Unbeaten former 168-pound world champion David Benavidez (21-0, 18 KOs) dominated J’Leon Love (24-3-1, 13 KOs) to earn a second-round stoppage in their super middleweight matchup.
“It’s a dream come true to fight on this stage in front of these fans,” said Benavidez. “These fans give me the motivation to get up every day and go the extra mile.”
From the opening bell Love sought to crowd the taller Benavidez, but the 22-year-old Benavidez quickly made him pay, landing a powerful left hook that stunned Love. Love was able to last the round, but took more powerful hooks from Benavidez before the bell.
“I expected to knock him out, but when I hit him with the first god shot, I knew he wasn’t going to last,” said Benavidez. “I tried to pace myself, but it wasn’t necessary tonight.”
Benavidez wasted little time in the second round, delivering power shots that put Love on the run. Benavidez caught Love with a clean combo on the ropes that stunned Love and forced referee Laurence Cole to jump in and stop the bout 1:14 into round two, as Benavidez began to throw furious combos.
“He was getting his shots off, but I don’t think I was taking too much punishment,” said Love. “I wasn’t out of the game completely but he did catch me with a couple good shots.”
After the bout, Benavidez set his sights on WBC Super Middleweight Champion Anthony Dirrell, who was in attendance at the fight.
“I saw Anthony Dirrell with the WBC belt. He can’t call himself champion until he fights me. That’s my belt. I’m going to go get it. It’s mine.”
Nery beats Arroyo
Additional action featured former bantamweight champion Luis Nery (29-0, 23 KOs) knock down former champion McJoe Arroyo (18-3, 8 KOs) four times on his way to a fifth-round victory by stoppage in his U.S. debut.
“We’re two great fighters who were here to put on a show,” said Nery. “That’s what you have to expect from fighters of our caliber. I’m happy to start on the right foot here in my U.S. debut and show everyone I’m still the best at bantamweight.”
Nery stalked Arroyo from the opening bell, throwing big power shots that forced his opponent to fight off his back foot. With 45 seconds left in round two, Nery scored his first knockdown with a left that stunned him and follow-up combination that put Arroyo on the canvas.
Arroyo was unable to keep the hard-charging Nery from coming forward and again hit the mat late in round three, as a wide left hook hurt Arroyo before he was put down from a flurry that followed. The trouble continued for Arroyo in round four, as he was knocked down twice more in the final minute of the round.
“I never felt like I was dazed or anything, they were just hard punches,” said Arroyo. “I went down but got right back up. If it were up to me I’d have kept going. I have to give respect to my opponent for his performance. This isn’t the end of my career. I’ve seen him fight before but I was surprised by his power. It was his night tonight.”
After the fourth round, Arroyo’s corner stopped the bout, making the official stoppage 10 seconds into round five. Nery dominated the bout, out landing Arroyo 87 to 36, while landing 44 percent of his power punches.
“We’re going to train hard and hopefully by June, we’ll have the belt back,” said Nery. “I want to win back my belt, then unify the division.”