Lineal and undisputed aren’t always the same thing but when they align one thing is certain in the weight class where they do: there is only one world champion for everyone to chase.
At super middleweight, that lineal and undisputed champion is Saul Alvarez.
Alvarez now has an undisputed number one challenger.
David Benavidez won big in a clash of former titlists with Caleb Plant on Saturday. The fight went the way a lot of folks thought it would, but in real time it was intriguing to watch. Plant probably won four of the first five rounds but once Benavidez started to find his offense it became a survival story.
Could Plant make it to the finish line?
Benavidez won the sixth big and after a close seventh never looked back. Rounds eight and ten were such violent exercises in the favor of Benavidez one could make the case for 10-8 frames without a knockdown. Plant’s corner threw out the possibility of stopping the fight between the tenth and eleventh and let Plant make the call on going out for the twelfth.
Plant fought hard with three minutes to go, again absorbing the bigger shots but punching and clutching his way to the final bell. The amount of holding in the fight by Plant drew catcalls from the Showtime announce crew, and referee Kenny Bayless could have done more to call it, but the bigger problem for Bayless was his ongoing penchant to break fighters too early. Benavidez got some good work done working the free hand in clinches but could have done more.
It didn’t matter in the end. Benavidez appeared to win at least eight rounds and looked like he had more in him at the end. He also now has more ahead of him.
Futures: Benavidez has been rated in nearly all media polls near the top of the super middleweight division for several years. Saturday’s win answered one of the only arguments against him: resume. Benavidez had some solid wins but his place was it was easy to argue his placement was a product of a lack of depth in the division. That argument doesn’t carry weight anymore.
By almost any measure, the consensus among fight followers and press is that Saturday matched the two best super middleweights outside the champ. Benavidez won. Benavidez is the number one challenger to Alvarez and he has now earned his right to challenge the purest way it can happen.
If and when Alvarez defeats John Ryder in May, the fight, the only fight, fans should accept at super middleweight is Alvarez-Benavidez. Will we get it?
Alvarez has continued to say he wants a second chance at light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol. Fair enough, but from a viewing perspective there was nothing about the first fight that should make that one a must. Alvarez-Bivol I was interesting but it wasn’t particularly thrilling and a rematch won’t be either.
Benavidez doesn’t make boring fights and would be every bit the threat to win. The thing to watch in the next week is if we see numbers for the Benavidez-Plant pay-per-view that Showtime or the PBC push for the public. A successful buy rate could be a step toward a fight. If the fight did a solid number, there is a case to be made it’s not just a better fight (in the ring), but that Alvarez-Benavidez would also be bigger than Bivol-Alvarez II.
If he doesn’t get Alvarez this year, Benavidez has Jermall Charlo and Demetrius Andrade (and some would say David Morrell, though Morrell probably still needs more seasoning still) under the PBC umbrella to keep his momentum going. None of those are guaranteed wins. They’re all guaranteed to be fights that only deepen a resume.
Super middleweight business could be picking up imminently.
Seinesa Estrada and Yokasta Valle both won Saturday and the strawweight division now has two titlists with two belts apiece. Estrada defeated the last woman to defeat Valle, Tina Rupprecht, to unify a pair of titles but Valle is a better fighter now and red hot. It’s one of the best fights possible in women’s boxing and given the unification fever in boxing these days, bet on it happening…Count this corner among those who think the Colbert-Valenzuela decision is among the worst, if not the worst, of the year so far. Valenzuela won 6-7 rounds of the fight with knockdown and had Colbert seriously hurt in at least four rounds. Preposterous decision, but also an entertaining fight where Colbert showed a lot of heart to survive to the end…Jose Ramirez says he’s ready to fight Regis Prograis after an exciting win over Richard Commey. He might be but is his team?
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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