By Manouk Akopyan
David Benavidez became a world champion by the age 20 — and then he lost it. Not in the ring, but by a self-inflicted decision outside of it.
Benavidez tested positive in 2018 for the benzoylecgonine, the key ingredient in cocaine. He was promptly suspended and stripped of his WBC strap. At the time, he was the youngest champion in the sport, but succumbing to substance abuse cost him his spot atop the super middleweight chain.
Last we saw Benavidez (21-0, 18 knockouts), he returned to the ring in March from his layoff and submitted a spectacular knockout performance of J'Leon Love as the co-featured main event for the Errol Spence Jr.-Mikey Garcia.
Come Sept. 28, Benavidez will once again supplement Spence as the pay-per-view co-feature and looks to regain the belt he was forced to forfeit when he squares off against current title holder Anthony Dirrell.
“I have to seize this opportunity. You don’t get too many in life like this, so you have to make the best of them. I’m very motivated,” Benavidez told BoxingScene.com. “When you work for something your entire life and get it taken away in a second, it doesn’t feel too good while you sit on the sidelines. I was doing a lot of thinking, seeing someone take my belt that I worked for my entire life.
“These mistakes will not be made anymore. It’s something me and my family don’t want to go through anymore. I can’t kill myself over it becuase I did it to myself. I just had to be a man, and accept that I was wrong.”
At age 22, Benavidez continues getting marquee matchups largely because he’s somewhat more seasoned than most other fighters his age. He was just 16 years old when he made his pro debut in Mexico and already holds six years of experience.
“I have a big opportunity and platform,” said Benavidez. “I plan on getting a knockout to steal the show. I’m working as hard as I can to bring that belt back to my waist.”
Manouk Akopyan has been a member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011 and has written for the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the Guardian and Philadelphia Inquirer. He can reached on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at [email protected].