Super middleweight interim champion David Benavidez showed why he’s one of the best two fighters in the division (after champion Canelo Alvarez) by demolishing Caleb Plant via unanimous decision Saturday night in Las Vegas. Benavidez punished Plant in the last six rounds to win by scorecards of 115-113, 116-112 and 117-111. All three judges gave Plant every round from the sixth to the 12th.
After the fight, Benavidez called out Alvarez, saying he has “a lot of respect for Canelo Alvarez, but he has to give me that shot now. That’s what everyone wants to see. Let’s make it happen.
“I don’t think Canelo is trying to avoid me. I just feel like he has a lot of options. But now the fans are calling for this fight, the legends are calling for this fight, so let’s make it happen.”
Alvarez is fighting John Ryder in May and expects to face Dmitry Bivol in a rematch in September, so what should Benavidez’s next fight be if he doesn’t get Alvarez? And can he beat Alvarez if/when they fight?
Also on Saturday, Jose Ramirez had a tougher time than expected against Richard Commey in the main event of a Top Rank card in Fresno, California. Still, he finished the former lightweight champion to become a top challenger once again at junior welterweight, a division in which he was a unified champion just two years ago.
Ramirez defeated Commey by 11th-round KO, and his next fight could be for a world title at 140 pounds. He had a chance to fight WBC champion Regis Prograis last year, but Ramirez passed up the opportunity after the purse split was 65-35 in favor of Prograis. Will he/should he fight Prograis next?
“I want any world champion,” Ramirez said after the fight. “If Regis Prograis is serious about fighting, we can sit down and negotiate. Let’s sit down and make the fight.”
In the co-main event, Seniesa Estrada looked dominant in a one-sided victory over Tina Rupprecht to unify two strawweight world titles, a first step to achieving her final goal of being an undisputed champion in three divisions when her career is over.
“I want to tell the other champion at 105 pounds that I’m whooping you next,” Estrada said during her postfight interview. “You can get it next. I am the best in this division, and I know it. I want to prove it by becoming undisputed.
“Once I become undisputed, I want to move up to light flyweight and become undisputed there. And then, I want to move up to another weight class and become undisputed there. My goal is to become undisputed in three different divisions.”
Can Estrada accomplish that? With her style and power, if she can get the other champions in the ring, it looks like a realistic expectation.
Mike Coppinger and Michael Rothstein share their takes on all three fights.
Benavidez wants Canelo, but will he get him?
Benavidez picked up a career-best win with the decision over Plant, and he did so impressively, even if he didn’t score the stoppage he hoped for.
The 26-year-old showed off his punch variety, 12-round engine and ability to cut off (a huge) ring against a top-notch boxer who likes to stick and move and can do so with the best of them.
Now, Benavidez is calling for a shot at Canelo Alvarez, and it might be the biggest matchup out there for boxing’s top star. First, the Mexican boxer will meet John Ryder on May 6. But what about after that? Well, Canelo could meet Dmitry Bivol in a rematch in September. If he does, that will leave Benavidez scrambling for another opponent.
WBA president Gilberto Mendoza suggested on Twitter a fight between Benavidez and Cuba’s David Morrell to decide a mandatory challenger for Alvarez. Benavidez and Morrell are undefeated, offensively gifted fighters and both box for PBC, so the matchup should be relatively easy to make.
But if Benavidez does land Alvarez — and if it doesn’t materialize this year, it should next year — can he pull off the upset? Alvarez is part of a small group of boxers who can fight going backward and forward. He has seen every style at this juncture, from the masterful boxing of Floyd Mayweather to the aggressive pressure style of Gennadiy Golovkin.
Benavidez fights a lot more like Golovkin, who pushed Alvarez to the brink in their first two meetings. Only Benavidez isn’t quite as good as GGG just yet. But sharing 12 rounds with a fighter the caliber of Plant should only make Benavidez that much better.
It’s a compelling matchup for Alvarez, and the former pound-for-pound king would still be a big favorite. Benavidez isn’t hard to find in the ring, and Alvarez is among the sport’s best counterpunchers.
No matter whom Benavidez fights next, “The Mexican Monster” has left no doubt that he’s must-see TV.
Ramirez wants a title shot, but should he take another fight first?
After becoming only the second fighter to stop Richard Commey — Teofimo Lopez Jr. was the other one to do so — Jose Ramirez made it clear what he wanted next: another shot at a title at 140 pounds.
Ramirez used to hold the WBC and WBO junior welterweight belts but lost them to Josh Taylor in May 2021. He has fought twice since then, beating Jose Pedraza in March 2022 and then Commey on Saturday.
The obvious option for him would be a fight for a belt.
“Any world champion,” Ramirez said during his postfight, in-ring interview. “Regis Prograis, [or] the winner of Josh Taylor and Teofimo, get that rematch [with Taylor].”
I don’t write this lightly, because I believe fighters should make and take the best fights. It’s what the sport needs. But after seeing Ramirez’s performance on Saturday, it might behoove him to take one more fight before he takes on Prograis, Lopez or a rematch against Taylor. There’s little doubt Ramirez is one of the best in the division. He has proven that often in his career, with his only loss coming to Taylor.
But if Ramirez wants to be as active as he says he does — he indicated he would like to fight two to three times in 2023 — then he shouldn’t take the title fight next. He should have one more solid performance, then take on Prograis or the Taylor-Lopez winner.
Commey is always a tough fighter. He’s a former world champion, albeit at lightweight. At points, it seemed like Commey was in a good spot against Ramirez. Commey was a good challenge for Ramirez, but I want to see a more convincing performance from Ramirez first. — Michael Rothstein
Estrada’s plan is doable
Seniesa Estrada has already been a world champion in two divisions. On Saturday night, after she became the unified (WBA and WBC) strawweight champion, Estrada laid out a broader plan: She wants to become an undisputed champion in three divisions.
It’s not unheard of in the women’s side of the sport — Claressa Shields has been undisputed in her career at junior middleweight and middleweight — so for Estrada to set a plan for her to do that in the lower weight classes of the sport is very doable.
Next up, in theory, should be an undisputed fight at strawweight against Yokasta Valle, who defeated Jessica Basulto by unanimous decision in Costa Rica on Saturday to defend her IBF and WBO belts. Estrada has already been the WBO champion at junior flyweight, so she has shown she can be a major player in that division — and there are two unified champions there already in Jessica Nery Plata (WBA, WBC) and Evelin Bermudez (IBF, WBO).
At flyweight, Estrada has already defeated one of the champions there, Marlen Esparza, and while it’s a spread-out division, it’s a manageable one.
“Once I become undisputed, I want to move up to light flyweight and become undisputed there,” Estrada said in the postfight, in-ring interview on ESPN. “And then I want to move up to another weight class and become undisputed there. My goal is to become undisputed in three different divisions.”
Part of why it would make sense and is a reasonable goal for Estrada is both her style and her power, which should be able to carry over even as she moves up. Few, if any, fighters, men or women, fight with the same stance-switching, hand-moving style Estrada does, so she’s tough to prepare for.
Estrada is one of the best fighters in the world. She’s No. 8 in ESPN’s pound-for-pound list, and if she can pull off this plan, she would end up in the same conversation with Shields, Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano as one of the best fighters in the sport, both now and in history. — Michael Rothstein