NEW YORK – Jose Benavidez Jr. feels more confident in his once-unreliable right leg than he did before his last fight.
Benavidez became more open to exercises and treatments that have helped rebuild strength in a leg that was damaged during an unsolved shooting in August 2016. The Phoenix native notoriously favored his right leg during the later rounds of his 12th-round, technical-knockout loss to unbeaten WBO welterweight champ Terence Crawford in October 2018, but Benavidez is certain it won’t hurt his cause when he encounters Danny Garcia on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“I got a new strength and conditioner, and we’ve been working on a lot of different things,” Benavidez told BoxingScene.com. “My leg feels a lot better. It feels good. There’s no more doubts about my leg. We’re ready. We’re ready to go.”
The 30-year-old Benavidez (27-1-1, 18 KOs) acknowledged during an interview with BoxingScene.com before his draw with Francisco Torres on November 13 that his leg is “never gonna be a hundred percent.” Benavidez detailed the rods and screws that were inserted into his right leg after the shooting and admitted that he just tried not to think about his leg while training for his fight against Argentina’s Torres (17-4-1, 5 KOs), who surprisingly pushed Benavidez in a 10-round middleweight match Showtime televised from Footprint Center in Phoenix.
His leg was a lot less concerning throughout training camp for his 12-round, 154-pound bout with Garcia (36-3, 21 KOs), who will make his debut as a junior middleweight in their “Showtime Championship Boxing” main event.
“It didn’t surprise me,” Benavidez said. “It’s just that back then I was a little closed-minded about working on different types of exercises maybe that I didn’t kinda believe in. But now, you know, we’ve been doing new things, working my leg with different exercises. It might not have seemed like it worked, but in reality, they’re working. I’m getting massages. Before, I wouldn’t get massages.
“It’s like a car. You can’t drive a car with no oil, right? You have to do maintenance with your car. That’s how I feel with my body. We’ve been taking all the vitamins we need and drinking a lot of water, eating clean and getting the massages that my body needs. Because training is the hard part. The fight is easy for me.
Though shorter than his opponent and new to this weight class, handicappers have installed Garcia as an 8-1 favorite to beat Benavidez.
Before Garcia and Benavidez box in Showtime’s main event, Brooklyn-bred heavyweight Adam Kownacki (20-2, 15 KOs) will try to halt a two-fight losing streak against Turkish contender Ali Eren Demirezen (16-1, 12 KOs) in the 10-round co-feature. Junior welterweight contenders Gary Antuanne Russell (15-0, 15 KOs), of Capitol Heights, Maryland, and Rances Barthelemy (29-1-1, 15 KOs, 1 NC), of Havana, Cuba, will square off in a 10-rounder that’ll open a telecast scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. ET.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.