David Benavidez begins his quest to become a three-time super middleweight titlist.
The first step on the latest journey comes March 13, when the unbeaten former two-time title claimant faces Ronald Ellis in a scheduled 12-round title eliminator. The bout will top a Showtime-televised tripleheader—which was formally announced on Tuesday—from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
““I’ve had an amazing camp in Big Bear (California) and this is the strongest I have ever felt,” Benavidez stated of what will amount to a 13-week training camp by the time he arrives on site for fight week. “I’m looking to get an early stoppage against Ellis.
“I’m glad this is a title eliminator and it’s going to be another step to being a world champion once again.”
The winner will move one step closer towards a mandatory title shot versus current unified WBC/WBA super middleweight titlist Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
Benavidez (23-0, 20KOs) twice held the WBC belt, though losing the strap out of the ring on both occasions. Most recently, the undefeated 24-year old from Phoenix missed weight ahead of an eventual 10th round stoppage of Alexis Angulo in this very venue last August. The win came at the expense of losing his belt at the scale after coming in well above the super middleweight limit.
A short-term suggestion was offered for Benavidez to campaign at light heavyweight, though dismissed by his team who still believes there remains unfinished business at super middleweight.
“On March 13, David Benavídez will move another step closer to regaining his beloved green and gold belt and remind the world he is the best super middleweight in all of boxing,” Sampson Lewkowicz, Benavidez’s promoter stated. “There will be no doubt in anyone’s mind after another spectacular performance by David ‘El Bandera Roja’ Benavídez.”
There exists at least one team who has doubts.
Ellis (18-1-2, 12KOs) is eager to score his second straight high-profile win, this time in far more conclusive fashion. The 31-year old from Lynn, Massachusetts also picked up a Showtime-televised victory at this location in his most recent start, claiming a stoppage win over former title challenger Matt Korobov last December. Korobov was unable to continue after injuring his ankle, leaving Ellis with a two-fight win streak heading into the toughest test of his career.
“It’s a fight but not just any fight,” said Ellis. “This is the type of fight I have trained for and wanted since I turned pro. He’s going to bring his best on March 13 and that will bring out the best in me.”
Two more bouts were formally announced on Tuesday.
The evening’s chief support pits lightweight contender Isaac Cruz in a scheduled 12-round clash with Argentina’s Matias Romero (24-0, 8KOs),
Mexico City’s Cruz (20-1-1, 15KOs) enters on the heels of by far his most emphatic victory, a 1st round knockout of former title challenger Diego Magdaleno on a Showtime Pay-Per-View card last Halloween in San Antonio. The win positioned Cruz as the top-rated IBF lightweight contender and with hopes of securing his first world title fight.
“I’m very excited to be fighting on Showtime on March 13,” said Cruz, who is currently riding a 16-fight unbeaten streak. “The lightweight division is the hottest in boxing right now. This fight puts me one step closer to my dream of winning a world title for my Dad, Isaac Cruz, Sr. and my country, Mexico.”
Romero (24-0, 8 KOs) comes in as a bit of a wild card, fighting in the U.S. for the first time in his career and against an accelerated level of competition. The 24-year old from Cordoba, Argentina is coming off of a 12-round win over Javier Jose Clavero last November, accepting this opportunity in place of Spain’s Jon Fernandez, who was unable to secure a travel visa.
“I’ve come so far from Argentina to bring myself one step closer to reaching my goal of being a world champion,” said Romero. “I know that Isaac Cruz is a big puncher but he’s never fought anyone with my speed and heart.”
Opening the telecast, former title challenger Terrell Gausha faces Jamontay Clark in an all-Ohio junior middleweight clash.
Cleveland’s Gausha (21-2-1, 10KOs) looks to turn things around as he enters riding a two-fight winless stretch. The 2012 U.S. Olympian and former title challenger returns to this venue following a 10-round loss to Erickson Lubin last September, 16 months after fighting former titlist Austin Trout to a draw in their May 2019 encounter.
“I’m just blessed to be able to do what I love to do,” said Gausha, who is training with Manny Robles for this bout. “I’m excited to be back on PBC and Showtime thanks to Al Haymon.
“On March 13, I’m ready to go out there and show everybody what Terrell Gausha is made of and put on a show.”
Clark aims to prove himself on the contender stage after proving to be a handful for PBC’s best prospects in recent years. The 26-year old southpaw is two fights removed from fighting current Top 10 contender Sebastian Fundora to a 10-round draw in August 2019, with his lone other blemish coming in a 10-round decision defeat to Jeison Rosario, who went on to become a three-belt unified junior middleweight titlist.
The clash with Gausha comes more than a year after his last fight, an eight-round unanimous decision win over Anthony Lenk last February in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
“It’s been a while since I was in the ring and I’m just excited to be back taking on someone like Terrell Gausha, who will bring a good challenge and let me display all of my talents,” Clark said. “This is the first step in getting back to regular action and I’m not going to waste this opportunity.
“I’m going on a big run after I beat Gausha. As McFadden and Whitehead said, ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.’”
Appearing off-TV, unbeaten welterweight contender Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (17-0, 9 KOs) will face Puerto Rico’s Javier Flores (15-2, 13 KOs, 1 NC). Abdukakhorov—a native of Uzbekistan—fights for the first time since a technical decision win over former titlist Luis Collazo in Oct. 2019, with the bout versus Flores marking his debut under the PBC banner.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox