By Jake Donovan
ESPN’s lone linear telecast for August is now in search of a new chief support.
A leg injury suffered by Jose Benavidez Jr. derailed plans for a welterweight crossroads showdown with former titlist Luis Collazo. The two were due to collide August 17 live on ESPN from Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif.
Officials from Top Rank have informed BoxingScene.com that Benavidez Jr. injured his left leg, the same leg in which he was shot less than three years ago and which cost him more than a year of his prime.
News of the injury was first revealed by Los Angeles Times contributor Manouk Akopyan.
A new opponent will be sought for Collazo (39-7, 20KO), a 38-year old southpaw from New York who is riding a three-fight win streak. The remainder of the card remains intact, including the evening’s main event featuring Emanuel Navarrete in the second defense of his super bantamweight title versus unbeaten but untested Francisco de Vaca.
News of the bout falling through comes as a major letdown, as the evenly matched contest helped lend credence to a show lacking such credentials in the headliner.
Navarrete (27-1 23KOs) has established as a major presence in the loaded super bantamweight division, rising to prominence in a title-winning effort over previously unbeaten Isaac Dogboe last December. The 24-year old from Mexico City repeated the feat in emphatic fashion, battering Dogboe in a one-sided 12th round stoppage this past May.
In de Vaca (20-0, 6KOs), he gets a baby-faced contender who steps way up in competition. The 24-year old from Phoenix has yet to fight outside his home region and has been in just one career 10-round bout, a win over Mexico’s Victor Proa nearly two years ago.
It’s what made the evening’s chief support such a crucial element to the show.
Benavidez (27-1, 18KOs) was due to fight for the first time since a failed title bid versus Terence Crawford, suffering a 12th round knockout in their ESPN-televised headliner last October in Omaha, Neb. The bout marked his lone career defeat, though seemingly a formality going in not only due to the level of opposition but his limited mobility in sporting a brace to support his leg since recovering from near fatal gunshot wounds in 2016.
The 27-year old from Phoenix had won two prior bouts since returning to the ring last February, including a 1st round knockout of previously unbeaten Frank Rojas last June.
A win over Collazo wouldn’t have necessarily guaranteed a second crack at a welterweight title—especially considering Top Rank’s sparse real estate in the division outside of Crawford—but would have provided him with a career-best feat to date.
Instead it is back to the drawing board for the still-hopeful contender, as the extent of his injury—while still unclear—doesn’t figure to keep him out of the ring more than 6-8 weeks.
Unfortunately, it’s just long enough to have Collazo and Top Rank go on the hunt for an alternate opponent.
Collazo enters on the heels of a hard-fought 10-round win over Samuel Vargas this past March. The bout came as a consolation prize when plans for a promised title shot versus Crawford fell through before putting ink to paper. His appearance on the August 17 show will be the second under a deal worked out with Top Rank.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox