After making changes in his own life for the better, the undefeated World Super Middleweight Champion is prepared for everything as he returns to the ring versus slugger Roamer Alexis Angulo Saturday night on SHOWTIME.
As if he even needed more motivation, David Benavidez, the 23-year-old wunderkind who returns to action on national television Saturday night, will have a couple of late inspirational factors to call upon during the title fight.
Benavidez, who fights out of Seattle, Washington, under the guidance of his trainer-father, Jose Benavidez Sr., will have his promoter, Sampson Lewkowicz, back in the fold after the veteran boxing figure underwent successful cancer surgery in Houston on July 28.
“I credit a lot of my success to him. He gave me the opportunity in the beginning,” Benavidez says of Lewkowicz. “He’s been around boxing forever, and he knows what he sees. It makes me feel very good when he says I have talent and the potential to be one of the best of my generation and I believe him because this man has been around the best.”
If his promoter’s return is not enough to pump up “El Bandera Roja”, the unbeaten WBC World Super Middleweight Champion revealed last week that his girlfriend is due to give birth, provided all goes well, to a baby boy in early September.
“I already had enough motivation but bringing a son into this world just gives me more motivation,” Benavidez said by phone. “Everything I do from here on is for my son.”
Benavidez (22-0, 19 KOs) was scheduled to fight 36-year-old Colombian Roamer Alexis Angulo (26-1, 22 KOs) in his hometown of Phoenix before the coronavirus pandemic put boxing on the shelf earlier this year. Saturday’s Premier Boxing Champions tripleheader card, headlined by the Benavidez-Angulo matchup, will take place, as most sports do these days, sans fans in the stands, at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. (SHOWTIME Championship Boxing, 9 p.m. ET/6p.m. PT).
While many boxers have had to deal with gyms that were or still are closed due to the pandemic, not so for Team Benavidez. Jose Sr. owns a private gym in suburban Seattle and their training schedule has gone uninterrupted. That’s not to say COVID-19 hasn’t played with the elder Benavidez’s mind.
“At first, when you don’t know anything about COVID-19, the weather changes and you feel a little dizzy from low sugar, especially at my age – I’m 44 – so I’ve got to eat right,” says Jose Sr. “And sometimes I feel a little bad, and I think, ‘Oh, COVID-19.’ Or maybe my throat hurts a little bit, and ‘Oh, coronavirus.’ So that’s very difficult, man.
“At the gym, I put plastic all over, I created a bubble just for me. I live here at the gym. I have two restrooms and I put up a portable shower. I can’t even be around my wife and eight-year-old daughter. I decided to stay away from them for now, because you never know who’s going to get it or how you’re going to get it. So I wash my hands a lot, I wear masks all the time and pray I don’t run across somebody who has that.”
Both father and son get tested regularly. “We’re getting tested through the PBC and Showtime Mondays and Thursdays. We got tested today, we got tested last week, and the result came back negative but we keep getting tested every week, twice a week.”
Other than the constant testing, David says coronavirus has changed his life little.
“I’ve been doing the same thing I was doing, just going to the gym, working out and going back home and getting ready for the next day,” he says. “It’s made me a lot more cautious. Made me cleaner, I’m more sanitized now; everywhere I go I keep a bottle of hand sanitizer near me, and masks.
“The thing that’s really taken away from my life right now is the free time, going to restaurants and maybe going to the movie theater on Saturdays. Other than that, nothing much has changed.”
“ I feel I’m the best right now and I just want to prove it. ” Undefeated WBC World Super Middleweight Champion - David Benavidez
Benavidez’s life did change drastically and abruptly in September 2018 when he tested positive for cocaine and was stripped of his WBC belt after becoming the youngest world titlist in boxing history at age 21. It was a life-altering moment.
“That moment showed me that I can either go downhill or fix my life and go uphill from here,” Benavidez explained. “There was a lot of soul-searching in the beginning, really asking myself what I want from my life. And every time I asked that, I found the answer being that I want to be one of the best of my generation.
“I had to get rid of all that extra stuff, all the old friends I was hanging out with, so I just dedicated myself. I was out of the ring for 13 months, so when the only thing you have is boxing, that makes it a little tricky not working for a whole year. But I got another opportunity to prove myself. I got the fight against J’Leon Love in front of 50,000 people on the Errol Spence undercard. Then I got to fight for the title again against veteran Anthony Dirrell. I’ve been watching him since I was 12 years old, so it was an honor going in there to face him and get my title back. I know I’m here for a reason and I know I’m meant to be here and I worked my ass off to get here and I’m not going to lose my belt. I’m here to stay.”
On Saturday night, Benavidez will make the first defense in his second world title reign. While he isn’t taking Angulo lightly – “We’re not overlooking him at all. We know he’s a tricky fighter, a brawler-puncher, I know exactly what I’m stepping into with Roamer Angulo. I know his strategy, his strengths and weaknesses and I’m ready to go in there and perform the way I do.” – he is unafraid to talk up big potential matchups down the road.
Caleb Plant, the undefeated IBF World Super Middleweight Champion, is also on Benavidez’s radar. Jose Sr. explains that while Plant is a slick, talented fighter, he is not completely convinced.
“At the end of the day, I don’t like nobody at 168. Does that make sense? We would love to fight him someday, maybe unify the titles. He could give us a little bit of trouble but in my mind, I don’t think he has a lot of heart, I don’t think he has the eye of the tiger, and I see David beating him. I think David is stronger, but it will not be an easy fight.”
Benavidez recently posted on his Instagram page a poster depicting him as king on the super middleweight throne with the other 168-pound champions bowed down at his feet.
“I feel like I’m the best in the division and you have to have that mentality that I can’t go up against anybody being scared and thinking I’m not better than them,” said Benavidez. “I’m stronger than ever right now, I’m 23, I haven’t even reached my prime, my man strength yet, but I feel very strong. I just want to show everybody I want to be the best.
“Look, it’s time to unify the titles. There can’t be four champions, there has to be one true champion. I feel I’m the best right now and I just want to prove it.”
For a closer look at David Benavidez, check out his fighter page.