GLENDALE, Arizona – David Benavidez vowed to leave the ring with a knockout and the title at stake.
It was mission accomplished for Phoenix’s favorite son, who tore through Montreal’s David Lemieux en route to a third-round knockout win. Benavidez floored Lemieux—a former IBF middleweight tilist—early in round two and battered the former IBF middleweight titlist throughout before forcing a stoppage at 1:31 of round three to claim the interim WBC super middleweight title in the Showtime main event Saturday evening at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
The bout was the second straight local headliner for Benavidez, who has clearly emerged as the region’s biggest attraction.
“I just want to thank everyone who came out tonight,” Benavidez said of the adoring crowd, which filled up the entire lower bowl and provided the energy of an Arizona Cardinals game, the NFL stadium fittingly across the street. “If it wasn't for my people from Arizona, then I wouldn't be here.
“It's surreal to me. I'm going to give my heart in the ring for all of you every day.”
Benavidez brought his heart and full offensive arsenal on Saturday night. He nearly finished off Lemieux near the end of round one with a volley of punches that had the 33-year-old in trouble.
It came moments after Lemieux opened the round confident, while Benavidez was content to observe the incoming before eventually letting his hands go. The fight ceased being competitive by that point, with Lemeiux battered by a barrage of right hands, uppercuts and left hooks. Benavidez had Lemieux rocked at the end of the round one, with the Montreal native nearly stumbling to the canvas only to be saved by the bell.
Benavidez immediately went to work in round two. An uppercut by the undefeated Phoenix native sent Lemieux through the ropes and onto the canvas.
“I knew he was going to be open for it all night,” Benavidez acknowledged. “I landed that first right hook to the body and was surprised that it came so early. But I just kept applying pressure. I was surprised they didn’t stop the fight in that first round or even give an eight count. So I just kept coming.”
Lemieux beat the count but was seemingly a punch away from being brutally knocked out. Benavidez unloaded with a series of uppercuts, along with an assortment of power shots that opened a cut under the left eye of Lemieux who somehow avoided a second trip to the canvas.
Referee Harvey Dock gave Lemieux a long hard look in between rounds before permitting the action to continue. Benavidez went right back to work, pummeling Lemieux along the ropes and landing at will. The onslaught was severe enough to the point where Lemieux’s corner asked the ringside inspector to climb to the ring apron and signal to Dock to stop the fight.
The brutally one-sided affair was well reflected in the unofficial Compubox statistics. Benavidez landed 74-of-151 punches (49%), compared to just 26-of-109 (23.9%) for Lemieux, who landed 24-of-83 power shots (28.9%).
Benavidez landed a staggering 58-of-111 (52.3%) of his power punches.
A five-fight win streak comes to a close for Lemieux, who falls to 43-5 (36KOs).
“Tonight was just not my night,” admitted Lemieux. “I’m going to talk to my team to reassess. David Benavidez is a hell of a fighter.”
The lopsided defeat was likely his last day in the sun at this level. Lemieux briefly held the IBF middleweight title, a reign that lasted just five months before an eighth-round knockout loss to Gennadiy Golovkin in their October 2015 middleweight title unification bout at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Efforts to recapture his title form never came back around, as evident in a lopsided loss to then-unbeaten WBO middleweight titlist Billy Joe Saunders. Hopes of remaining in the thick of the middleweight division proved to be a detriment to his health, pulling out of a December 2018 fight with Tureano Johnson. Much of his career has been plagued by injury, while his super middleweight run has shown that he is truly a middleweight. Lemieux showed up a fleshy 166.2 pounds on Friday and seemingly unable to get back down to a weight more befitting his frame. Still, he did jump in the ring for the fight.
“Credit to David Lemieux, who was the only one with the balls to jump in the ring with me,” Benavidez told Showtime’s Jim Grey, as he improves to 26-0 (23KOs). The win was his second straight at home, coming six months after stopping Kyrone Davis inside of seven rounds last November 13 at Footprint Center in Phoenix.
“I’m proud to take this city and carry it on my back,” Benavidez noted.
Benavidez is now the interim WBC super middleweight titlist and—more importantly—the mandatory WBC challenger to undisputed super middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (57-2-2, 39KOs). The sense is that such a fight won’t work its way around anytime soon, leaving Benavidez to set his sights on the rest of the division.
“We don’t need to talk about Canelo,” Sampson Lewkowicz, Benavidez’s Hall of Fame promoter told BoxingScene.com after the fight. “We all know Canelo won’t fight him, so let’s please stop talking about him.”
Names such as WBC middleweight titlist Jermall Charlo (32-0, 22KOs), former IBF super middleweight titlist Caleb Plant (21-1, 12KOs) and secondary WBA super middleweight titlist David Morrell were all mentioned in recent days and again on Saturday night.
“I’m just waiting on those guys to sign the contract,” insisted Benavidez. “Those bitches know what’s up.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox