KO of previously unbeaten Julian Williams in December.

Jermall Charlo

Jermall Charlo (Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME)

Gervonta Davis, 130 pounds (19-0, 18 KOs)

Baltimore-native Gervonta Davis went to London, England in May, where the 22-year-old defended his 130-pound title with a third-round stoppage that included a final round knockdown of previously unbeaten contender Liam Walsh.

The 5-foot-6 southpaw won the title with a seventh-round TKO over previously undefeated Jose Pedraza at Barclays Center in Brooklyn in January.

Davis lost that title on the scales before his fight against Francisco Fonseca, whom he stopped on an eighth round KO on Aug 26.

Gervonta Davis

Gervonta Davis (Tom Casino / SHOWTIME)

Mikey Garcia, 135 pounds (37-0, 30 KOs)

After nearly two years of inactivity, Mikey Garcia returned with a vengeance, competing in a fourth weight class with his unanimous decision over former four-division champion Adrien Broner in July.

The 29-year-old Garcia became a three-division world champion in January with a third-round KO of 135-pound champion Dejan Zlaticanin. With the victory, Garcia improved to 7-0 with six KOs against current or former world champions.

By defeating Broner in the highest-profile win of his career, Garcia set himself up to be a threat and a championship contender from 135 through 147 pounds. 

Mikey Garcia

Mikey Garcia (Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME)

Jarrett Hurd, 154 pounds (20-0, 14 KOs)

Jarrett Hurd has stormed to top of the 154-pound division by stopping his last six opponents and eight of his past nine. He won his current world title with a ninth-round TKO of Tony Harrison in February. The 6-foot-1, Accokeek, Maryland, native has a 76½-inch reach and possesses a splendid combination of speed, power and athleticism.

The 27-year-old Hurd will face his most difficult test in the first defense of his title against former champion Austin Trout at Barclays Center on SHOWTIME on Oct. 14.

“Trout has never been stopped - I’m looking for the stoppage and a statement that the other fighters couldn’t make,” said Hurd. “I didn’t have to take this fight since it’s a voluntary defense. But I wanted to stop Austin Trout, proving to the fans and people in general I’m the real deal and a true champion.”

Jarrett Hurd

Jarrett Hurd (Ryan Hafey / Premier Boxing Champions)

Adam Kownacki, Heavyweight (16-0, 13 KOs)

Adam Kownacki continued to climb the heavyweight ladder with a devastating KO victory over fellow Polish heavyweight contender Artur Szpilka at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, N.Y., in July.

Kownacki’s third straight knockout win was quicker than the 28-year-old Szpilka was dispatched by both heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder and Bryant Jennings.

“It was a life-changing moment,” said Kownacki, 28. “My goal was to make a statement by stopping him faster than anybody. I did that.”

A Long Island resident who was raised in Brooklyn, the 6-foot-3, 242-pound Kownacki is attempting to become his native country’s first heavyweight titleholder.

Adam Kownacki

Adam Kownacki (Ryan Greene / Premier Boxing Champions)

Erickson Lubin, 154 pounds (18-0, 13 KOs)

Orlando, Florida, native Erickson Lubin will challenge unbeaten champion Jermell Charlo at Barclays Center on SHOWTIME on Oct. 14 for a 154-pound title. He defeated Jorge Cota by fourth-round TKO in a title eliminator in March.

Lubin, a southpaw who turns 22 on October 1, went 4-0 with two KOs in 2016 against fighters whose combined record was 99-9-2.

“The Hammer” was considered America’s best medal hopeful for the 2016 Olympics, but signed a professional contract as a high school senior on his 18th birthday and debuted the next month with a 35-second knockout.

“My right hook has knocked out 11 people - Every time I throw that right hook, I throw it with bad, bad intentions,” said Lubin, who has dubbed his right hand “Jack” and his left “Sledge.”

Erickson Lubin

Erickson Lubin (Andy Samuelson / Premier Boxing Champions)

Errol Spence Jr., 147 (22-0, 19 KOs)

Errol Spence Jr. demonstrated he is “The Truth” when the highly skilled southpaw displayed two-fisted power, speed, accuracy, resiliency and athleticism on the way to an 11th round knockout victory over Kell Brook in Sheffield, England in May.

Spence, 27, became the first American to earn a title from an English champion on foreign soil since Timothy Bradley upset Junior Witter in Nottingham for a 140-pound title in 2008.

Spence has a fifth-round TKO victory over Chris Algieri and a sixth-round stoppage of Leonard Bundu - fighters who went the distance with Manny Pacquiao and current unified welterweight champion Keith Thurman, respectively.

“It’s a factor when guys go the distance with other fighters and I knock them out after they couldn’t,’’ Spence said. “Fans realize I’m doing better than a lot of fighters in the division after we’ve fought the same opponents."

Errol Spence Jr.

Errol Spence Jr. (Ryan Greene / Premier Boxing Champions)

Fight Night: Sat, Nov 04, 2017 - Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

Wilder vs Stiverne

Undefeated heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder retained his WBC world title against mandatory challenger Bermane Stiverne by first round KO.
Wilder vs Stiverne Round by Round Fight Summary. Rounds are displayed numerically as columns. Each row will display one of the following: W for win, L for loss, KO for knockout, or TKO for technical knock out. An empty column means that data is not available.
Fighter Name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Wilder No data available No data available No data available No data available
Stiverne No data available No data available No data available No data available

Deontay Wilder delivers crushing first-round KO to Bermane Stiverne in title rematch.

Wilder vs Stiverne 2 Highlights: November 4, 2017 (Showtime Sports)

Unbeaten heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder put on a Tyson-esque performance at Barclays Center.

"The Bronze Bomber" knocked Stiverne down three times in the first round, the first time a devastating one-two combination that caught the Haitian challenger on the nose. Seconds after Stiverne got back to his feet, Wilder landed another clean combination with a big left and an overhand right that sent a stunned Stiverne back to the canvas. The final blow came in the waning moments of the opening round as Wilder landed four clean punches to the face of a wobbly Stiverne.

Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. almost literally had to wrestle Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs) away from doing even more damage, waving the bout over at 2:59 of the first.

Stiverne, who was fighting for the first time since November 2015, came in at 254¾ pounds, 15¾ pounds heavier than when they first fought on January 17, 2015, which Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs) won by a lopsided unanimous score.

The second time around Stiverne (25-3-1, 21 KOs) really had no chance.

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The sideways skeptical looks with the arched eyebrows were usually followed by a shaking of the head in disbelief.

Mario Barrios vs Del Valle

Marrio Barrios transformed from a skinny kid, easily overlooked, to the most formidable prospect in the 140lb division. (Lucas Noonan / PremierBoxing Champions)

Mario Barrios was skin and bones as a senior in high school. He stood around 5-foot- 7, and with his spaghetti-thin arms and legs may have weighed about 117 pounds. Barrios didn’t even tell people he boxed—and those that knew still found it hard to believe.

Even today, people who knew him back then can’t comprehend what the scrawny kid has transformed into: one of the best, young 140-pounders in the world.

He continues to be on the stringy side, at 5-11, though he’s able to fit the weight inside a lithe frame. It’s as if Barrios is all arms and legs. Add his unusual reach and height advantage over almost everyone he faces with a slayer instinct he adopted through time from his older sister, Selina, and mother, Isabel Soto, and Barrios is an incredibly formidable opponent.

The world will get another glimpse of the fast-climbing 22-year- old when he takes on Naim Nelson (13-3, 1 KO) at the Sands Bethlehem Events Center, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, as the main event in a scheduled 10-round junior welterweight clash on the Premier Boxing Champions show on “Toe-to- Tuesdays’’ on FS1, on September 19.

Barrios (19-0, 11 KOs) will be making his fourth foray as a junior welterweight and he couldn’t feel any stronger than he does now. It’s no coincidence that he’s stopped his last three opponents. And despite the fact Nelson has lost three of his last four, he’s never been knocked out (Tre’Sean Wiggins defeated him by a fifth-round technical decision back in April).

“He has one knockout, but we aren’t taking anything away from him,” Barrios said of Nelson. “I believe anyone who steps in the ring is dangerous. It only takes one punch to change a fight. I’m confident that I go in and take care of business. He’ll try to box and use speed. He may try to catch me with one shot here and there. It all depends on what fighter shows up that night. I’ll tell you this, no matter what fighter does show up on September 19, we’re going to be well prepared for it. Throughout this past year, I really learned how to use my jab.’’

Barrios has been working with noted trainer Virgil Hunter for the last four fights. For Barrios it’s like a graduate level course in boxing.

“Working with Virgil Hunter, he’s taught me a lot. He’s educated me on jabs, not using it to hit the other guy but to use it as a distance finder. I also feel way stronger at 140,’’ Barrios said. “When I first started at 130, I was making the weight naturally, but fight after fight, as I got older and bigger, it was becoming harder.

“My last fight [at 130 against Devis Boschiero] was very difficult and in the later rounds I didn’t have the power in my legs. That convinced me that I couldn’t fight at 130 anymore. I still could have made 130, but it wouldn’t have been good for my health and overall career. I feel good at 140; super strong and ready to do something in this weight class. I’m growing more and more as a fighter and ready to show everyone some things I haven’t shown before.”

I feel good at 140; super strong and ready to do something in this weight class. I’m growing more and more as a fighter and ready to show everyone some things I haven’t shown before. Mario Barrios

Barrios arrived here through an odd introduction from someone unexpected. His mother Isabel grew up a fight fan watching the legends on TV with her father. Isabel aspired to box, but in the 1980s and ’90s there were barriers women were faced with. She never got the chance, though she made sure her children, Selina and Mario, would.

When Mario was six and Selina eight, Isabel took them to the Eastside Boys and Girls Club in San Antonio, Texas. The two stood there, eyes bugged out, absorbed by the synchronized rhythm of speed bags being hit and cacophony of clanging chains as fighters whomped on the heavy bags.

“I was a kid, I had no idea what I was getting into,” Mario said, laughing. “I can’t say I was interested in [boxing] at the time, but it was something that I was open to learn. I remember when we first walked in the gym and these grown men were hitting speed balls, and doing mitts. I was in shock. I was 55, 60 pounds and they thought my sister would be 6-foot. There was no way that I would step into the ring with her when I was little. She’d beat my ass.

“She’s the one who naturally had that killer instinct. My sister and I would go to tournaments and she would literally win every one. Me, I just wanted to box. I never won anything.”

What changed everything for Barrios—moving into the national spotlight, becoming the best in his own family—was winning the 95- pound PAL national title when he was a freshman in high school. Until then, Barrios was the kid who always finished second or third, not quite good enough to breach the threshold and win.

“It’s then that I started to realize I was pretty good at this,” Barrios recalled. “By the time I was a senior, I was 5-7, fighting at 123, even though I was always lighter than that, more like 116, 117. It’s funny, because no one believed I was a boxer because of my build. But each year I grew an inch. I might still be growing. A lot of people I went to grade school and high school with freak out when they see how tall I’ve become and where my career is.”

There is a good chance they’ll believe that he’s a fighter now.

Julius Jackson—a 175-pound contender, trained chef, and native of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands—has been putting his culinary skills to use over the last week by helping to feed victims of Hurricane Irma.

Julius Jackson

Julius "The Chef" Jackson has been preparing meals for neighbors on his home island of St. Thomas in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

Julius Jackson, a tough 175-pound contender and a trained chef, can whip opponents in the ring and can whip up a mean soufflé in the kitchen.

Since Monday, the 30-year-old Jackson, whose nickname is appropriately “The Chef’’ has put aside his boxing aspirations and devoted his culinary skills toward feeding more than 800 victims in his native Saint Thomas of the Virgin Islands in the wake of devastation from Hurricane Irma.

The Category 5 hurricane roared through the Caribbean island and caused an estimated 38 deaths, according to several reports. Among them was the godmother of Jackson’s brother, John, a 28-year-old contender at 154 pounds.

“She got trapped under her bed during the storm. She was in her 60s,” Jackson said. “You hear about people being stuck in their homes or driveways due to debris. The saddest thing is the reports of loss of life.’’

Jackson has been cooking since he graduated from the Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach in 2008. He has been boxing since he was a kid. His father and trainer is Julian “The Hawk” Jackson, a two-division champion whose one-punch KO power destroyed fighters such as Terry Norris, Buster Drayton and Herol Graham during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Julius followed his father into the boxing ring, representing the Virgin Islands in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Four years later he became the head chef and partner in a catering business in St. Thomas.

After watching Hurricane Irma devastate his home island, Jackson decided to roll up his sleeves and use his cooking talents to bring relief to those who were suffering the after effects of the devastating storm.

Jackson is providing relief as manager and head chef for the non-profit, My Brother's Workshop Cafe and Bakery, working off a diesel generator out of a facility in a main area of downtown Saint Thomas.

It’s my home, and I don’t want to be anywhere else but here, saving lives, doing what I can to rebuild. That’s my mission for as long as it takes. Virgin Islands native Julius Jackson

“On a normal basis, we’re a school teaching cooking skills to kids who are at-risk youth or who don’t have a great background support system. But during this tragedy, we’re providing free food and water,’’ Jackson said. “A lot of houses are destroyed. There are shelters being rebuilt for people who don’t have homes right now, and people are low on resources.’’

“There was a lot of flooding, mud and water inside, and the floor is still dirty, but we scraped it out and went to work. The refrigerators, stoves, ovens and other equipment are operational, so we’ve storing food, keeping it cold and cooking. Right now, we’ve got about 30 volunteers from the community, some of whom are tourists stuck on the island. Our goal is to feed 500 per day.”

Food has included, “lobster, turkey, a lot of canned goods and different soups, rice, deli meats and vegetables for sandwiches,” said Jackson. “The Salvation Army and other restaurants’ kitchens were destroyed, so they’ve been bringing their food over to us.”

For now, Jackson’s boxing ambitions have been put on hold. But he is anxious to get back in the ring to pick up his world championship aspirations.

Jackson went 19-0 with 15 knockouts at 168-pounds, before suffering consecutive TKO losses to Jose Uzecategui and Jerry Odom.

Jackson rose to 178 pounds for his last fight, a first-round TKO of Alvaro Morales in July. He will resume his career at 175, and has kept sharp by being a regular sparring partner for unbeaten 160-pound champion Gennady Golovkin.

“We were looking at doing a fight in St. Martin, which would have been the first professional fight there. I was going to be the main event on that card,” said Jackson.

“But during this tragedy, I’ll continue working. It’s my home, and I don’t want to be anywhere else but here, saving lives, doing what I can to rebuild. That’s my mission for as long as it takes.”

This week on PBC Jabs, Jordan Hardy catches up with former world champion Andre Berto who recently returned from Houston, Texas, where he lent a helping hand to those affected by Hurricane Harvey alongside big names like Beyoncé and rapper Bun Bin. Plus, we preview our upcoming Toe-to-Toe Tuesdays September 19th FS1 show.

PBC Trivia is back with another chance for you to win a Premier Boxing Champions t-shirt! Test your boxing knowledge by answering the trivia question below. Choose the correct answer and you'll be entered to win.

Stephen Fulton Jr. was sitting with his girlfriend, Tiffany Jubilee, and then-eight-month-old son, Muqtadir, in their Southwest Philadelphia apartment in June when they heard gunshots outside.

Stephen Fulton

Stephen Fulton fights for his son, his city and for a safer future. (Lucas Noonan / Premier Boxing Champions)

Tiffany grabbed Muqtadir. Fulton rose, peered through the open window and saw a dead man, blood pouring from his head. The violence was another day in the neighborhood, but this time, it was too close. Two weeks later, Fulton relocated the family to Northeast Philly.

Born and raised in the boxing-rich city of Philadelphia, Fulton endured crime and violence that cost many friends their lives. Stephen Sr. missed the first 10 years of his son’s life due to a jail sentence, but returned to introduce “Scooter” to boxing, likely saving his life.

Trained by Hamza Muhammad out of the James Shuler Boxing Gym in West Philadelphia, Fulton earned titles in the Silver and Golden Gloves, allowing him to form bonds with the likes of 130-pound former champion Gervonta Davis and left-handed 154-pound contender Erickson Lubin.

Fulton has proven throughout his early rise in the up the 122-pound ranks to have the skills to not only beat, but dominate other rising prospects.
On September 19, Stephen Fulton (11-0, 5 KOs) will face his fifth unbeaten fighter in six bouts and his second straight in Adam Lopez (8-0, 3 KOs) of Glendale, California, at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

During a recent break from training, Fulton spoke on his family, admiration for Floyd Mayweather Jr., being fatherless early during a turbulent childhood that has made him the parent and fighter he has become.

What was your childhood like growing up in Philadelphia?

Being at a school where you have to walk through metal detectors, growing up with childhood friends getting killed and around people selling drugs. The people I knew who did sell drugs, I chose a different rout. I grew up my first 10 years without my father, and then, he came home.
Then my Dad, Stephen Fulton Sr., got me into boxing, and I began to focus all of my experiences growing up – like losing friend to the streets -- into the anger and the rage and the hostility in the ring. That’s given me all that I need to be successful.

Can you discuss what happened in June, when you and your family heard gunshots and discovered the body?

I heard a bunch of gunshots, and it was too close because the window was open. We actually had bullet holes in our wall.  First thing Tiffany did was to grab our son.

I looked out the window to see blood pouring out of the man’s head. That’s not the first incident. I don’t want to say it’s normal, but, really, that’s the truth, because it is, hearing gunshots and things like that.

That, right there let me know that I had to get out of there and I had to protect my family. I moved a couple of weeks after that happened to Northeast, which is a little better. I have cameras around the house.

What does your son’s name mean?

His full name is Abdul Muqtadir, which means “The powerful one.” He’s not walking, yet. He’s almost a year old. I started walking him around the track, so I expect him to start walking, soon.

I heard a bunch of gunshots, and it was too close because the window was open. We actually had bullet holes in our wall. Stephen Fulton

What are your thoughts about friends you’ve lost, such as 23-year-old Kyrell Tyler, a popular dirt-bike rider who was shot and killed in 2014?

That was hard. We grew up together. He had a son like do, now. I understand the connection that they had, and he left his son, early. The way Kyrell was killed was the same way his father was killed when he was a baby. That resonated in Philadelphia with everybody, including [rapper] Meek Mill.

Kyrell was the one on our block that we thought was untouchable, the biggest, the strongest daredevil on the bike that could do anything. We all grew up with that mentality. So to have somebody that close to you go out like that, that was tough.

How do you characterize your relationship with your trainer, Hamza Muhammad, and are you still out of the James Shuler Boxing Gym?

Hamza Muhammad’s been there since Day One, and it’s a big brother-little brother, Bat Man and Robin-type of relationship. As far as the gym, there’s [126-pound title challenger] Eric Hunter, and I’ve sparred with a lot of fast, slick top-level fighters.

What did you learn from and what do you feel you proved during your rout of unbeaten, hard-punching southpaw Luis Rosario?

I didn’t like my performance, actually, because I wanted to rumble and knock him out. I kept listening to my corner, and they wanted me to remain composed and to box, so I did that.

At the end of the night, I almost shut him out, and the consensus is that I looked good, and I schooled him. But this next fight, they want me to rumble.

Given that Adam Lopez will be your fifth undefeated opponent in six fights, and your second in a row, do you anticipate him being as tough as Rosario?

I don’t ever go into a fight looking for the knockout, but if I see the opening, I’ll take the shot. I’m looking for him to press me, and they’ll be looking for me to box, which is not going to happen.

I know what to expect from him, but I’m looking to see if he can fight going backwards. I can fight many styles and make adjustments.

He’s seen me box, but he hasn’t seen me get rough. I feel I don’t have too much more to prove, but I’m going to show that I’ve arrived and I’m here to stay.

Do you have a boxing hero or fighter whom you admire?

Eric Hunter and Floyd Mayweather. I’ve been in Eric’s corner, seen how he fights, I’ve been there through his ups and downs. I’ve watched him stay focused coming back from losses and staying ready.

I look up to him, but after him, I look up to Floyd. I’ve watched him hit, not get hit, and deal with the social media and the bashings that he takes.

Of all the boxers in history, who do you wish you could’ve fought, and how would the fight have played out?

I would say Floyd, because no one has beaten him. That would be a challenge to see what I could do differently from his opponents. I would make him come to me.

But if he wanted to stand there, I would stand there all day. Floyd’s got a mean lead right hand, so I would have to pivot. Or Sugar Ray Leonard, and that would be a rumble, but I would have to box him, too.

Finish this sentence: If not for boxing, I would be …

No doubt, I would be in the streets. I say that because before I started boxing, it was looking that way. I started realizing that I was looking up drug dealers.

What’s the hardest you’ve ever been hit, and how you did you deal with it?

That was in my ninth fight against Adalberto Zorrilla from Puerto Rico. He came in at 6-0, all knockouts, and he hit me with a straight right hand that buzzed me and dropped me. But that just turned the switch on, and I got right up and I knocked him out in the fourth round.

What about a favorite punch to throw?

That’s my left hook. I have a powerful left hand, and that’s my go-to punch. I used it against Zorrilla and I did it in the fight after that against Cristian Renteria when I stopped him in the third round.

Do you have a favorite boxing movie?

I liked Denzel Washington in “The Hurricane.” He was a black fighter who was blackballed and they put him in jail and ruined his career.
But he’s a fighter, so he stayed tough and he dealt with it. He had that mentality where he wouldn’t be broken. I actually watched that movie before I fought Rosario.

If you could have dinner with any four people in history, living or dead, who would they be?

I would say my father, because he missed the first 10 years of my life locked up from robbing a bank, trying to provide. We never had that connection that my son and I have, and I know that he looks at my son and I and I know that does something to him on the inside.

The next person would probably be someone like Jay-Z, who has been in the game for a long time and who could give me knowledge as a rapper, because I like to rap.

I would also pick Floyd. I’ve never met him. The next one I’d pick would be Kobe Bryant for his mentality, focus and drive. The two of them, Floyd and Kobe, they’re composed against all of the challenges they’ve faced in their sports.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

I would change the hatred toward one another. That’s what’s holding a lot of people back. It holds everyone back.

David Benavidez heard the bell ending Friday’s crowd-pleasing, Fight of the Year caliber 168-pound battle, and a short time later, a hat was literally tossed into the ring on behalf of his opponent, Ronald Gavril.

David Benavidez

David Benavidez has his hand raised in victory after defeating Ronald Gavril by split decision on September 8, 2017. (Rosie Cohe / SHOWTIME)

“I was taking my gloves off when it fell right in front of me,” said Benavidez.

The hat came bearing the name of Gavril’s promoter Floyd Mayweather Jr. The 20-year-old newly crowned champion tossed it back into the sea of screaming fans in The Joint at The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

The 6-foot-2 Benavidez (19-0, 17 KO) handled everything thrown at him by Gavril (18-2, 14 KOs) and his fans. He overcame an injured left knuckle on his left hand in the fourth round and a final-round knockdown to secure a split-decision victory that made him the youngest world champion in division history and the youngest current world champion in boxing.

“Every jab caused sharp pain in my fist, but champions push through obstacles finding ways to win. I gave up the knockdown going for the kill, but I got up and came out on top,” said Benavidez, a native of Phoenix, Arizona.

“I can attack the body more, use more head movement, work more combinations, but the crowd was going crazy after every round. I gave an exciting fight showing I’m a champion they want to see.”

Benavidez failed to earn his 11th straight stoppage, but surpassed 22-year-old Darrin Van Horn’s accomplishment in May 1991 by beating Gavril, a 31-year-old Romanian who had a seven fight win streak (five by KO) coming into the match.

Every jab caused sharp pain in my fist, but champions push through obstacles finding ways to win. 168-pound champion David Benavidez

His father and trainer is Jose Benavidez Sr., whose oldest son, Jose Jr., is an unbeaten former 140-pound titleholder.

“You can push your kid so much that sometimes they end up hating you,” said Jose Sr. “My dreams were for them to be champions, and after all the hard work and sacrifice, my dream has come true.”

After the fight, Benavidez was confronted by Caleb Plant. Plant (16-0, 10 KOs) won a lopsided 10-round decision against Andrew Hernandez (19-7-1, 9 KOs) on the undercard. Benavidez has sparred against Hernandez.

“He said, ‘Get ready, I’m coming after you,’ and if Caleb wants it, he can get it," said Benavidez. “Caleb couldn't stop a guy with six losses. Hernandez is a friend, but I’ve knocked out Hernandez a couple of times. Trust me, Caleb’s not ready for me.”

Perhaps even more intriguing is an all-Mexican title unification against unbeaten southpaw Gilberto Ramirez (35-0, 24 KOs) of Mazatlan, scheduled to make his third defense against Jesse Hart (22-0, 18 KOs).  Benavidez sparred Ramirez in preparation for their fights.

“He’s a native Mexican and I’m a Mexican-American, and sometimes the Mexican-Americans are considered fake Mexicans by the [native] Mexicans,” said Benavidez. “We’re friends, but if we ever fight it’ll be a spectacular brawl since I know his style and he knows mine. But there might be a rematch with Gavril, and my motivation would be to work that much harder for the knockout.”

Benavidez's perspective on the highs and lows of champions includes the fall from grace of Mike Tyson, who, at 20 years and five months, stopped Trevor Berbick in the second round to become the youngest man in history to win a heavyweight title in November 1986.

“I have to remain a dedicated young fighter, not let money or fame get to my head,’’ Benavidez said. “I talk to a couple of girls, but boxing comes first. I’m trying to do whatever it takes to make history as one of the best fighters of my era.”

September 19 2017 fight night promo

In the past two decades, Sampson Lewkowicz has introduced two once-in-a-lifetime talents to the greater boxing world. Friday night, David Benavidez proved he could become the third.

David Benavidez and Ronald Gavril

Benavidez lands a clubbing right hand on Gavril (Rosie Cohe / SHOWTIME)

Benavidez overcame a tough challenge from Ronald Gavril, earning a 12-round split decision despite tasting the canvas in the final round. The Glenn Trowbridge score of 116-111 in favor of Gavril was overruled by the 116-111 score of Adalaide Byrd and 117-111 score of Dave Moretti. The wide scores did not represent the Fight of the Year caliber nature of the fight.

“It feels amazing to win this title,” said Benavidez after the win. “It’s everything I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid. It’s everything I’ve dedicated myself to and I’ve worked hard for. It finally paid off.”

Lewkowicz is responsible for bringing Manny Pacquiao and Sergio Martinez to America. The stark difference between those two and Lewkowicz is he's got Benavidez at the beginning of what could be a very long career.

The 20-year-old from Phoenix, Arizona, became the youngest world champion in the history of the 168-pound division (and the youngest current champ), besting Darrin Van Horn by almost two years. It was for the WBC belt left vacant by Badou Jack, who like Gavril is promoted by Floyd Mayweather Jr.

It feels amazing to win this title. It’s everything I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid. It’s everything I’ve dedicated myself to and I’ve worked hard for. It finally paid off. David Benavidez, after defeating Ronald Gavril by split decision in their 168-pound title bout

Benavidez was put to the test by Gavril, a Romanian former standout amateur who proved the stage wasn't too big for him with a reputable performance. Benavidez got off to a good start but Gavril's defense improved as each round passed. 

The two fighters felt each other out with measured approaches early on, but that began to change when they each found success opening up.

In the sixth, Gavril had some early success but ate a big uppercut from Benavidez towards the end of the round that hurt him a little bit.

Benavidez's output really slowed in the second half of the fight, and Gavril was outworking him with combinations. When Benavidez opened up, he shook Gavril with some good punches inside.

Perhaps it was Gavril's deeper well of experience that gave him an edge in the fight. Benavidez is still five years from reaching the age that Gavril fought his first pro fight at. When Benavidez's gameplan stopped working, he didn't know how to adjust the fight in his favor.

As the fight entered the championship rounds, Benavidez found his second wind. Halfway through the 10th, Benavidez landed a clubbing right hand that shook Gavril. Even more impressive was the left hand Benavidez landed while moving out of a clinch that Gavril initiated.

In the 11th, Gavril seemed on the verge of being stopped on his feet that Benavidez started with a looping left hand. Gavril somehow found the energy to not only fight back, but land some thudding shots of his own. Benavidez's 98 punches in the 11th was his high for the fight, in a round he had never been to before in his brief career.

Benavidez got sloppy in the 12th and paid the price when Gavril dropped him unexpectedly with a big left hand. Though it wasn't enough to swing the fight in Gavril's favor on the scorecards, it put a scare into the Benavidez fans that he may have cost himself the fight due to the mistake. 

“I felt my performance was good except for the last round when I got too anxious and wanted to knock him out,” Benavidez said. “I let my young side takeover and I wanted to give the fans a great fight. I didn't really feel hurt but it was a shock knockdown. I know to be careful and more cautious. It was a learning experience.”

There were no losers at the end of this fight. Gavril was a long-odds underdog heading into the bout and gave Benavidez the toughest fight of his career. It certainly was entertaining enough that a rematch shouldn't be out of the question.

Benavidez has ascended to the top-tier of competition in boxing with the win. The scare against the 31-year-old Gavril should prove to be a good learning experience for the sport's youngest champion.

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