WITH world super-middleweight champion Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez deciding what comes next following his recent loss to Dmitry Bivol up at 175lbs, the WBC has wasted no time in creating an interim belt at 168 because it’s been a whopping five months since the Mexican defended their strap. So, for those who use the term, the ‘undisputed’ reign of Canelo will be over on Saturday night because the WBC will crown someone to dispute it. David Benavidez, 25-0 (22), has held the WBC gong before but was stripped for testing positive for cocaine in 2018. An August 2020 bid to regain the then-vacant belt was thwarted at the scales, when Benavidez came in just under three pounds overweight ahead of halting Roamer Alexis Angulo in 10 rounds.

On Saturday, May 21, Benavidez takes on a former middleweight belt-holder David Lemieux at the Gila River Arena in Glendale.

The Canadian is 33 and past his best but carries enough might in his mitts to trouble anyone who stands in their way. And it’s that power coupled with Benadvidez’ talent that makes this contest, if not the belt on offer, a worthwhile encounter.

Lemieux, 43-4 (36), hasn’t lost since a humbling 2017 points loss to Billy Joe Saunders down at 160. But he hasn’t fought anyone that suggests the limitations we saw against Billy Joe have been removed. Though there has been the odd exhibition of his brute force, like the one-round blowout of Spike O’Sullivan in 2018, but he was also forced to rebound from two knockdowns to squeak past Maksym Bursak on a split decision the following year. Since then he’s fought only twice, stopping the overmatched Francy Ntetu and David Zegarra. It seems an awfully long time since he was bludgeoned in eight by Gennadiy Golovkin in 2015.

This is 25-year-old Benavidez’ fight to lose. For that to happen, he’ll need to switch off at the worst possible moment and hang his chin in the air. But if the 1/20 favourite is focused and well-prepared, it’s difficult to envision him losing a round. The Phoenix, AZ fighter has advantages in height and reach, he’s a very good boxer, artful in both his approach and execution. Lemieux is not a natural super-middleweight and, though gutsy, he can look vulnerable under pressure. Expect Benavidez to make the most of his advantages in size, youth and natural boxing ability in the early going before moving up a gear in the second half. When someone bangs like Lemieux bangs, you can’t write them off but the pick is for Benavidez to get the stoppage around the eighth.