LAS VEGAS – David Benavidez didn’t get the vicious knockout he sought, but Benavidez battered and bloodied Caleb Plant throughout the second half of their 12-round fight Saturday night and decisively defeated his rival in their grudge match.
Plant and Benavidez embraced after their fight ended, which signaled a respectful conclusion to what was a nasty, years-long buildup toward their Showtime Pay-Per-View main event at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Plant boxed well during the first half of their 168-pound bout, but the relentless Benavidez’s power and pressure eventually wore him down and enabled Benavidez to produce a convincing victory on two scorecards.
Judges Steve Weisfeld (117-111) and Dave Moretti (116-112) scored nine and eight rounds, respectively, for the unbeaten Benavidez, who was slowed down at times by Plant’s excessive holding in the later rounds. Judge Tim Cheatham scored seven rounds for Benavidez, who won 115-113 on his scorecard.
“First of all, I want to thank this whole beautiful crowd for coming out,” Benavidez told Showtime’s Jim Gray in reference to the crowd of 13,865. “You guys made this happen. Second, I wanna shout out Caleb Plant. I know there was a lot said between us, but in the end we settled this like men. He’s a helluva fighter. I’m happy we gave the fans the best rivalry of the year or the last five years. I’m just very happy.”
Benavidez (27-0, 23 KOs), who was consistently listed as a 3-1 favorite, defended his WBC interim super middleweight title. The 26-year-old Phoenix native also maintained his spot as the WBC’s mandatory challenger for undisputed 168-pound champion Canelo Alvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs), who will defend his four belts against English southpaw John Ryder (32-5, 18 KOs) on May 6 at Akron Stadium in Zapopan, Mexico.
The 30-year-old Plant (22-2, 13 KOs) lost for the second time in his past three fights. Alvarez dropped Plant twice in the 11th round and stopped him in their 168-pound title unification fight in November 2021 at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The former IBF super middleweight champ came back impressively from his loss to Alvarez five months ago. Plant, of Ashland City, Tennessee, knocked former WBC champ Anthony Dirrell cold with a picture-perfect left hook in the ninth round of their October 15 bout at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Plant couldn’t hurt Benavidez with any of his punches Saturday night, though.
“David is a helluva fighter,” Plant said. “It’s a big rivalry, but that’s what boxing is all about. We came here and settled it like men. I take nothing from David. We haven’t been the best of friends, but we got into the ring and we settled it like men. That’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Plant’s cut above his right eye came from an accidental clash of heads during the eighth round.
“I got a head-butt, but it’s no excuse,” Plant said. “David was the better man tonight and I take nothing from him. Congratulations to him and his family. He’s a helluva fighter.”
Plant boxed his way to a lead on all three scorecards through five rounds.
Cheatham credited Plant for winning each of the first five rounds (50-45). Moretti (49-46) and Weisfeld (48-47) respectively scored four and three of the first five rounds for Plant.
Cheatham, Moretti and Weisfeld each scored the final seven rounds for Benavidez.
An aggressive Benavidez pressed for a knockout in the final round, but Plant held and moved his way toward the final bell.
Benavidez previously pushed for the knockout toward the end of a one-sided 11th round, but Plant valiantly made it to the final round. A left hook by Benavidez made Plant retreat with a minute to go in the 11th round.
Benavidez blasted Plant with a left hook a little less than a minute into the 11th round. Plant connected with a left hook as Benavidez came forward 10 seconds into the 11th round.
A right uppercut by Benavidez and several other subsequent shots made Plant hold him tightly a minute into the 10th round. Plant tried to hold him on several other occasions, but Benavidez battered him with head and body shots later in the 10th round.
A left hook by Benavidez knocked Plant off balance just before the bell sounded to end the ninth round.
Plant repeatedly tried to tie up Benavidez in the ninth round. Benavidez landed a right and a left barley a minute into the ninth round.
Plant hit Benavidez with a low blow that caused a brief break in the action just eight seconds into the ninth round. Bayless warned Plant for his foul.
Plant attempted to tie up Benavidez about a minute into the eighth round, but Benavidez broke free and blasted him with a right hand. Benavidez rocked Plant again with a right hand that connected with just over 1:10 on the clock in the eighth round.
Bayless called for a ringside physician to examine Plant’s cut above his right eye with 48 seconds on the clock in the eighth round. Plant continuously tried to hold him
A left hook by Benavidez appeared to buzz Plant in the final minute of the seventh round. Plant traded with Benavidez later in the seventh round, though.
Plant countered Benavidez with a right hand at the halfway point of the seventh round. Benavidez’s left hook made Plant move backward with a little more than two minutes remaining in the seventh round.
Benavidez’s right landed to the side of Plant’s head with 30 seconds to go in the sixth round. Benavidez later landed a right hand that made Plant hold him with just under 10 seconds on the clock in the sixth round.
Plant slipped two of Benavidez’s punches, a left and a right, after the midway mark of the sixth round. Benavidez countered Plant with a left hook in an exchange early in the sixth round.
Benavidez backed Plant into Benavidez’s corner and landed a left hook as Plant tried to spin out of it with just under 1:20 to go in the fifth round. Plant slipped several of Benavidez’s punches and then tied him up a little more than a minute into the fifth round.
Bayless warned Benavidez yet again for an elbow toward the end of the fourth round. They traded left hooks with about 15 seconds to go in the fourth round, which made Plant move away from Benavidez.
Benavidez’s left hook connected just after the halfway mark of the fourth round. A counter left hook by Plant knocked Benavidez backward a little less than 40 seconds into the fourth round.
Benavidez landed a right hand as Plant attempted to elude him with approximately 15 seconds on the clock in the third round. Benavidez pressured Plant throughout the third round, but Plant’s left hand knocked Benavidez off balance with just over 40 seconds to go in it.
Plant moved and tried to tie up Benavidez in the opening minute of the third round.
Plant boxed well during the second round, but he drew boos from the pro-Benavidez crowd for initiating a clinch with 30 seconds remaining in it.
Plant landed a left-right combination to Benavidez’s body just before the halfway point of the second round. Plant threw a combination at Benavidez’s head and body 15 seconds into the second round.
Plant stood his ground at times during the first round. He mostly threw jabs at Benavidez in the opening three minutes, though.
Benavidez drew a warning from Bayless for shoving Plant while Bayless broke them from a clinch just after the midway mark of the first round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.
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