David Benavidez is a long way from the young boy who used to hang out at Central Boxing Gym in downtown Phoenix, watching his older brother train for fights as José Benavidez Jr.’s boxing career began to take off.
David, now 24, is the athlete Valley youngsters hoping to become professional boxers look up to these days. He’s the current standard bearer for fighters from greater Phoenix, a two-time World Boxing Council super middleweight champion who is undefeated at 24-0 with 21 knockouts.
On Aug. 28, Benavidez, nicknamed “El Bandera Roja,” comes home for the opportunity to take one big step toward regaining the belt. As the No. 1 contender in the WBC’s rankings for the super middleweight (168-pound) title, he faces Venezuela’s José Uzcategui (31-4) in Phoenix at Footprint Center as the main event of Showtime’s Premier Boxing Champions night.
“I’m very motivated, not only because I’m fighting a great ex-world champion, but because I’m fighting in Phoenix, Arizona as well,” Benavidez said on Tuesday from training in North Hollywood, Calif. “I’m preparing well. Feeling great, feeling fast, feeling strong and I can’t wait to get this fight going.”
Uzcategui and Benavidez have similar styles. That should make for a both fighters going toe-to-toe in the ring and not dancing or avoiding each other.
“I know what I’m facing,” Uzcategui said in Spanish. “This fight was talked about back when we were both champions. It didn’t happen then but it’s happening now. A lot of fighters run and don’t want to get in there with Benavídez, but we stepped up.”
“There’s a hard warrior in front of me. He says it’s going to be the best fight of his career and I feel like it’s going to be the same for me,” Benavidez said. “I think the ones who are really going to win are the fans. I wouldn’t doubt that this is one of the best fights of the year.”
José Benavidez (27-1) will also be on the card, fighting Francisco Emanuel Torres of Argentina in a super welterweight bout. Carlos Castro, another Phoenix product, is fighting as well.
Once a rising star in the lighter weights, the elder Benavidez is fighting for the first time since a TKO loss to Terence Crawford for Crawford’s WBO World welterweight title in October of 2018.
David wore a T-shirt with his brother’s likeness on it while on video conference.
“Having my brother return, he’s going to be co-main event, is a very big deal for me and my family. All the work we’ve been putting in for a long time. I have 20 years boxing, my brother has 23 years boxing,” Benavidez said. “We’ve been working hard our whole lives in boxing and it’s paying off. I’m really proud of my brother and I and the work we’ve done.”
The brothers fought at Footprint Center, then called US Airways Center, in 2015. Both were victorious in front of a good crowd.
This time, David’s career — with a couple of speedbumps along the way, including not making weight before a fight and having the title taken away — has him ever closer to a longed-for bout against whom many in the sport regard as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez of Mexico.
But Benavidez isn’t looking past Uzcategui, a former sparring partner, and in fact feels a fight with Alvarez would be difficult to set up if he wins on Aug. 28.
A fight with another top competitor in his weight class, Caleb Plant, is more likely. Which Uzcatequi could steal away if stuns Benavidez in front of the hometown crowd.
“I think the fight with Canelo would be more complicated to make,” Benavidez said in Spanish. “Right now what he’s trying to do is unify titles or win titles at 168 or go up to 175 pounds. I don’t have a belt so it’s a risk for him.”
Benavidez and Uzcategui spent their time speaking to media members on Tuesday being respectful of one another’s ability, choosing confidence in themselves rather than opponent-bashing.
“David, I think, has the highest ceiling of the fighters in Phoenix right now. He and his brother have been on local boxing fans’ radars since the amateurs. They’ve both contributed a lot to the community here,” said Emily Pandelakis, a longtime family friend and public relations manager for the Benavidez brothers.