A proud WBC champion once again, super middleweight David “El Bandera Roja/Red Flag” Benavidez says he’s a stronger, wiser version of himself and has his sights set on the division’s other big names. Benavidez (22-0, 19 KOs), from Phoenix, says he watched WBA champion Callum Smith’s recent defense against fellow Brit John Ryder and is licking his lips at the thought of facing his counterpart. “He looked like he was having a really hard time with a guy who had lost to Rocky Fielding and been knocked out,” said Benavidez. “I thought he was going to look really impressive, but that’s not what happened. I’m obviously a better fighter than him and he’d be a perfect opponent for me. I saw things in his style I could really work with.”
The 22 year-old Benavidez is currently working hard in the gym with father/trainer José Benavidez Sr., waiting for his next fight to be announced. After sitting out a one-year suspension [for drug use], he regained his WBC title in his last fight, a KO 9 last September in Los Angeles over interim champ Anthony Dirrell.
“It was a long road being out for a year and seeing my title get won by Dirrell and then getting back in there and winning it back,” said Benavidez of his year off and subsequent redemption. “I learned to be disciplined more than anything. I learned that everything can be taken away at any moment if I make the wrong decisions. Sitting out made me hungrier as well. Seeing everybody in there fighting, knowing I was up there with the best of them.”
Another foe the young champion says would end up a signature victory is current IBF boss Caleb Plant. “I don’t feel like he’s true super middle,” said Benavidez of Plant. “I think he weighs 170 walking around. Once he gets in with a tough fighter like me, he won’t be able to keep me off of him. All I need is one punch and I don’t think he’d be able to keep me from landing it for twelve rounds. He’s a good boxer, but it’s a fight and I’m the bigger guy naturally and I hit a lot harder. That’s a fight we can make happen in a heartbeat.
A win over Smith or Plant, said Benavidez, would pave the way for his ultimate showdown.
“And then you have (multi-time world champion Saul) Canelo (Alvarez), the big dog. That’s my main goal right now. I want to be great in my sport and be the best of my generation. Beating him would take me a long way toward that. That’s what keeps me working hard every day. All I have to do is stay on track and I will make it all happen.”
To every bad experience, there is a positive side and Benavidez says he’s a much better fighter for having gone through all of it. “The positive of all of it is the experience I gained. You can’t teach experience. I’ve had a lot of big fights and been in the spotlight and I’ve been on the sidelines having lost it all. You have to live through that yourself and be in those circumstances to know how important it is to do the right things.”
Benavidez’s promoter, Sampson Lewkowicz, says he’s proud of the young champion’s ability to come back from adversity. “It was a hard time when he got suspended,” said Lewkowicz. “As a team we all had to pull together and make a plan to come back better than ever and now here we are, stronger and wiser than before. David has a long, historic career in front of him and I’m honored to be helping him achieve it.”