David Benavidez was 16 years old the first time he walked into Abel Sanchez’s gym in Big Bear Lake, California.
Sanchez and Benavidez’s father, Jose Sr., wasted no time putting the precocious prospect in the ring with Gennadiy Golovkin, who had just begun his meteoric rise in the United States. Of the roughly 20 sparring partners Sanchez used with Golovkin over their years together, Golovkin’s former trainer considers Benavidez the fighter that gave Golovkin the best work.
Phoenix’s Benavidez (23-0, 20 KOs) is training at Sanchez’s gym again for his “Showtime Championship Boxing” main event versus Ronald Ellis (18-1-2, 12 KOs, 1 NC), of Lynn, Massachusetts, on March 13 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
“He’s doing well,” Sanchez told BoxingScene.com. “That is a hard-working young man. Unfortunately for him, he hasn’t gotten that marquee fight that he needs to become a superstar. But he’s a heck of a fighter. Hopefully, David gets that marquee fight. But he’s showing us he’s one of the top 168-pounders.”
The marquee fight for Benavidez, of course, is a shot at Canelo Alvarez. The Mexican superstar now owns the WBC 168-pound title Benavidez vacated at the scale August 14 because he was almost three pounds too heavy for an optional title defense against Alexis Angulo the next night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Benavidez beat Colombia’s Angulo (26-2, 22 KOs) by technical knockout after the 10th round, but he surrendered his leverage when he was stripped of the WBC super middleweight crown for the second time without losing a fight in the ring. The 24-year-old Benavidez previously was stripped of that title for testing positive for cocaine in August 2018.
The 30-year-old Alvarez (54-1-2, 36 KOs) will make his first defense of that WBC belt Saturday night against mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim (21-2, 12 KOs).
If Alvarez defeats Turkey’s Yildirim, the WBA/WBC champion is expected to battle WBO champ Billy Joe Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs) on May 8 at an undetermined location. A victory over Saunders could lead Alvarez toward a full title unification showdown with IBF champ Caleb Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) in September.
As much as Sanchez hopes Benavidez gets the Canelo fight, he doesn’t envision it happening in the foreseeable future.
“I doubt it,” Sanchez said. “I think that’s too risky a fight for Canelo. And if it happens, it’ll be in maybe 2022 or even 2023. There’s no reason for Canelo to fight him. There’s a lot of guys up there. After this one, he’s gonna fight Saunders and he’s already planning to fight Plant in September.”
Should Alvarez-Benavidez materialize, Sanchez believes Benavidez has a better chance of beating Alvarez than any other super middleweight.
“It’s a difficult for anybody with Canelo,” said Sanchez, who went 0-1-1 against Alvarez while working Gennadiy Golovkin’s corner. “Canelo has improved tremendously. Canelo is a heck of a fighter. I think David has got the best chance of any of the 168-pounders to beat him. I just think he’s got not only the power, but the speed and IQ to be able to handle somebody like Canelo. The difference is Canelo I think is a bigger puncher. I think Canelo is a bigger and sharper puncher. Although David can punch, Canelo is just a little bit better, in my opinion.”