Former two-time WBC super-middleweight champion David Benavidez (26-0, 23 KOs) proved to be too much for former IBF 160-lb champion David Lemieux (43-5, 36 KOs), battering him for two rounds before his corner pulled the plug on the third round on Saturday night in their fight for the vacant WBC interim 168-lb title at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
Benavidez had Lemieux on the brink of being stopped in the final seconds of the first round when he unleashed a storm of punches to the head of the Canadian. If not for the bell sounding, Lemieux would have been finished.
Lemieux was knocked down in the second round after Benavidez landed two crushing shots. To his credit, Lemieux fought hard after he got back up, and Benavidez was wary about trying to finish him with the way he was swinging wildly with homerun intentions.
In the third round, Lemieux’s corner had seen enough and had the mismatch stopped. Benavidez was too much for Lemieux, who is clearly not designed to fight at 168.
Benavidez won the interim WBC 168-lb title tonight, which in theory should help him get a title shot against WBC champion Canelo Alvarez. However, the Mexican superstar can’t be forced to fight anybody, and it doesn’t matter that Benavidez has him boxed in.
If Canelo doesn’t want to fight Benavidez for whatever reason, he won’t, and it’s unlikely the World Boxing Council will choose to strip the superstar or even dare order the fight.
They tried that once when Gennadiy Golovkin was Canelo’s mandatory for his WBC middleweight title in 2016, and he vacated the belt rather than be forced to fight someone that he didn’t wish to at the time.
“You’ve got to give all the credit to Canelo in the division. He’s the undisputed champion,” said Stephen Espinoza of Showtime to Fighthype.
“There are two guys in the [168-lb] division right now. There’s the undisputed champion [Canelo], and the head & shoulders #1 contender is David Benavidez,” Espinoza continued.
“That’s nothing against Plant and nothing against Charlo if he moves up. I think those are great fights, and who knows who wins. Right now, on paper, you’ve got 1 and 1A [Canelo and Benavidez]. Those are the two guys that are the kind of the division.
“Obviously, everybody wants the Canelo fight, but Canelo has a lot of choices and a lot of options. So if that’s not going to happen, I don’t see David [Benavidez], or Caleb, or Jermall; they’re not going to sit around waiting.
“You never know if you’re going to get the Canelo fight, so you’ve got to take the biggest fights. If you hear David [Benavidez] talk, that’s what he says. Jermall tried to get a big fight with Munguia, and he tried to get a big fight with Canelo.
“They’re all trying to get big fights. So take Canelo out of the mix; I think you see David get a really big fight before the end of the year. I think all the PBC guys are makable [fights].
“Whether Plant wants an interim fight or not or Jermall wants a fight at 168 to get [acclimated]. They’re all doable fights. The division is pretty top-heavy.
“There are five or six guys that are the cream of the crop. Beyond that, you’re going to have to see each other. To make a big fight in the division, there’s only a handful of guys to do that,” said Espinoza.