Jose Benavidez Jr. ended his three-year layoff before his hometown fans Saturday night, but he struggled against a huge underdog and settled for a majority draw.
The former welterweight contender tried his best to shed obvious ring rust, but Emanuel Torres troubled Benavidez with his jab, movement and defensive ability at times in their 10-round middleweight match at Footprint Center in Phoenix. One judge, Rocky Taylor, scored Benavidez a 96-95 winner, but judges Dennis O’Connell and Chris Wilson scored the fight a draw, 95-95 apiece.
Argentina’s Torres won the 10th round on all three scorecards to earn a majority draw in hostile territory. Steve Farhood, Showtime’s unofficial scorer, credited Torres with a 97-93 win.
The 29-year-old Benavidez (27-1-1, 18 KOs) didn’t throw nearly as many punches as Torres, but he disputed the decision during his post-fight interview with Showtime’s Jim Gray.
“I mean, I beat him every round,” said Benavidez, who went off as a 16-1 favorite, according to DraftKings. “He was just running. I don’t know how I got a draw. We can run it back. I mean, he kept running the whole fight. I was landing more punches. He wasn’t really landing anything on me. I mean, what can I do? … I beat him. I beat him. I thought I beat him. He kept running. He didn’t wanna stay in the pocket. He wasn’t hitting me with anything hard, but like I said, I can’t really [understand] the judges’ decision.”
CompuBox credited Torres for landing 13 more punches overall (135-of-612 to 122-of-375). According to CompuBox, Torres landed more power punches (107-of-334 to 97-of-285) and jabs (28-of-278 to 25-of-90).
Torres (17-3-1, 5 KOs) told Gray he thinks he won the fight, especially since the crowd cheered when he spoke after ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. revealed the official decision.
Showtime televised Benavidez’s bout as the opener of a doubleheader that’ll feature Benavidez’s younger brother, former WBC super middleweight champion David Benavidez, in the 12-round main event against Kyrone Davis.
Prior to Saturday night, Benavidez hadn’t boxed since undefeated three-division champion Terence Crawford stopped him in the 12th round of their fight for Crawford’s WBO welterweight title in October 2018 at CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska, Crawford’s hometown. He didn’t at all resemble the fighter that tested Crawford in a bout that was contested within the middleweight division, at a contracted maximum of 159 pounds.
Torres caught Benavidez with a right uppercut about 30 seconds into the 10th round. Torres landed another right hand off a break a few seconds later, which caused Benavidez to complain to referee Chris Flores.
Benavidez pursued Torres for much of the remainder of the final round, but he struggled to land flush punches on his elusive opponent.
About 30 seconds into the ninth round, Benavidez’s right hand snapped back Torres’ head. Torres connected with a counter right hand with just over two minutes on the clock in the ninth round.
Benavidez’s left landed inside with about a minute to go in the ninth round. Torres kept boxing off his back foot in that round and worked off his jab.
A lunging left hook by Benavidez backed Torres into a corner with just over five seconds to go in the eighth round. Benavidez landed another short left before the bell sounded to end that eighth round as well.
An aggressive Benavidez attacked Torres at the start of the seventh round, but Torres slipped and blocked many of Benavidez’s attempts.
A looping right hand by Benavidez landed with just under 50 seconds on the clock in the seventh round. Torres backed up Benavidez with a right hand of his own several seconds later.
Benavidez switched to a southpaw stance about a minute into the sixth round, yet quickly returned to an orthodox stance. A right hand by Benavidez landed with 1:20 to go in the sixth round.
Torres’ right landed flush with just under 30 seconds remaining in the sixth round. Benavidez did his best work to Torres’ body during the sixth round.
Benavidez blasted Torres with a right hand barely 20 seconds into the fifth round. Torres countered with a right a few seconds later and quickly moved away from Benavidez.
Benavidez’s short left hook landed with about 20 seconds to go in the fifth round.
Flores warned Benavidez for low blows about 45 seconds into the fourth round. Torres was the busier, more accurate fighter during the fourth round, when Benavidez had difficulty landing clean punches.
Two left hands by Benavidez snapped Torres’ head back when he was against the ropes with about 1:20 to go in the third round. Torres connected with a straight right hand, but that shot had little effect on Benavidez with just over 10 seconds on the clock in the third round.
Benavidez landed a right hand to the side of Torres’ head just after the halfway point of the second round. The aggressor also continued to attack Torres’ body during the second round.
Torres took the fight to Benavidez as soon as the opening bell rang and landed several hard right hands in the first half of the first round. Benavidez reacted slowly to many of the power punches Torres threw, though he didn’t appear hurt by any of those shots.
Benavidez also landed two effective lefts to Torres’ body in the first round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.