TWO-division world champion Danny Garcia returns to the ring to take on former world champion Brandon “Bam Bam’’ Rios in a welterweight showdown on Saturday, February 17 live on SHOWTIME at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas and presented by Premier Boxing Champions.
In the co-feature, boxing’s youngest world champion David “El Bandera Roja” Benavidez will defend his WBC super-middleweight world championship for the first time against Ronald Gavril in a rematch of their thrilling September 2017 bout in which Benavidez won the vacant title by split decision.
The card is promoted by Mayweather Promotions and TGB Promotions in association with DSG Promotions. The Benavidez-Gavril rematch is co-promoted by Sampson Boxing. Tickets for the live event go on sale Saturday, Dec. 23 at 10 a.m. PST and will be available at AXS.com.
“I’m excited just to get back in the ring,” said Garcia, who was reigning world champion for the better part of six years dating back to his win over Hall of Famer Erik Morales in 2012 through March 2017. “I needed the time off to recuperate and let my body heal.”
Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) was a unified world champion at super lightweight and welterweight and has fought and defeated many of the most formidable opponents in both divisions spanning two generations—Morales, Zab Judah, Kendall Holt, Amir Khan, Lucas Matthysse, Paulie Malignaggi and Lamont Peterson among them. Four of his five opponents in the welterweight division were world champions and 10 of his last 14 opponents were world champions or former world champions.
“I was the reigning champion for six years, so I needed the rest,” continued the 29-year old Philadelphia fighter. “I’m ready to kick off the year in style and take over the welterweight division.”
In his last fight, a welterweight clash of world title holders, Garcia lost via split decision to now unified 147-pound world champion Keith Thurman in a hard-fought, exciting fight that aired live on CBS. The SHOWTIME BOXING on CBS broadcast drew the biggest boxing audience of the year, more than five million viewers which remains the largest audience to witness a primetime boxing broadcast since 1998.
Now, Garcia looks to re-establish his once dominant position at welterweight, a division that boasts more top-10 pound-for-pound fighters in the sport than any other weight class; fighters including world champions Errol Spence Jr., Thurman, Shawn Porter, Kell Brook, Lamont Peterson and more.
“What’s interesting in this fight with Brandon Rios is our styles. We both like to come forward. This kind of matchup will bring out the best in both of us. I’m excited to be back in Las Vegas. I’ve had some of my best performances and some of my biggest fights there. I beat Lucas Matthysse and Amir Khan in Vegas. You fight in Las Vegas, you’re a superstar,” added Garcia.
Like Garcia, Rios has fought many of the top welterweights of this era including world champions Timothy Bradley and Manny Pacquiao. The hard-nosed slugger from Oxnard, Calif., has 34 wins, 25 by knockout. The 31-year-old Rios always comes prepared to battle. With an aggressive style and granite chin, he is one of the most entertaining boxers in the sport. In his last fight he scored a TKO victory over Aaron Herrera on June 11. A victory over Garcia, a top-10 welterweight in his own right, would immediately change the course of Rios’ career and demand that he be placed among the top-ranked in the division.
“I’m excited to prove my critics wrong again,” said Rios. “I’m bring a ‘Bam Bam’ Rios slugfest to my fans. Danny is a great fighter, but I will beat him just like I have beat others in the past. I am focused and will make this a classic Mexican-Puerto Rican battle!’’
“SHOWTIME is poised to start the year with two crucial welterweight main event matchups,” said Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President and General Manager of SHOWTIME Sports®. “Following the January 20th event pitting Errol Spence Jr. vs. Lamont Peterson, Garcia vs. Rios features two of the most battle-tested and ferocious 147-pound fighters in the world. Add in the Benavidez vs. Gavril II co-feature, a fight that is guaranteed to deliver dramatic action, and we are picking up right where we left off in 2017 delivering the most compelling and important matchups in boxing’s deepest divisions.”
“We’re looking forward to the action at Mandalay Bay Events Center in February,’’ said Leonard Ellerbe, CEO Mayweather Promotions. “Both Garcia and Rios are seasoned fighters that have faced the toughest competition in the welterweight division and they are both very hungry for a big win. The co-feature rematch between the youngest reigning world champion David Benavidez and challenger Ronald Gavril we already know will be thrilling. All four of these men have proven that they’ll put it all on the line in the boxing ring to leave no doubt about who the better man is. In addition, we are working on a crowd-pleasing undercard now. Everyone on this card will need to bring their ‘A game’ to Las Vegas in order to be victorious on February 17.”
“Danny Garcia is one of the most battle-tested, skillful boxers in the sport. What he did in running through the 140-pound division before moving up to welterweight is simply amazing,’’ said Tom Brown, President of TGB Promotions. “’Bam Bam’ Rios is a throwback warrior. He never met a fight that he backed down from. Putting Garcia and Rios into the ring against each other promises nothing but fireworks in a match that should provide maximum entertainment for fans. It’s the kind of fight that belongs in Las Vegas, a classic battle that harkens to welterweight wars of the past. The first match between Benavidez and Gavril left enough room for doubt that a rematch should settle any remaining questions. I’d expect both boxers to come in with something to prove and that translates into a fan-friendly match.’’
The 21-year-old Benavidez (19-0, 17 KOs) became the youngest reigning world champion in boxing and the youngest 168-pound champion in history at 20-years, nine months old when he scored a split decision against Gavril to win the super middleweight title on September 8. The bout featured multiple swings of momentum, thrilling exchanges and a wild 12th round. Benavidez and Gavril pushed each other to deliver the best performance of their respective careers thus far.
“I feel I won the fight,” said Gavril immediately after the decision. “I dominated the pace. I can’t say anything else… The only thing I can do is to ask for a rematch.”
On February 17, Gavril will get it.
“No excuses this time,” said Sampson Lewkowicz of Sampson Boxing. “The minute Benavidez finished the fight I requested the rematch—on behalf of the winner—for the sole reason that he needed to win by emphatically and not by split decision. I wanted the public to be able to have the rematch so that everyone will know who the best is. I expect this time Gavril will say that he’s really been beaten. As the youngest reigning champion in the sport today, I want no doubt that Benavidez is the better man. It was a great fight the first time and this time we’ll see who the best truly is. No excuses. No doubt.’’
Fighting out of Phoenix, Ariz., Benavidez had scored 10 straight knockouts leading up to the match against Gavril. His eight-round KO victory over Rogelio Medina put him position for the vacant title.
“This is a fight that my father, my team and I decided to take again to show everybody that I’m really the champion and there’s more to me than just being the youngest world champion,” Benavidez said. “I feel like I’m the better fighter and I’m going to definitely show it this time. I learned from that first fight that he puts on a lot of pressure. He likes to throw at the same time that I’m throwing. There are a couple different approaches to take against that. It’s going to be a great night of fights. Danny Garcia and ‘Bam Bam’ Rios, these are two fighters I look up to in the sport and it’s an honor to fight in their undercard. My training has been going well. We decided to bring in a strength and conditioning coach and I feel really strong. I believe I’ll be very prepared.”
Gavril (18-2, 14 KOs) rose rapidly through the ranks by scoring seven straight victories including four by knockout since 2015. The 31-year-old Gavril was born in Bacau, Romania and now lives and fights out of Las Vegas. He fought a brilliant match against Benavidez, seizing control in the middle rounds and even dropping the young contender in the 12th with less than a minute left in the fight. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough as Gavril lost on two of the three judges’ scorecards.
“I can’t wait to get into the ring again and take that belt,” said Gavril. “I learned his game plan quickly during the first fight, I blocked it well then, and I plan to do the same again. He has fast hands and power, I won’t take that from him, but I am prepared for whatever plan he comes in the ring with. I know I have what it takes to win this time. Preparing for this fight the second time around has been different, training has been more intense, and my team is preparing me to take him out once and for all. I can’t let him win. Some people said I won back in September, and were surprised by my performance. I thought it was close, and I thought the knock down gave me the advantage to win. All I can do is be ready. I don’t think either of us will upset the fans on fight night. I want to thank Floyd Mayweather and Leonard for another opportunity against Benavidez. He’s a great fighter and tough competitor and this will certainly be a great fight.”