GLENDALE, Arizona – David Benavidez stopped and turned to make a request he normally wouldn’t make while still a full day from officially making weight.
The unbeaten former two-time WBC super middleweight titlist was holding court with the media following the final pre-fight press conference when he casually asked a team member to grab a bottle of water. Forever chastised for missing weight prior to what became the end of his second title reign less than two years ago, the 25-year-old Phoenix native has since refused to leave any stone unturned in training camp.
“All it took was that one time, I learned my lesson the hard way,” Benavidez confessed to BoxingScene.com. “Ever since then, I’ve been more on top of my weight before training camp begins. There are a lot of big fights out there for me—(WBC middleweight titlist and longtime Benavidez antagonist) Jermall Charlo, (former IBF super middleweight titlist) Caleb Plant and Canelo. In order to get to the next level, I need those fights. That’s just the reality of it. I get there by taking it one fight at a time, doing it the right way every time.”
The results showed when Benavidez returned to his childhood hometown of Phoenix at the start of fight week, looking like he was ready to make weight well in advance of his interim WBC super middleweight title clash with Montreal’s David Lemieux (43-4, 36KOs). The two collide this Saturday on Showtime from Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, not too far from Beanvidez’s Phoenix childhood hometown where he headlined last November 13 in a seventh-round knockout of Kyrone Davis.
The matchup with Davis was piecemealed when originally scheduled opponent Jose Uzcategui tested positive for a banned substance and was pulled from the event. With the change came a contract shift, with the bout taking place at a maximum limit of 169 pounds which was Benavidez’s official weight. There was initial confusion when the figure was read, with cries that he blew weight for the second time in three fights.
Benavidez was two fights removed from losing his WBC title at the scale after coming in well over the super middleweight limit for an eventual tenth-round stoppage of Alexis Angulo in August 2020 behind closed doors at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. It was his first fight since the pandemic, one where he mistimed his weight cut and overestimated the amount of training time he would be allotted in the Mohegan Sun bubble during fight week.
The decision to weigh 169 for the Davis fight was not out of necessity but convenience—and within the terms of the contract, as Davis’ team even acknowledged. However, Benavidez still found himself performing damage control even after showing up on point for his previous outing when he weighed 167 ¼ pounds for his tenth-round knockout of Ronald Ellis in their March 2021 title eliminator.
“I could’ve easily made 168 for the Kyrone Davis fight,” noted Benavidez. “We made the adjustment in camp after the opponent switched and the fight was no longer (sanctioned by the WBC). I could have proven a point and weighed under the super middleweight limit but it wasn’t necessary to lose that extra pound when the contract said what we could weigh.
“For this fight, though, I wanted to make sure I went into training camp already in shape. We trained more than four months for this fight, maybe with one week off while we were waiting on a date. I’ve stayed replenished the entire camp, eating like normal and just focusing on how to knock this guy out on Saturday.”
Benavidez was already down to the light heavyweight limit by the beginning of May, not skipping meals or water breaks in particular. The proof is in his appearance throughout fight week, leaner than usual but not to the point of looking gaunt. His being in fighting shape as opposed to training to make weight comes from knowing when to go all in and even when to momentarily go away.
“The only break we had was when the date was up in the air,” acknowledges Benavidez, who set up shop in a San Diego mansion for this past training camp. “Once we knew the March 26 date that we were originally told, was no going to happen I went back home to Washington. I hadn’t seen my son as much as I’d like. That’s the hardest part. “I’ve missed four months of his life due to training camp and he’s barely 20 months old. Those are the type of sacrifices you have to make. We went into camp believing we were going to fight March 26. Then April 30, then May 21. So, we just took a week off and hung out at the house. I came back once we had the confirmed date, started running and strength and conditioning. It’s been a slow camp but steady. Getting in the miles, putting in the work.”
An extra layer of responsibility comes with Benavidez making a point to become the bank at a super middleweight weight class where its champion has threatened to put the rest of the division on hold for the rest of the year.
Undisputed super middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (57-2-2, 39KOs) took a one-fight departure from the weight in an unsuccessful challenge of WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol earlier this month. Plans for his next fight have yet to be revealed, though it will likely come down to a rematch with Bivol (20-0, 11KOs) or a previously discussed trilogy clash with IBF/WBA middleweight titlist Gennadiy Golovkin (42-1-1, 37KOs) who would move up in weight for a fight that could take place September 17 in Las Vegas or Texas.
That leaves Benavidez and the rest of the division to fend for themselves—a role this weekend’s headline attraction plans to responsibly handle.
“I learned the hard way from my past mistakes,” admits Benavidez, whose first title reign ended with his being stripped after testing positive for cocaine during a random drug test in between fights through the WBC’s Clean Boxing Program. “When you’re that young, money doesn’t come with instructions on how to spend it, how to handle that fame.
“After missing weight that one time (in August 2020), I told myself, ‘Never again.’ I knew it was just a one-time thing but it's still held against me. That's just how boxing is. All I can do is take it one fight at a time and keep moving towards these big fights I've always wanted to prove I'm the best."
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox