Tuesday, July 23, 2024

David Benavidez picks up unanimous decision over Oleksandr Gvozdyk in debut at light heavyweight

For those wondering what David Benavidez would look like after moving from super middleweight to light heavyweight, the answer was mostly the same. Benavidez worked his way to an unanimous decision against former world champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk on the undercard of Gervonta “Tank” Davis vs. Frank Martin to become interim WBC champion.

From the opening moments of the fight, Benavidez made his intentions clear: he was going to go to the body of Gvozdyk early and often. In addition, Benavidez was ready to stay on the front foot, pushing Gvozdyk backward with pressure and volume punching.

Gvozdyk tried to counter Benavidez’s pressure by popping out a constant flow of jabs but without power shots to dissuade Benavidez from his gameplan, but the jabs weren’t able to change the course of the fight.

By Round 4, Benavidez was landing effectively with power shots to the head in addition to the constant flow of body shots. With a more than two-to-one advantage in landed power shots, Benavidez seemed to need to stay the course and force Gvozdyk to prove he could continue eating clean punches and figure out a way to change the tide.

When Gvozdyk did find success with a punch or two, Benavidez responded with heavy flurries that immediately regained the momentum and forced Gvozdyk right back on the defensive. Not to be lost in the sparkling offensive showcase, Benavidez showed fantastic defense, mixing in head movement with consistent parrying of Gvozdyk’s punches with his gloves.

After 12 rounds Benavidez scored the unanimous decision victory by scores of 116-112, 117-111 and 119-109 to become WBC interim light heavyweight champion.

To Gvozdyk’s credit, he handled the clean shots of Benavidez well and continued to try to find spots to impose his own will on Benavidez. For those looking for a reason to criticize Benavidez, the lack of shots that seemed to hurt, or even bother, Gvozdyk will stand out. And that will always concern a fighter moving up in weight. Benavidez also appeared tired uncharacteristically down the stretch, possibly a product of having moved up to 175 pounds, though he was draining himself to make the 168-pound super middleweight limit. Those factors led to Gvozdyk having a claim to winning a few rounds.

Defenders will point to Benavidez’s sharp defense with head movement and use of his gloves to parry incoming punches for the majority of the fight as reasons for optimism for a light heavyweight career for the two-time former super middleweight champion.

In a division controlled by Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol, two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, the jury remains out on Benavidez’s ceiling. A win is a win, however, and Benavidez is once again in position to challenge for a world championship.

“I think it’s a seven out of 10, honestly,” Benavidez said of his performance while also citing injuries in training camp for his performance. “It was a great fight and a great fighter. We move on. … I think it was because I was trying to get the feel for the light heavyweight division. These guys hit a lot harder.”

Benavidez moved up a division after it was clear undisputed super middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez had little interest in facing him, despite Benavidez being the WBC mandatory challenger. Benavidez’s first title reign ended when he was stripped after testing positive for cocaine, the second ended when he missed weight.

Those two situations cleared the way for Alvarez to go undisputed without fighting the consensus best opponent in the division. Despite the successful move to light heavyweight, Benavidez said he wasn’t abandoning his goal of facing Alvarez.

“We’re still looking to go to 168 for the title,” Benavidez said. “Whether that’s Canelo or they vacate it, we’d like to win it one more time. I want to fight in both divisions.”

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