The undefeated two-time Super Middleweight Champion plans to make a statement when he faces Ronald Ellis in a 168-pound showdown Saturday night on SHOWTIME.
If a Hall of Fame existed for fighters who are adept at publicizing their upcoming fights while also creating buzz in bouts that haven’t happened yet, David Benavidez might be a first ballot Hall of Famer for his verbal adroitness.
While kicking around fictional match-ups is part of the sport’s appeal, most fighters try to avoid calling out fighters when they already have a fight lined up.
In the run-up to his super middleweight bout with Ronald Ellis on Saturday on SHOWTIME, Benavidez (23-0, 20 knockouts) has made it clear that he views Ellis as nothing more than a minor inconvenience, a slight speed bump on his journey to more consequential fights with the likes of champions Jermall Charlo, Caleb Plant and Canelo Alvarez.
And, even though he may invite criticism for talking so freely about facing other fighters, Benavidez, as honest and candid an athlete as there is, doesn’t really seem to care, conversing about his “dream fights” with the glee of a straight A student speculating on all the colleges he may get into.
“The fight with Canelo is the fight that everyone wants to see,” Benavidez said by phone earlier this month. “I feel like if I fought Canelo right now, I 100% believe that I would beat him. So, I just have to stay ready.”
A former two-time title holder at 168 pounds, Benavidez is doing just that in facing Ellis, a ten-year veteran who secured the bout after his last opponent, former title challenger Matt Korobov sustained an ankle injury and couldn’t start the fifth round of their December match.
Benavidez-Ellis is a scheduled 12-round WBC title eliminator in the main event of a SHOWTIME-televised tripleheader (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut in a Premier Boxing Champions event.
The telecast also features two under-25 lightweight contenders in Isaac Cruz and Matías Romero squaring off in a 12-round co-main event bout, as well as a 10-round super welterweight affair between Terrell Gausha and Jamontay Clark to open the SHOWTIME telecast. Benavidez announced this week his plans to donate a portion of his purse to the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley Basketball League in his hometown of Phoenix.
That nothing seems inappropriate with Benavidez discussing the prospect of facing Canelo even though Ellis (18-1-2, 12 knockouts) is next speaks to the appeal of that fight and of the talent that Benavidez possesses. One of the most skilled but perplexing fighters in the sport, the precocious Benavidez has always been a little ahead of schedule in his presentation, a little undercooked as a finished product.
After turning pro at 16, Benavidez made history in 2017 when he captured his first world title at age 20, becoming the youngest 168-pound world champion with a split decision against the Floyd Mayweather-promoted Ronald Gavril.
Just as he was coming into his own, Benavidez was stripped of his title in 2018 after he failed a random drug test for the banned substance benzoylecgonine, the primary ingredient in cocaine, a mistake he apologized for and attributed to being young and immature.
After reclaiming his title in 2019, Benavidez lost his WBC strap again on the scales when he missed weight before his last bout with Roamer Alexis Angulo last August.
Now 24 and having emerged from those experiences wiser and more sophisticated, aware of the transience of success and how it can all fade away, Benavidez believes he’s overcome and learned from those issues and is moving into a more successful, stable phase of his career.
“ I still think I’m going to get [Ellis] out of there before six. ” Undefeated Two-Time World Super Middleweight Champion - David Benavidez
“I just turned 24 years old, man,” Benavidez said, “I feel like I’m at my prime and not even at my prime, so I can just imagine how I’m going to feel when I’m 25, 26, 27. So, if the top fighters don’t fight me now, I feel like they’re going to be at a disadvantage because I’m going to be more experienced. I’ll have my man-strength and as each fight goes on, I’m getting more comfortable.”
Tall and relaxed, with power in both hands and an almost effortless ability to unfurl a battery of punches on his opponents, Benavidez believes he has the right style and temperament to stymie the top fighters, especially Canelo, who prefers to go at his own pace and patiently and precisely dissects his opponents.
“I throw great combinations, I have a great punch variety,” Benavidez said in comparing his style to Canelo’s. “I have great body shots and also one of my biggest keys is my jab, and I have a good defense, and Canelo hasn’t fought a guy like that. Canelo fights guys who are really stationary. So, once you put a guy in front of Canelo who doesn’t get hit too much and lands at a high percentage, I’m going to land shots each and every round, and I’m way taller, so there are a lot of advantages there.”
For all his confidence, Benavidez is realistic about a fight with Canelo, acknowledging it’s likely a year or two away. The super fight he wants now is against Jermall Charlo, the undefeated WBC Middleweight World Champion, who has been chirping at Benavidez on social media about a possible showdown. Benavidez likes his chances against Charlo and the fact that politically, it’s a fight, he says, that can get made.
“It makes sense for our company since Charlo and I are both with PBC,” Benavidez said. “If he wants the respect from the people, this is the kind of fight he has to take.”
Charlo has suggested they fight at a catch-weight but Benavidez has balked at having to move down, especially after missing weight in his last bout.
Speaking nearly two weeks before the bout with Ellis, Benavidez reported he was just three pounds shy of 168. After training at home for the bout with Angulo in the midst of the pandemic’s first wave, Benavidez ensconced himself in Big Bear, CA for this training camp.
The last time he trained at Big Bear, he produced one of his better performances against former title challenger Rogelio “Porky” Medina, stopping him in the eighth round in May 2017. Reconciling that result with his current camp has made him want to use Big Bear as his home base for the rest of his career, and for the big fights he longs for.
But before he faces Canelo or Charlo or Plant, his road to another title must go through Ronald Ellis. Toward the end of the interview, Benavidez was finally asked about Ellis. He paused and seemed to mentally shift gears to the work at hand.
“No disrespect to Ronald Ellis, but I don’t see a threat in him at all,” he said. “But just because I’m saying that doesn’t mean I didn’t prepare for him accordingly. I’ve prepared for him like it’s a world title fight, because anything can happen,” he said, before briefly hesitating again.
“I still think I’m going to get him out of there before six.”
For a closer look at David Benavidez, check out his fighter page.
- David Benavidez