David Benavidez is back in the title hunt.
The former two-time super middleweight titlist had his way with Ronald Ellis, stopping the fringe contender inside of 11 rounds Saturday evening at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
No knockdowns were scored but an accumulation of punches forced the stoppage at 2:53 of round eleven.
Both boxers were in search of redemption, having each miserably missed weight in separate appearances at this venue. Benavidez saw his second WBC title reign end at the scale, coming in nearly three pounds over the limit in a 10th round stoppage of Alexis Angulo last December. Ellis weighed 166 pounds, five above the contracted 161-pound limit in a 4th round injury stoppage of Matvey Korobov last December.
Weight was not an issue on Friday, with both coming in under the 168-pound divisional limit to proceed with Saturday’s main event. Ellis did his best to force the action early, immediately taking the fight to Benavidez who is a notorious slow starter. The Lynn, Massachusetts native punched in combination while Benavidez was pinned along the ropes before reverting back to a steady jab. Benavidez attempted to establish his right hand, though falling just short with the weapon the final minute of the round.
Benavidez connected with a left hook and a crisp body shot in the first minute of round two. Ellis stayed in the pocket, playing defense and responding with jabs and right hands though Benavidez picked off most with his gloves. Benavidez’s long jab split the guard of Ellis, with the unbeaten Phoenix playing defense before responding with combinations.
Ellis sought to regain momentum in round three but couldn’t do any better than keep pace with his unbeaten foe. Benavidez allowed Ellis to come forward, scoring in bunches even with his back pressed against the ropes.
Benavidez ate a clean right hand from Ellis in round four, only to immediately return with two shots upstairs including a left hook. Ellis reached with a straight right, taking one in return as well as a long left hand which snapped back his head.
Ellis pumped his jab throughout round five, frequently beating Benavidez to the punch. The success was short-lived, as Benavidez went to work in round six, his best in the fight to that point. The former champ repeatedly scored with power shots upstairs, with Ellis—who has never been down as a pro—showing a world-class chin.
Benavidez continued to land heavy leather in round seven. Much of his work was dominated by a purposeful jab, scoring with one-twos later in the frame. Ellis did his best to respond; all he could do was continue to absorb.
The same pattern held true in round eight, to the point where Ellis was near exhaustion. As much was detected by head trainer and former heavyweight Courage Tshabalala, who warned his charge that he would stop the fight if he didn’t find a way to turn the tide.
To his credit, Ellis was more active in round nine, though still with Benavidez in full control. The jab was flowing for Benavidez, along with right hands upstairs and left hooks to the body. Ellis managed to connect with enough jabs and right hands to convince the powers that be to allow the fight to continue.
Benavidez pushed Ellis around the ring with his jab in round ten before picking up the pace considerably in round eleven. Ellis was reduced to covering up as Benavidez let his hands go, all but daring referee Johnny Callas to stop the fight.
Benavidez was ahead 98-92, 98-92 and 99-91 at the time of the stoppage
Ellis can still claim to have never suffered a knockdown in his career, though he is dealt his first stoppage defeat. The setback ends a two-fight win streak as he falls to 18-2-2 (12KOs).
Benavidez is back in the title picture, even if his shot doesn’t come immediately. Still, he advances to the stage courtesy of a complete performance, landing 341-of-733 total punches (47%) compared to 184-of-670 (27%) for Ellis. Benavidez outlanded Ellis 289 to 95 in total power punches as he improves to 24-0 (21KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox