Someone had to be the one.
Lots of guys wanted to be next up for Saul Alvarez after the super middleweight king completed his unification of the division in 2020. No matter what he decided to do, we know now it was going to be a multi-fight package.
Among the most popular choices for the first of those fights, there weren’t any bad options for fans and there weren’t any easy options for Alvarez. Dmitry Bivol proved it, retaining his light heavyweight belt with an upset decision over the favored Alvarez two weeks ago.
One of the unchosen begins their return to the ring this week.
Two-time former WBC super middleweight champion David Benavidez (25-0, 22 KO) can always wonder if he missed a chance to halt Alvarez’s march to unification at super middleweight. He lost his first WBC title to a failed test for banned recreational drugs. Benavidez lost his second on the scales.
Saturday (Showtime, 10 PM EST), Benavidez will try to get himself back in line for a third WBC title. In the main event, he will face 33-year old former IBF middleweight titlist David Lemieux (43-4, 36 KO) in what on paper is a puncher’s duel.
Lemieux enters having won five in a row, three of them by knockout, and is anyone surprised to see Lemieux is still only 33? He feels like he’s been around longer than that.
The same is true for a Benavidez who is still only 25 years old. He’s a young veteran who largely remains what he has been since a statement win over the tough Rogelio Medina in 2017. Benavidez has it all: size, speed, power, and a fan friendly style.
Since losing his belt on the scales prior to a win over Roamer Angulo in 2020, Benavidez hasn’t had any issues. He’s stayed around the super middleweight limit and run his current knockout streak to six. The winner this weekend will be the interim WBC titlist in the class.
Interim belts might be a silly concept but they have a practical reality. If Alvarez opts to hold on to all his belts at super middleweight, the interim WBC tag is veritably a mandatory. If he doesn’t, interim’s become primary titleholders all the time.
In that light, a win takes Benavidez either one step closer to a crack at the man who remains the biggest name in boxing or to his third title reign without a loss. Option one would pay better up front. Option two keeps big paydays in play for later on.
For now, it’s some inevitable comparison shopping. Lemieux has lost twice since a pair of consecutive losses in 2011. Gennadiy Golovkin and Billy Joe Saunders got the job done against the Canadian banger. Lemieux has not otherwise been an out for fighters below the championship level in more than a decade. While Lemieux isn’t ranked in the top ten by TBRB heading into the weekend, he is ranked sixth by Ring and seventh by ESPN.
Benavidez is expected to win and how he does it, if he does it, will determine what kind of argument he makes about his tomorrow’s this weekend.
If Alvarez is still a couple fights away at best, it’s been hard to ignore another quality option. 31-year old WBC middleweight titlist Jermall Charlo (32-0, 22 KO) was another name linked to Alvarez possibilities earlier in the year. Charlo and Benavidez both fight under the PBC umbrella and had a viral confrontation at ringside of the Errol Spence-Yordenis Ugas fight. It’s a fantastic clash if it can happen.
Sooner than later would be better.
Both men are looking for a big fight and they’d have it in each other. It’s a fantastic clash of size and style sure to provide violence for the fans and one where a winner would be hard to pick.
For Benavidez, it ups the stakes this weekend. He’s close to his third chance to make a concrete impression at super middleweight. If a little extra age means more discipline outside the ring, Benavidez can move two setbacks far into his rearview mirror and open the door to find out just how high his ceiling can reach.
David Lemieux is the next step to take.
If for some reason Alvarez opts for a rematch with Bivol instead of a third fight with Golovkin, it would still be nice to see Jermall Charlo-Golovkin. They are widely regarded as the two best in class at middleweight. Also worth considering is a comment from the now undisputed Jr. middleweight titlist Jermell Charlo. Jermell made mention of trying to unify again at middleweight. Golovkin still has two belts. Food for thought…Craig Richards is a good test for Joshua Buatsi…So Josh Taylor is staying at Jr. welterweight? Jack Catterall not being a mandated rematch after their narrow first fight is an injustice.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.