David Benavidez Q&A: ‘The stakes are even higher’
By Ian Aldous: After creating history last year and becoming the youngest super-middleweight champion of all-time, WBC belt holder, David Benavidez (19-0) will rematch Ronald Gavril (18-2) on Saturday February 17th, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, live on Showtime. Benavidez will look to win, in his opinion, even more decisively this time, following his split-decision win over Gavril back in September. Last week, David took some time to chat with me over the phone during a Saturday training session.
IA: First of all, congratulations on becoming the youngest super-middleweight world champion in history, and Happy New Year!
DB: Thank you very much, Happy New Year to you as well.
IA: You’ll be defending your newly-won championship on February 17th against the man you defeated to win it – Ronald Gavril. Was the rematch something you strongly wanted?
DB: Yeah, you know, of course it was something I wanted. It was a great fight and some people thought that the decision should have (gone) to Gavril. I thought I won the fight easy and clearly. I just want to do the rematch and run it back just to let everybody know that I’m the WBC champ and the youngest world champion for a reason. Now, how things are playing out, it’s playing out even better with it being at the Mandalay Bay on the undercard of Danny Garcia and Brandon Rios. It’s a bigger stage – the stakes are even higher.
IA: Are you expecting him to be even better this time?
DB: I’m expecting him to be at 100% like how he was last time. Like I said, it’s a very big fight, a very important fight and I’m expecting him to be as good as he was (in) the first fight. So, I’m doing the same, I’m training the same to be even better than I was (in) the first fight.
IA: Were you surprised that he was able to go twelve rounds with you, and how did it feel completing twelve rounds for the first time as a pro?
DB: It wasn’t really surprising. I expected him to be on top of his game and that’s exactly what we got. But, as for going the twelve rounds – it was a different type of experience for me. I feel like I worked on a lot of things that was good and going the twelve rounds is another experience, pushing yourself for that much more rounds. It was a great fight. I expected nothing less than greatness from the fight and that’s what we got.
IA: You’d stopped seventeen of your eighteen opponents before the Gavril fight. Was it at all frustrating for you during the fight that you couldn’t knock him out, because you’re so used to knocking guys out?
DB: It wasn’t frustrating, it was just a little bit more work that we did. I’m comfortable going that many rounds if it’s needed. I felt like I didn’t do as many things as I should’ve done in the first fight now that I’ve looked over the tape. There’s a lot of things that I should have set-up a little bit more. That’s exactly what we’re training for in this fight. So, I feel like things are gonna go way different (in) the second fight than the first.
IA: What was going through your mind when Gavril managed to knock you down in the final round? Did you feel at all buzzed?
DB: It was more of an off-balance shot. I was dominating the eleventh and the twelfth until the second I got dropped. I was just trying to close out the show and it would have meant a lot to me if I would have got the knockout in the twelfth round. So, I was really just trying to close the show. I learned a lot from that, you know, because you can’t leave yourself open at all, especially in final moments like that, so it was a learning experience for me as well.
IA: You thought you’d clearly won the fight, what was going through your mind when you heard it was a split decision?
DB: The only thing that was going through my mind is that it was a TMT card, Floyd Mayweather was there and it (Gavril) was his fighter, obviously. I thought I won the fight easy, but especially the knockdown made it a little more like ‘damn, they might take this from me’. You know, it was a close fight, but I felt like I won. As soon as I heard them call ‘from Phoenix, Arizona’, it was an amazing thing to hear.
IA: Now you’ve added Alex Ariza to your training camp. Tell me a little about what he brings to your fight preparation?
DB: Alex Ariza has been training with the best – Diego Corrales, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather. So, obviously we wanted a guy that does things a little bit outside of our norm that we’re not used to doing. He’s a really intense guy and he brings a lot to the table with bringing a lot of workouts we’ve never seen before. I’ve been working with him for a month already, I see a lot of changes in my stamina and overall in everything. I feel like it was a really smart move to bring him in with us.
IA: Caleb Truax recently shocked the world when he took James DeGale’s IBF 168lbs title. What did you make of his performance?
DB: I was watching that fight very closely, you know. That was a fight (against DeGale) that I really wanted a lot. He was talking a lot. That fight was set-up after he defended it with Truax, so I was watching it very closely. He ended up getting beat up really bad. I would have loved to fight James DeGale in England, so I was kind of disappointed that Truax took his title away.
IA: You had an agreement to fight DeGale next, was that the case?
DB: We didn’t have agreements, but he had talked to Al Haymon. If he wanted to make the fight happen and we wanted to make the fight happen – we would have made it happen, easy. We were just taking care of our fights first.
IA: Have you been watching the World Boxing Super Series tournament?
DB: I’ve been paying close attention to that as well. I’m looking forward to seeing the winner of Eubank Jr. and Groves, that’s gonna be a great fight. I’m just excited to be right here in this division with these great fighters. Hopefully I can get a chance to fight them maybe at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. I feel like there’s a lot of great fighters who can bring the best out of me. I’m very excited and looking forward to that as well.
Benavidez vs. Gavril 2 for the WBC super-middleweight world championship will serve as co-main event for Danny Garcia vs. Brandon Rios, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Premier Boxing Champions broadcast will be live at 9pm ET on Showtime in the U.S. Tickets are available at axs.com