By Lem Satterfield
Unbeaten former 168-pound champion David Benavidez could return in March from a six-month suspension for a positive drug test of benzoylecgonine -- a main ingredient for cocaine. The 21-year-old has also been declared “Champion in recess,” effectively stripped of his WBC crown, according to his promoter, Sampson Lewkowicz.
Once the youngest world champion in division history, Benavidez’s positive test resulted from an examination conducted in late August by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) as part of the WBC’s Clean Boxing initiative.
ESPN.com originally reported the update.
“I would like to sincerely apologize to the WBC for my actions,” Benavidez wrote on his Twitter account after the mid-September discovery. “I am embarrassed to have this happen and to my all my fans that I lost the respect of.I know a lot of people won’t see me the same, but I am young, and it was a mistake on my behalf.”
Benavidez was declared “Champion in recess” at last month’s WBC convention, where former champion Anthony Dirrell (32-1-1, 24 KOs) was ordered into a vacant title fight against Avni Yildirim (21-1, 12 KOs).
The rulings allow Benavidez (20-0, 17 KOs) to challenge the winner between Dirrell and Yildirum after his suspension ends on February 27, Lewkowicz said.
“As Champion in recess, the minute that David wants to challenge the champion, he must be given the opportunity,” said Lewkowicz to BoxingScene.com.
“After his 10-rounder, David will challenge winner between Dirrell and [Yildirum.] David is not an addict. He was embarrassed, realizes he has made a mistake, and he will learn from it.”
A switch-hitting 6-foot-2 native of Phoenix, Arizona, Benavidez had been mandated for a September 2017 defense Dirrell, but the ex-champion pulled out due to a back injury.
Instead, a 20-year-old Benavidez earned a split-decision over replacement Ronald Gavril, overcoming an injured middle left knuckle and a final round knockdown to become the youngest world champion in division history and the sport’s youngest titleholder at the time.
Not only did Benavidez end Gavril’s seven-fight winning streak (five by KO), but he surpassed 22-year-old Darrin Van Horn’s accomplishment in May 1991, and won his February return bout with Gavril by near shutout unanimous decision.
Trained by his father, Jose Benavidez Sr., Benavidez debuted professionally at age 16 in Mexico in August 2013, going 7-0 with all knockouts south of the border before competing in his hometown three days after turning 18.
Prior to Gavril, Benavidez scored a three-knockdown, eighth-round TKO of former title challenger Rogelio Medina in May 2017, representing his 10th straight stoppage and his 17th in 18 victories, including 13 inside of two rounds.