LAS VEGAS – David Benavidez and Caleb Plant could hardly contain their disdain for each other as they came face to face last Thursday at the final press conference ahead of their grudge match.
But the two settled their years-long beef inside the ropes Saturday as Benavidez scored the biggest win of his career with a dominant display before a packed house of nearly 14,000 fans at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Benavidez won by unanimous decision after the pair battled for 12 hard-fought rounds, and after the reading of the judges’ scorecards, the headliners embraced each other.
The show of mutual respect continued during their post-fight interviews – a sharp pivot in less than 48 hours.
“First of all, I want to thank this whole beautiful crowd for coming out. You guys made this happen,” Benavidez said after the fight. “Second, I want to shout out Caleb Plant. I know there was a lot said between us, but in the end we settled this like men. He’s a hell of a fighter. I’m happy we gave the fans the best rivalry of the year or the last five years. I’m just very happy.”
Benavidez defended his interim WBC super middleweight belt with the win and solidified himself as the No. 1 challenger to Canelo Alvarez’s throne at the top of the division.
Despite suffering just the second loss of his career, Plant showed a warrior’s spirit to go the distance and gave Benavidez nothing but respect in the aftermath of a bout framed as a contrast between the boxing skills of Plant and the punching power of the Phoenix native, Benavidez.
“David is a hell of a fighter,” he said “It’s a big rivalry, but that’s what boxing is all about. We came here and settled it like men. I take nothing from David. We haven’t been the best of friends, but we got into the ring, and we settled it like men. That’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Plenty of stars came out to Vegas for the card, including former heavyweight champion of the world Deontay Wilder and former four-time NBA All-Star DeMarcus Cousins. Mike Tyson, the man who gave Benavidez his nickname, “The Mexican Monster,” was also in attendance during fight week.
While Plant fights out of Las Vegas, it was unquestionably a pro-Benavidez crowd. Abel Ramos and his nephew, Jesus Ramos Jr., both from Casa Grande, received plenty of support in their fights and Jose Valenzuela, who’s trained by Jose Benavidez Sr., was a fan favorite on the night.
In the main event, Benavidez walked out to deafening cheers, which rarely subsided throughout the fight. Red Benavidez headbands were littered throughout the crowd as many Phoenix fans made the trip to Las Vegas to see the Valley’s best boxer live.
Plant got off to a hot start, moving around the ring and slipping the attacks of Benavidez, who applied the majority of pressure. Plant managed to duck and dodge his opponent’s shots and countered with his own sharp punches throughout the opening rounds.
Plant outlanded Benavidez 31 punches to 29 in the first four rounds, but from there Benavidez kicked things into gear and started to establish control of the fight. Benavidez found his timing in the middle rounds and Plant had a tougher time slipping Benavidez punches, often getting caught with big shots.
Once Benavidez established control of the fight, he continued as the aggressor using his superior size to bully Plant on the inside. Plant began to initiate more clinches as the fight went on to close off Benavidez’s range, but he sustained more damage and was bloodied by an accidental headbutt in the eighth round.
Benavidez would win the final seven rounds of the fight on all three judge’s scorecards, outlanding Plant 174 punches to 54 in that span. The final scorecards were 117-111, 116-112 and 115-113, all in favor of Benavidez.
Out of Benavidez’s 210 punches landed, 180 came as power shots and the 43 total shots in Round 10 were the most punches anyone has ever landed in a round against Plant.
“We were never going to settle it before we got into the ring, but we got into the ring and settled it like men,” Benavidez said. “I took his hardest shots and he took my hardest shots and the good thing is that we’re still standing at the end of the day and we can go back to our families.”
As the undisputed champion in the weight class, Alvarez holds all four belts, including the full WBC title, but the interim belt places Benavidez as the mandatory challenger. Eventually, Alvarez will have to fight Benavidez or Benavidez will be upgraded to the full champion.
“I just want to tell everyone that I have a lot of respect for Canelo Alvarez, but he has to give me that shot now,” Benavidez said. “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 currently set to take on another one of his mandatory challengers, John Ryder, on May 6 in his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico.
If he gets past Ryder, that would leave the doors wide open for a Canelo-Benavidez fight later this year. However, Alvarez has made no secret that he hopes to avenge last year’s loss to Dmitry Bivol in September, a fight which – if made – would effectively kill the prospect of a Alvarez-Benavidez fight in 2023.
Whether he gets the big fight against Alvarez or not, Benavidez proved that he deserves a shot at the best with his convincing performance against Plant.
Meanwhile, in the co-main event, Ramos Jr. dominated another undefeated prospect, Joey Spencer, for seven rounds before forcing Spencer’s corner to throw in the towel. Spencer had called out Ramos Jr. specifically for this fight that saw two of the junior middleweight division’s top prospects square off.
Ramos Jr. had plenty of support from the crowd on Saturday with an explosion of cheers coming from the stands at the announcement of his hometown, Casa Grande.
“I don’t know if they were all from Phoenix or where they were from, man, but it was just a Mexican crowd and it felt really good in there you know,” Ramos Jr. told Cronkite News. “I had the whole support from the ring walk to the announcement (of my name) before the fight. Everything was just beautiful. It was a great, great experience. I loved it.”
Going in this was viewed as a 50-50 fight, but Ramos Jr. quickly showed he was the superior fighter, knocking Spencer to the canvas in the waning seconds of the opening round with a crisp left hook.
From there it wouldn’t get much better for Spencer, who was hesitant to unload after being caught early. Ramos Jr. piled on the pressure with 172 punches landed to Spencer’s 48 before the fight was ultimately stopped. With the win, Ramos Jr. moved his name into contender status in the division and is eyeing some of the division’s top dogs for his next fight.
Ramos Jr.’s uncle, Abel, opened the Showtime PPV against the undefeated Cody Crowley and suffered a tightly contested majority decision loss, with one judge scoring the bout a draw and the other two in favor of Crowley.
“Leading up to this fight I get more nervous for Abel’s fight than I do mine. So him having to lose in a tough fight that was very entertaining, it was heartbreaking,” Ramos Jr. said. “I’m disappointed that he has to go home with a loss, but it was a great camp overall and nobody can take away our experiences and the memories that we lived through in the last couple weeks so I leave with a full heart that we did everything together.”
The Valley-born fighters fell short of a sweep on Saturday’s card, but it was still a career-changing night for Benavidez and Ramos Jr. against quality opponents. Ramos Jr. will look to move his name up the rankings, while Benavidez will turn his focus to one of the biggest fights in the sport if Alvarez agrees to the bout.