MINNEAPOLIS – Ronnie Shields simply isn’t sure.
David Morrell Jr.’s respected veteran trainer believes in his talented boxer’s ability and potential. Shields also appreciates Morrell’s ambition, which led the unbeaten WBA world super middleweight champion to state Saturday night that fighting David Benavidez next would be “perfect.”
With just seven fights on his professional record, however, Shields realizes Benavidez would be a gigantic step up in competition for Morrell, who stopped a huge underdog, Kalvin Henderson, in the fourth round of their fight Saturday night at The Armory.
“I don’t know, to tell you the truth,” Shields told BoxingScene.com following Morrell’s impressive victory. “As the trainer, you know, my job is to assess everything I see that he does well and didn’t do so well. And then I’ll put that against what I think Benavidez is. If I like it, I’ll say, ‘OK, I’m good with it.’ If I don’t, then I’ll say, ‘Let’s hold off and wait.’ ”
The Cuban-born, Minneapolis-based Morrell (7-0, 6 KOs) has looked tremendous while knocking out Mike Gavronski, Mario Cazares, Alantez Fox and Henderson in his past four fights. But Benavidez (26-0, 23 KOs) is an elite-level super middleweight who has nearly four times as much professional experience as Morrell.
“It’s a huge fight,” said Shields, who also trains unbeaten WBC middleweight champ Jermall Charlo. “This kid wants to fight everybody, but sometimes you have to save fighters from themselves, you know, and take a better path, so that you don’t run into something that you’re not ready for. At the same time, let me tell you something, this kid, man, he wants to learn and he wants to beat everybody.
“But I just think that I’ll take a clear look at it. Right now, do I feel confident that he could beat Benavidez or Caleb Plant? I think he’d give them all a run for their money right now. But I feel when this kid is ready, then we do that. I don’t wanna rush him into something. He goes and beats Benavidez, then what? He’s not gonna get Canelo.”
Morrell told BoxingScene.com that he knows he isn’t on Alvarez’s “radar” because he is a high-risk, low-reward proposition for the Mexican superstar. The same rationale should apply to Benavidez, but Phoenix’s Benavidez mentioned Morrell as a potential opponent for his next fight after he stopped former IBF middleweight champ David Lemieux (43-5, 36 KOs) on May 21 at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
“Right now, you know, I think we’ve just gotta be real picky on who we fight and let this kid continue to grow,” Shields said. “He’s only 24 years old. He’s a baby, and I think we have to let him grow. And once he finishes growing, I’m willing to bet he’ll be a light heavyweight soon.”
The 6-foot-1 Morrell officially weighed in at 166.6 pounds, well beneath the super middleweight limit of 168, for his destruction of Henderson (15-2-1, 11 KOs).
“It’s unbelievable how this kid trains,” Shields said. “He loves it and that’s what you want. And I don’t wanna discourage him in any way. I don’t wanna put him in with something that maybe he’s not ready for. You know? It’s gonna be a wait-and-see thing. Of course, it ain’t gonna be my decision, but I do have input.
“But I realize in this game you can’t be macho. You have to be smart. That’s how guys, Floyd Mayweather, Holyfield, all these guys, made a lot of money – being smart, not just by trying to prove something. When you try to prove something, you might as well just throw craps. I’m not a craps shooter.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.