Let’s get this out of the way; David Benavidez vs. Jose Uzcategui is not a good matchup, and Benavidez deserves a significant fight.
At the very least, this bout should have taken place this fall, which would have allowed the undefeated Benavidez (26-0, 23 KOs), a two-time super middleweight world champion and one of the most exciting, rugged fighters the sport has to offer, a potential third fight of the year.
Par the course for boxing in this era, none of those things ever transpired. Inactivity has become the norm in this sport, to the chagrin of fans worldwide. As a result, Benavidez-Uzcategui, which was already twice postponed, once for COVID and again after Uzcategui tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance, will be pushed into 2023, meaning Benavidez, a rising star, will have fought just once this year.
The Phoenix-based Benavidez sent former middleweight titleholder David Lemieux into retirement in a third-round stoppage in May at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. Benavidez, who hails from nearby Phoenix, dropped Lemieux in the second round and continued to pummel him until his corner stopped the fight. Lemieux landed one good shot the entire night—a short left hook—in the early moments. But other than that, it was a wash. And Benavidez will spend the rest of the year inactive, which could prove to be a risky play.
But don’t get it twisted. Benavidez will blow through Uzcategui, a former world champion well past his prime, just like he did Lemieux. According to ESPN, the pair are finalizing a deal for a bout in January.
The problem with having long stretches of inactivity is the passage of time. And with time, particularly after October, come holiday traditions. We have Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. And if they get really lazy, they’ll be at my house celebrating Cambodian New Year’s. Benavidez is 25-years-of-age; he’s a big super middleweight, and he will likely move up to 175 pounds sooner than later. He’s a growing man and has had trouble making 168 pounds in previous bouts.
In August 2020, he was stripped of his WBC title after failing to make weight against Roamer Alexis Angulo. In that instance, Benavidez was returning from a nearly 11-month layoff, and COVID-19 played a massive factor in the discrepancy between fights. Nonetheless, it’s your body and your job to stay in shape.
But take a moment, close your eyes, and think deeply as if you were in Benavidez’s shoes. Is it easy to get motivated for a fight that does little to nothing for your career advancement? Probably not. But this is what is asked of our fighters daily.
The same can be said about a sports journalist penning a piece about a terrible college basketball game when they know they were worthy enough to be selected to cover the Philadelphia Phillies’ journey in the MLB playoffs. Do you think that writer will pour his entire vocabulary arsenal into that college basketball piece?
Do we get as much flack as fighters for being off our game?
Not even close.
Like that sports writer, Benavidez knows he’s ready for a step up and is tired of waiting. “I feel like if [Canelo Alvarez is] not gonna fight me anymore, then what is going on because I have the WBC interim belt,” Benavidez questioned in a September interview with FightHype. “There’s rankings for a reason. So I don’t know who will have to figure that out; Canelo’s going to figure that out, or the WBC will figure that out, but I’ve earned my spot repeatedly. I’ve won two title eliminators; I won an interim title belt. It’s not my fuckin’ fault these guys don’t want to fight me.
“I’m trying to make the fight with Caleb Plant; I’m trying to make the fight with fuckin’ [David] Morrell, [Jermall] Charlo. I thought we were gonna make the fight with Morrell in November, December; now they’re saying he has to take a mandatory — which is fuckin’ bullshit because if they wanted to fight me, PBC would’ve made the fight right there. I feel like everybody wins right there.
“It’s a great fight. I’m not saying nothing bad about Morrell, he’s a great fighter, but I feel like I’m the superior fighter. And Charlo, everybody knows what’s fuckin’ going on with Charlo… It’s just a little frustrating because I feel like I get blamed a lot because they feel like I’m the one not making the fight happen, but I’m 100% trying to make every fight happen. If it’s not Canelo not giving me an opportunity, if it’s not Charlo giving me an opportunity, or Caleb Plant — it’s just frustrating.
“I’ve been professional now ten years…I want a fuckin’ big fight. I want a tough fight where everything is evened out; it’s 50/50. Because I’ve worked with world champions since I was a little kid. I sparred world champions my whole life, and I know what type of fighter gets brought out of me when the competition is either the same level as me, or the talent is higher than me — the best out of me comes out. That’s why I’m not scared of no man; I’ll accept any challenge. And these fights, let’s be honest, these fights are all 50/50. Nothing is guaranteed, but I want the challenge.
“I feel like the company (PBC), we’re making each other look fuckin’ stupid because nobody is fighting each other, and everybody wants to take a fuckin’ tune-up, this and that. Caleb Plant is talking all that shit, saying, ‘they’re calling me out, but they already knew I had a fight signed with Anthony Dirrell’ — that’s fuckin’ bullshit. When I fought [on] May 21st, he did not have no fight lined up. I told him I wanted to fight him; we could’ve made that fight happen. So what is he saying, ‘oh, he only calls me out when I have a fight lined up’? That’s fuckin’ bullshit, bro.”
168 is not a very deep division as it is, but when one company controls nearly all of the competition in the weight class, not making these fights happen is pretty inexcusable. But as I pointed out in a prior piece, a possible solution to the inactivity conflict, which has plagued boxing for far too long, is to get these popular fighters into the ring more often for slightly less money per fight against lesser competition.
That means Benavidez could get a stay-busy fight or two and the Morrell/Plant bouts all in one year — if common sense prevails. The silver lining for Benavidez is that he’s still young. Impatient (for a good reason), but young. And he is more than worthy of that payday.