Teddy Atlas says Canelo must fight Benavidez to be “true King at 168”

By Will Arons - 05/23/2022 - Comments

Teddy Atlas says Canelo Alvarez must fight David Benavidez if he wants to be the King of the 168-lb division.

It’s fair to say that Canelo isn’t viewed as the King of the 168-lb division despite him holding all four belts in the weight class.

Benavidez has arguably always been viewed as the #1 fighter at 168 by knowledgable fans. Canelo is the more popular marketable fighter but not the #1 king of the division.

Is Canelo avoiding Benavidez?

Thus far, Canelo has chosen not to face the former two-time WBC super-middleweight champion Benavidez (26-0, 23 KOs), and many boxing fans are starting to believe the superstar is afraid of the younger fighter.

Benavidez lost his WBC 168-lb title on the scales when he came in over the limit at 170 3/4 pounds for his title defense against Roamer Alexis Angulo in August 2020.

Not long after that, Canelo captured the vacant WBC 168-lb strap with a win over Callum Smith in December 2020.

Some boxing fans believe Canelo would have never dared fight for the WBC title if it were still held by Benavidez, as he’d shown no interest in fighting for that belt while he held it from 2017 to 2020.

Canelo (57-2-2, 39 KOs) is still the undisputed champion at super middleweight despite his recent loss to WBA 175-lb champ Dmitry Bivol.

Last weekend, Benavidez captured the interim WBC super-middleweight title with a third-round knockout win over David Lemieux (43-5, 36 KOs) at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

This was a move that Benavidez took as a way of forcing Canelo to fight him. However, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman reportedly said that Canelo is the “franchise champion,” and he doesn’t have to defend.

In other words, it doesn’t matter if Benavidez is the interim WBC champion at 168; it doesn’t help his situation that he’s the mandatory challenger for the belt. He can’t force Canelo to fight him.

Benavidez’s promoter rules out Canelo fight

“He will not take a step ahead to fight the real champion, the champion of the people,” said Benavidez’s promoter Sampson Lewkowicz last Saturday night about Canelo not being willing to fight David. “Let’s not talk anymore about Canelo. It doesn’t exist.

“He looked so bad [against WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol] that I don’t think he can come back. Maybe he can take it as a 40-year-old man. Besides that, he will not do nothing else,” said Lewkowicz.

According to Canelo’s promoter Eddie Hearn, his two likely options for his next fight in September are a rematch with WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol or a trilogy match against Gennadiy Golovkin.

Hearn prefers Canelo fight Golovkin in September and then Bivol next May on the Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend. This December, Canelo will likely defend against his WBA mandatory challenger John Ryder in London, England.

YouTube video