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.

On this episode of PBC Jabs, 168-pound contender Caleb Plant takes a break from training camp to visit Sunrise Children’s hospital, we preview our hard-hitting September 8th Showtime card, plus we check in with super middleweight David Benavidez ahead of his first world title fight.

Get ready for another round of PBC Trivia! Test your boxing knowledge by answering the trivia question below. Choose the correct answer and you'll be entered to win a PBC t-shirt. 

David Benavidez squinted into the mirror, rubbed his eyes, and had to look again.

David Benavidez training

David Benavidez knows winning a world title start in the gym. (Valentin Romero / Team Benavidez)

That reflection staring back wasn’t him. It couldn’t have been him. No way. Not behind the mounds of flesh around his face. It was as if someone stuck him with a needle and pumped him full of air.
He was a mini blimp. All that was missing was a strong cable to hold him down. The McDonald’s No. 1 was the main culprit. The Big Mac with the supersized fries and a vat of soda big enough to swim in was a weakness.
It’s a little hard to believe today, looking at the 20-year-old, 6-foot-1 super middleweight from Phoenix, Arizona, that Benavidez was once a stubby, 5-5, 250-pound roly-poly teenager who couldn’t get out of his own way and detested what he looked like—unable to even recognize himself in the mirror.
“I was 15 and I thought to myself that if I kept going that way, I would hit a point of no return and my boxing career would be over,” Benavidez recalled.
Over before it possibly even got started, washed down in the excess of fast food and lost discipline.
So on Friday night, when the undefeated Benavidez (18-0, 17 KOs) takes on Ronald Gavril (18-1, 14 KOs) for a vacant super middleweight title on the Premier Boxing Champions card on “Showtime Boxing: Special Edition” from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas, a specter from Benavidez’s past will be also be in attendance: the fat kid he used to be.
Benavides was raised around boxing. He constantly shadowed his older brother, Jose Benavidez Jr., the pesky three-year-old tagalong, full of energy that would don gloves larger than him, mimicking everything Jose would do. It took a herculean effort to just lift his arms and throw a punch. He hated the duck walk exercises his father, Jose Sr., made him do. Through time, however, boxing became a passion.   

"I was 15 and I thought to myself that if I kept going that way, I would hit a point of no return and my boxing career would be over." David Benavidez

“Once I understood what I was doing, learning there was more than going in there and punching someone in the face, I wanted to go back and learn more,” said David, whose father came from Mexico and his mother from Ecuador. “I was throwing right hands, uppercuts, and fell in love with the sacrifice and the learning curve. There came a sense of accomplishment with doing what I did in the gym and seeing it work in the ring.
“Boxing taught me that you have to work harder than anyone else to get what you want. I liked other sports growing up, but boxing took up all of my time and energy. Boxing takes a lot out of you. I actually don’t know where I would be without it.”
When Jose Jr. signed a pro contract, he and Jose Sr. moved to Los Angeles to pursue his pro career, and something back home happened to David. He stopped boxing. He stopped going to the gym. He stopped everything.
“And blew up to 250 pounds,” David said, almost embarrassed. “I only had 10 amateur fights and I boxed my whole life, since I was three. I sparred Gennady Golovkin when I was 14, and [Roman] ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez, Kelly Pavlik, Gabriel Rosado. I sparred them all when I was young. To me, I always wanted their respect. I didn’t want to be that little kid that they were working with.
“I never took a break from boxing. I was training my whole life up to that point. I really didn’t have any bad habits, other than eating cake, candy, and fast food. I was eating too much, and when my brother and father moved, I lost my discipline. I gained 100 pounds in about a year. When my father saw me, he was furious. It was a little funny, because my brother, being a big brother making fun of the little fat brother, called me ‘fat boy’ or ‘fat ass.’ I had to do something about it. I didn’t want to be the next Butterbean. I felt like I disappointed my father.”
It took David about a year to shed the weight. By the time he was 16, when he turned pro in Mexico, he was down to around 170 pounds. Benavidez learned a valuable life lesson. 
“I couldn’t even recognize myself, it’s then that I decided I had to something about the weight and how I looked,” David said. “Dieting was hard, especially when you’re a kid. My father was super strict. I didn’t think I could take the dieting anymore, so I had to decide that if I wanted to be a great fighter, this is what I had to go through. I was still good at boxing. I was just fat. When I was close to giving up, I told myself to give it a little more time.”
He cut out soda, Big Macs, cake, candy. The junk went.
Now, on Friday, he fights for a title.
“That experience of losing the weight made me how I am today, because I was a kid who overcame an obstacle and I use that as an advantage,” Benavidez said. “When I lost the weight, I also started getting taller. I look back lately on what I went through and the dedication I put into losing he pounds, and the times I told myself one day I can be a champion.”
Benavides has been watching film of Gavril, a 6-foot Romanian with a straight-forward, stalking style. David feels confident he can handle anything Gavril throws at him.
“I see myself knocking this guy out,” Benavidez said. “Whatever style he puts in front of me, I’m going to take care of him. I can’t wait to get my hands on him.”
With the fat kid’s voice in the back of David’s head whispering, “Don’t forget the sacrifices that got you here.”

It has taken Caleb Plant nearly all of his 25 years, but he is finally transforming calamity into serenity.

Caleb Plant

Caleb Plant battles his way to a unanimous decision victory over Thomas Awimbono on February 25, 2017. (Ryan Hafey / Premier Boxing Champions)

Plant endured a “chaotic” childhood in impoverished Ashland City, Tennessee. He and his sister, Madeline, and father, Richie, slept in a mobile home without air conditioning in the summer and with faulty heating in the winter.

Nine-year-old Plant was introduced to boxing by Richie, a former kickboxer, in a struggling gym. Plant was given the nickname “Sweet Hands” from admiring amateur teammates. He earned a 2011 National Golden Gloves championship at 178 pounds and was an alternate at 165 pounds for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team in London.

A 2011 graduate of Sycamore High School in Pleasant View, Tennessee, Plant’s pro debut was a 47-second knockout of Travis Davidson on May 10, 2014. He was 5-0 with four knockouts when he was rocked the death of his 19-month-old daughter, Alia, from a rare medical condition on Jan. 29, 2015.

Memorialized by a tattoo on his left arm, Alia remains a motivator for Caleb Plant (15-0, 10 KOs) entering a clash against Andrew Hernandez (19-6-1, 9 KOs) at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/PT) on Sept. 8.

The event features David Benavidez (18-0, 17 KOs) versus Ronald Gavril (18-1, 14 KOs) in a title bout in the main event. 

Plant shared his thoughts on life and the prospect of facing Benavidez from the Las Vegas-based training facility where his father assists corner man Justin Gamber and strength and conditioning guru Larry Wade. 

How has training gone?

Camp has gone smoothly and I can’t imagine things being better. 

How long have you lived in Las Vegas, and how are your living conditions different than your impoverished youth in Ashland City, Tennessee?

It’s like night and day. It’s been great.

I live in a nice house on a hill in Henderson, Nevada, two stories, three bedrooms in a quiet neighborhood just outside of Vegas. It’s a nice area in a nice part of town that’s close to an elementary school. It’s peaceful and it’s 11 minutes from the strip where all the action is, but far enough away.

Do you mind discussing your childhood – surviving frigid nights and blistering temperatures on an empty stomach in the mobile home trailer with no air conditioning along with your father, Richie, and sister, Madeline, in Ashland, Tennessee?

We have running water and air conditioning, unlike what we used to have. I don’t like to have pity from anyone, but there were rough times where we didn’t have a lot of food. We had food donated to us from a place called The Bethesda Center. 

A lot of times, their food was out of date and wasn’t that good. But it was better than nothing. Sometimes, the heat would go out in the winter, and we would have little space heaters in the living room and we would be bundled up next to them in blankets and stuff, staying warm. 

Sometimes the air conditioning would go out in the summer time and it would be ridiculously hot. When it’s cold, you can always get warmer, but when it’s hot, you can only take off so much, you know? That’s what made it so rough. 

We have running water and air conditioning, unlike what we used to have. I don’t like to have pity from anyone, but there were rough times where we didn’t have a lot of food. Caleb Plant

Can you describe the survival techniques you used to feed yourself and your sister in school?

There were times when I went around and I’d ask for a dollar here or there, and I’d then save up to buy something for myself and for my little sister, like a pizza. 

Where were your parents at this time?

When I was young, my Mom [Beth] started going downhill with some of her issues, and my Dad had some temper problems. Things were very chaotic and unstable. But my Dad was extremely hard on me. He put pressure on me, and I had to be able to perform. My whole life has been about being able to perform under pressure. 

When it’s chaotic, I still have to perform under pressure. That’s one of the reasons I’m so focused and so good.  As I became a young teenager, my Dad really calmed down a lot. He got some money together and opened a gym. So maybe boxing saved him, too. 

We were always in there, even when I was nine, working out, heavy, together. I was putting in the work. I never thought about it. Today, my Dad is a gentle, calm, cool, intelligent man. He really focused on giving me so much direction in my life that he’s turned me into the man that I am at the age of 25. 

What is the origin of the nickname, “Sweet Hands?”

Back in the amateur tournaments, I was sort of the minority at the time. So when I was doing really well, they were like, “Man, that dude’s got some sweet hands. He can box.” That stuck and more people started calling me that. 

How were you affected at 5-0 with four knockouts, after the tragic death of your 19-month-old daughter, Alia, on January 29, 2015?

You don’t reconcile with losing your daughter, no matter who you are. That’s something you don’t get over. That’s something that doesn’t happen. You wake up, you keep going and you do what you’re supposed to do, but that’s the hand I was dealt, so I keep going.

I made it away from a chaotic childhood, and then Alia comes along, and that’s a chaotic 19 months. But at least it was a chaotic 19 months where I had a daughter. But when that goes away, you don’t understand why. I still don’t understand why. That’s just life. 

When you’re working very hard and you have to be away from your daughter because you are trying to lay down a foundation toward a nice life for her, you can’t always be there at the time because you’re doing what you can as a father. 

She couldn’t call me Daddy, say I love you or say I’m proud of you, can’t hold her head up or stand up or eat on her own, so the least that I could do was to provide a nice life for her. So I worked really hard at that. Then, during the process of doing that, your time with her gets cut really short. 

During those 19 months, I did more for her than most people do in a lifetime, but I didn’t get to experience or be a part of things exactly how I wanted to. So if I don’t do well, now, then all of those times that I missed are in vain. I can’t stop now. 

What have you learned as you look back on the fact that you’ve gone the distance in four of your last six fights after starting out at 9-0 with eight KOs?

I wasn’t trying to knockout all of those guys to get to 9-0. I go in and box and make adjustments if needed. If they run into something, that’s on them. I just do my job. Some of the most recent guys weren’t trying to win. They’d come in and get hit with stuff, get into deep water and want to run around. 

When people run away, and they have it made up that they’re not going to fight and they’re going to survive, it’s hard to get them out of there. 

My last fight, I hurt my left hand in the second round, and my right in the fifth round. Right now, my hands are uninjured, unhurt and they’re 100 percent. I’m working with Bob Ware, who wraps Floyd Mayweather’s hands. 

How many fights removed are from challenging for a title, and how much incentive is there that you’re fighting as the co-main event to a 168-pound title fight featuring David Benavidez and Ronald Gavril?

David and I are the future of the sport at 168. We’re on the path to a collision. I know that’s going on. We’re on a path to have a super fight. That’s T-Mobile Arena type of stuff. 

I called out Ronald Gavril in front of everybody at the Mayweather Gym, and he didn’t want to fight. This is a pitch for David Benavidez to knock it out of the park. This is an early Christmas present. 

David and I can fight next, or we can fight a year or two from now. After I beat David Benavidez, I’ll be a million dollar fighter from there on out. 

What is your favorite punch to throw and when did you land it most effectively?

The jab is the most important punch. If you can’t hit someone with the jab, you can’t hit them with anything else. You can control timing, tempo and distance with the beautiful punch. 

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


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

Bill Gates, Dave Chappelle, my Dad, and I would have Alia there sitting on my lap. 

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

I would have Alia here and healthy, otherwise, having her here the way she was, previously, that would be selfish. 

12 Rounds With …” is published Wednesdays at PremierBoxingChampions.com. Next week: Unbeaten 126-pound prospect Stephen Fulton.

Fight Night: Tue, Sep 26, 2017 - Cannery Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

Barthelemy vs Ramirez

Unbeaten 126-pound prospects Leduan Barthelemy and Eduardo Ramirez end battle in draw.
PBC Boxing Video Thumbnail

Barthelemy vs Ramirez Highlights: September 26, 2017