David Benavidez’s nickname—“El Bandera Roja,” or “The Red Flag”—is an homage to the red cape bullfighters use to lure their beasts. It’s an appropriate moniker, because Benavidez is on a bullish assault to take over the 168-pound division.
That assault continues Friday when the unbeaten 19-year-old power puncher pursues his eighth straight knockout as he takes on southpaw Denis Douglin (20-4, 13 KOs) at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
For David Benavidez (15-0, 14 KOs), his first fight as a headliner is an opportunity to take another step toward his first world title shot. It’s also an opportunity to take another step out of the shadow of his older brother, 24-year-old Jose Benavidez Jr., an undefeated 140-pound contender.
The father and cornerman of the siblings says his younger son was the easier one to mold into a world-class fighter.
“Junior had over 300 amateur fights, but I had to change him around by the time he became a professional,” says Jose Benavidez Sr., who honed his craft alongside trainers Freddie Roach, Robert Garcia and Abel Sanchez. “But I’ve been training David since he was 3 years old, taking my time, teaching him to use the mechanisms like setting up punches, using the jab and defense.
“I was impressed with the discipline he had, so I knew he was more polished.”
A native of Phoenix, David Benavidez is returning to the ring for the fourth time this year. He scored consecutive second-round knockouts of Kevin Cobbs (10-1, 4 KOs) in January and Phillip Benson Jackson (16-2, 15 KOs) in April, followed by a seventh-round TKO of Francy Ntefu (16-0, 3 KOs) on June 25.
The swift wipeouts of Cobbs and Jackson gave Benavidez 12 knockouts inside of two rounds (nine first-round KOs and three second-round stoppages). However, the seven rounds he went against Ntefu represented his longest outing as a professional.
“David wants to look impressive every time out, but he’s been learning how to relax a little bit more, breaking down his opponent little by little and setting up opportunities,” says Jose Benavidez Sr. “We love the body, and we think that’s the weakest part of any fighter, so if you go to the body early, you can eliminate some problems.”
Against Douglin, Benavidez is hoping to be more composed than he was against Ntefu, whom he had in trouble early before compromising his three-inch height advantage for a toe-to-toe battle, which made the bout more difficult.
“My last fight was the first time I went seven rounds, but I made some mistakes after hurting [Ntefu] in the first round and tried too hard to finish him off,” says Benavidez, who stands 6-foot-2 with a 75-inch reach. “I love knocking people out, but I can’t go in looking for the knockout.
“This time I’ll take it slow, pick my shots, jab and go round-by-round, making one count more than the last.”
Douglin, who weighed in Thursday at 168.8 pounds, comes into this clash having scored three consecutive knockout victories of his own. However, the 28-year-old from Marlboro, New Jersey, has also been stopped in three of his four defeats: a seventh-round TKO against three-time title challenger George Groves, a fifth-round KO against current 154-pound champ Jermell Charlo and a third-round TKO against journeyman Doel Carrasquillo.
While it’s clear that Benavidez, who weighed 167.8 pounds Thursday, will be one of his toughest opponents to date, Douglin insists he’s not intimidated, nor does he intend to back down.
“I plan on applying pressure and making Benavidez adjust to my style, which he doesn’t have the experience dealing with” Douglin says. “He's a tall, strong fighter, but he doesn't use his height. He’s one-dimensional, but he’s very good at what he does.
“I am stepping in with an undefeated fighter, but he will leave the ring with a loss.”
The Benavidez camp has taken specific note of Douglin’s loss to Groves in November 2011, when the latter landed three consecutive right hands, the last of which floored Douglin in the final round and led to his demise.
“Obviously the right hand lands with a lot of lefties, and I’ve watched a couple of fights and I see that [Douglin] makes a lot of mistakes—especially when you jab him and use your right hand,” Benavidez says. “Our game plan is to go in with the jab, land a lot of right hands and when the times comes, I will catch him and take him out.”
Benavidez is returning to the East Coast for his second straight fight, having defeated Ntefu in Brooklyn, New York, on the undercard of the epic Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter war. This time, he’ll be fighting just 74 miles from Douglin’s hometown.
“I’m ready to go back to the East Coast, and I think I can do even better than I did the first time,” says Benavidez. “There’s no pressure with fighting in his or anybody else’s back yard. We’re ready wherever we have to fight.”
For complete coverage of Benavidez vs Douglin, bounce over to our fight page.