By Sean Jones: David Benavidez fights former IBF 168-lb champion Jose Uzcategui in a WBC super middleweight title eliminator on August 28th on Showtime. The winner of the Benavidez – Uzcategui fight will be mandatory for WBC champion Canelo Alvarez.
Boxing fans on social media are less than thrilled at the idea of the two-time former WBC Benavidez fighting Uzcategui rather than one of the contenders like Edgar Berlanga.
Uzcategui has lost two out of his last four fights since 2019, and he’s not ranked in the top 15 by the WBC. It’s unclear why the WBC picked Uzcategui for Benavidez to fight rather than a ranked top 15 contender. In 2019, Uzcategui lost his IBF 168lb title to Caleb Plant by a 12 round decision.
Uzcategui’s best wins:
- Andre Dirrell
- Julius Jackson
- Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna
Normally, this would be an excellent way for the 24-year-old Benavidez to force Canelo to fight him by beating Uzcategui (30-4, 25 KOs) to become the WBC mandatory.
Unfortunately for Benavidez, Canelo is also the Franchise champion with the WBC at 160, and that tag allows him to bypass any mandatories, no matter what weight class he’s in.
The World Boxing Council’s Franchise tag gives any champion that holds it carte blanche to ignore their mandatory challengers. We’ll have to see what move the WBC makes if Canelo chooses to ignore Benavidez if he beats Uzcategui to become mandatory.
Although it was a good sign recently that Canelo chose to defend his WBC 168-lb title against his mandatory Avni Yildirim, the fact that he was a dreadfully poor opponent takes away the credit that one would give to the Mexican star.
Yildirim was Canelo’s old sparring partner, who hadn’t fought in two years and was coming off a loss to former Benavidez victim Anthony Dirrell.
If Benavidez becomes Canelo’s mandatory, it might be a different story in which the Mexican superstar may use his Franchise tag to avoid him.
In that case, the WBC will likely elevate Benavidez to the full WBC 168-lb champion status, but Canelo would still be the Franchise champion.
In other words, it would mess that we see at 135 with Teofimo Alvarez holding the WBC Franchise lightweight title and Devin Haney the WBC title.
Having two champions at 135 devalues Haney’s WBC belt, and we could see the same thing at 168 if Canelo refuses to fight Benavidez after being ordered by the WBC.
The WBC will probably take their time before ordering Canelo vs. Benavidez.
So even if Benavidez does become mandatory by beating Uzcategui, he’ll likely be waiting until 2022 or 2023 before the WBC finally orders Canelo to defend against him.
You can argue that Benavidez would be better off going the route to become mandatory for the IBF belt because he can at least be given the belt and Canelo stripped after he refuses to fight him.
So the real question is, ‘Why would Canelo choose not to fight Benavidez if he becomes his WBC mandatory?
The same reason Canelo chose not to fight IBF/WBC light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev after he beat the fading 36-year-old WBO 175-lb champ Sergey Kovalev in 2019.
Beterbiev would have been too risky for Canelo, so he dropped the WBO belt like a bad habit and departed from the light heavyweight division in light speed.
Since beating Ronald Gavril by an impressive 12 round decision in 2017 to capture the WBC 168-lb title at the young age of 20, Benavidez has slowly emerged as the #1 fighter in the upper middleweight division in the eyes of many boxing fans.
Although Canelo now holds two titles at 168, he’s still viewed as a fighter below Benavidez due to his lack of size and his unwillingness to fight him.
In a sign of how much Canelo respects Benavidez, he chose to fight for his WBC title only after being stripped of the belt when he failed to make weight for his title defense against Roamer Alexis Angulo last year in August 2020. Once Benavidez was stripped of the WBC title, then Canelo went after it.
Benavidez is coming off an 11th round knockout win over Ronald Ellis last March. Ellis took a lot of punishment before he finally folded.