It’s a blockbuster with bad blood as undefeated WBC interim super middleweight champion David Benavidez battles Caleb Plant at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
4 AM Sunday SA time
David Benavidez (1.30) v Caleb Plant (3.45) (WBC Interim Super Middleweight Championship)
It’s a rarity in modern boxing. Two titans colliding in their prime. No long, winding negotiations or diva-like demands, just two dogs hungry for success. That they have disdain for one another only adds to one of the most exciting boxing blockbusters of the year.
It’s a 12-round, high-stakes showdown with the winner likely punching his ticket to a life-changing clash with the undisputed 168-pound king, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
Benavidez is unbeaten. A former two-time WBC super middleweight champion, his biggest adversary has been the man in the mirror. He lost his title for the first time after popping for cocaine and the second time for missing weight.
Inside the ropes, “El Bandera Roja’’ has been without equal, a marauder with a perfect record of 26-0 with 23 knockouts. His most recent bout saw him bludgeon ex-IBF middleweight champion David Lemieux to claim the vacant WBC interim super middleweight belt with a third-round stoppage.
Plant is 22-1 with 13 knockouts, his lone defeat coming to Canelo in November 2021. The 11th-round stoppage loss, which came in the very Las Vegas arena he’ll be returning to this weekend, ended his near-three-year reign as IBF super middleweight champion.
He used his comeback against Anthony Dirrell last October to prove a point, and not just that he was back in a big way. The one knock on Plant had been his supposed lack of knockout power. With just a 57% KO ratio, he’s not the most dangerous or feared fighter around and Dirrell became the loud-mouthed embodiment of that lingering criticism.
Thus, it was cathartic for the former Golden Gloves gold medallist when he flatlined his foe with a picture-perfect left hook in the ninth round, which we selected as our 2022 Knockout of the Year.
The bad blood has been simmering since the pair threw hands in a gym brawl five years ago. Plant has called Benavidez out on several occasions while for his part, the latter has sat in the front row at some of Plant’s fights to antagonise him.
Stylistically, Plant will be Benavidez’s biggest test. His footwork and angles create openings whilst also making it hard to hit him cleanly. The experience of going 11 rounds with Canelo will be invaluable for “Sweethands”, both inside the ring and between the ears on the big stage.
At the same time, it provided a blueprint for a power puncher like Benavidez to follow. Given the nickname “The Mexican Monster” by none other than Mike Tyson, he’s a terrorising force as well as the more explosive and younger fighter.
He has the hammers to crumble Plant but it won’t be easy as the 30-year-old is crafty and strong-willed. It’ll take chipping away like Canelo did.
Patience will be paramount and in that sense, I see the 26-year-old maturing on the night as he systematically breaks down Plant in a competitive fight until he scores a late finish.