By Lem Satterfield
Unbeaten former 168-pound champion David Benavidez will appear in a 10-rounder against an opponent to be determined as the March 16 co-main event when left-handed IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence defends against four-division title winner Mikey Garcia on FOX (9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT) at The Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, near Spence’s hometown of DeSoto, Benavidez’s promoter, Sampson Lewkowicz, told BoxingScene.com on Friday.
The 21-year-old Benavidez (20-0, 17 KOs) will be returning from a six-month suspension for a positive drug test of benzoylecgonine -- a main ingredient for cocaine – and was declared “Champion in recess” in October, effectively stripping of his WBC crown.
The ruling was made at the WBC convention -- where former champion Anthony Dirrell (32-1-1, 24 KOs) was ordered into a vacant title fight against Avni Yildirim (21-1, 12 KOs) – and permits Benavidez to challenge the Dirrell-Yildirum winner after his suspension ends on February 27, Lewkowicz said.
The switch-hitting Dirrell faces Turkey’s Yildirum on February 23 at The Minneapolis Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Fox (10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT).
“As Champion in recess, the minute that David wants to challenge the champion, he must be given the opportunity,” said Lewkowicz. “After his 10-rounder, David will challenge winner between Dirrell and Yildirum.”
Benavidez has moved to a secluded Lake House in Seattle, where he will focus on his preparation with his father.
“David will have an awesome training camp,” said Nathan Lewkowicz, vice president of Sampson Boxing. “David’s going to show the world on March 16 why he’s still the best super middleweight in the world.”
In the main event, the 28-year-old IBF titleholder Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) will pursue his third defense and 12th straight knockout against the 30-year-old Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs), who is after his fifth crown in as many divisions in his 147-pound debut.
Once the youngest world champion in division history, Benavidez’s positive test resulted from an examination conducted in late August by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) as part of the WBC’s Clean Boxing initiative.
A switch-hitting 6-foot-2 native of Phoenix, Arizona, Benavidez had been mandated for a September 2017 defense against Dirrell, but the ex-champion pulled out due to a back injury.
Instead, a 20-year-old Benavidez earned a split-decision over replacement Ronald Gavril, overcoming an injured middle left knuckle and a final round knockdown to become the youngest world champion in division history and the sport’s youngest titleholder at the time.
Benavidez ended Gavril’s seven-fight winning streak (five by KO), surpassed 22-year-old Darrin Van Horn’s accomplishment in May 1991, and won his February return bout with Gavril by near shutout unanimous decision.
Trained by his father, Jose Benavidez Sr., Benavidez debuted professionally at age 16 in Mexico in August 2013, going 7-0 with all knockouts south of the border before competing in his hometown three days after turning 18.
Prior to Gavril, Benavidez scored a three-knockdown, eighth-round TKO of former title challenger Rogelio Medina in May 2017, representing his 10th straight stoppage and his 17th in 18 victories, including 13 inside of two rounds.