FOR all his pronouncements about reaping the spoils of boxing, David Benavidez has a curious relationship to success.
There was that time, in 2018, when his dalliance with a certain powdery white friend briefly derailed his white-hot career and saw him get stripped of his WBC super-middleweight title. Then Benavidez rebounded, swore he was a reformed man, and, in no time, the Arizonan reclaimed his old belt.
But then last August came around and, almost like clockwork, he was stripped of his title again, this time on the scales by coming in nearly three pounds over the limit ahead of his eventual 10th-round stoppage of Roamer Angulo.
Those mishaps have earned Benavidez the decidedly strange distinction of being a former world champion without necessarily having a loss to show for it. And therein lies the frustrating nub concerning the 24-year-old Mexican-American blue-chipper with perhaps the most complete offensive repertoire in the sport. Because if he can keep his self-destructive tendencies at bay, there is no reason to believe that Benavidez cannot become the kingpin of the 168-pound class, even with as formidable an opponent as Canelo Alvarez in his midst.
On Saturday night, Benavidez moved closer to regaining his former perch by stopping a game Ronald Ellis inside 11 rounds (set for 12) at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. Referee Johnny Callas, sensing the Massachusetts native was too brave for his own good, stopped the fight at 2-03.
It was a typically methodical beatdown for Benavidez. He bided his time in the first half, before drowning Ellis late with a seemingly endless array of torrid combinations.
Ellis, for sure, had his moments in the early going, touching up Benavidez with some one-twos. But the reality was that he was simply outgunned from the get-go.
That became obvious in the sixth round, when Benavidez opened up the full range of his arsenal. He whipped Ellis’ head back with a variety of hooks, uppercuts, and his favourite, the left to the body, to the point that it appeared that Ellis was going to topple over. But Ellis, who has insisted that he has never suffered so much as a knockdown in a professional fight, managed to stay on his toes.
By the eighth round, however, the fight was clearly a foregone conclusion. Benavidez walked down his maimed foe, strafing him with more bruising lefts to the body. Every punch was delivered with the full weight of his body. Somehow, Ellis withstood them all and even managed to fire back with his own combinations – alas, they had all the force of a shuttlecock.
Benavidez was comfortably ahead on all three scorecards (99-91 and 98-92 twice) at the time of the stoppage.
On the TGB Promotions undercard, lightweight contenders Isaac Cruz and Matias Romero put on a heated 12-round contest that ended with Cruz taking home a unanimous decision. The scores were 114-113 (Glenn Feldman), 115-112 (Kevin Morgan), and a surprisingly wide 118-109 (Steve Weisfeld).
It was a clash of contrasting styles. The shorter and stockier Cruz, from Mexico City, pressed the action all night long, worming his way to the inside, while Romero, an undefeated Argentine, hopscotched around the ring, responding with timely flurries at a distance. The majority of the fight was nip and tuck, but Cruz distinguished himself down the stretch with his relentless pressure and committed body work.
In the sixth round, referee Harvey Dock took a point away from Cruz for straying low with a punch. Although it would not turn out to have a decisive impact on the outcome, it could be argued that Romero deserved to get penalised as well for an excessive amount of holding.
Cleveland’s Terrell Gausha inserted himself back into the super-welterweight picture with a rude second-round stoppage of Cincinnati’s Jamontay Clark. Gausha, hardly known for his knockout power, timed his southpaw adversary with a left hook-straight right counter that immediately dropped him to the canvas. Although Clark beat the count, he was still on wobbly legs when Gausha proceeded to pounce on him, prompting referee Arthur Mercante Jnr to halt the fight at 2-44. It had been scheduled for 10.
THE VERDICT If Benavidez stays focused, he can pose a serious threat to any super-middleweight.
David Benavidez (167 1/4lbs), 24-0 (21), w rsf 11 Ronald Ellis (167 1/4lbs), 18-2-2 (12); Isaac Cruz (134lbs), 21-1-1 (15), w pts 12 Matias Romero (134 3/4lbs), 24-1 (8); Terrell Gausha (154 1/2lbs), 22-2-1 (11), w rsf 2 Jamontay Clark (154 1/2lbs), 15-2-1 (7); Kudratillo Abdukakhorov, 18-0 (10), w rtd 8 Javier Flores, 15-3 (13); Michael Angeletti, 2-0 (1), w pts 4 Fernando Ibarra De Anda, 2-6.