David Benavidez scored the biggest win of his career with a unanimous decision victory over arch-rival Caleb Plant Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Plant arguably won the first five rounds of the fight, but Benavidez rallied to dominate the second half of their super middleweight fight. The judges awarded Benavidez with scores of 115-113, 116-112, and 117-111 to keep is undefeated record intact. FightNights.com scored it 114-114, a draw.
Afterward, Benavidez called out undisputed champion Canelo Alvarez, who defends his title May 6 against mandatory challenger John Ryder.
"I have a lot of respect for Canelo Alvarez, but he has to give me that shot now," said Benavidez. "That's what everybody wants to see in September. I don't think he's trying to avoid me; I just believe he has a lot of options."
Plant, who lost his title to Alvarez via 11th-round stoppage in November 2021, controlled the first half of the fight behind his impressive jab and footwork. The 30-year-old, who trains out of Las Vegas, was able to keep to back up the larger, longer Benavidez consistently with the lead hand. The Phoenix, Arizona, native, however, continued to press forward.
Every time Benavidez (27-0, 23 KOs) was able to get Plant (22-2, 13 KOs) on the ropes, the former titleholder would either spin his way out of danger or clinch Benavidez. Referee Kenny Bayless allowed Plant to do so consistently without warning.
"Kenny Bayless is a helluva referee, but he didn't give Plant any warnings," Benavidez said. "I had to find a way to work around it."
Benavidez, a 26-year-old who fights out of Seattle, dominated down the stretch. He buckled Plant with a chopping right hand in the eighth round that sent him staggering into the ropes. However, Benavidez landed a headbutt that left Plant with a vertical gash in the middle of his forehead that bothered him for the remainder of the fight.
As Plant's punches no longer had the same snap from the early rounds, Benavidez took full control of the fight, mixing in body shots, jabs, and left hooks.
Benavidez had Plant holding on for dear life in the 10th round after connecting with a series of left hooks on the inside.
In round 11, Benavidez pushed for the knockout. Plant continued to take damage but never tasted the floor. Just as he did against Alvarez, the current undisputed super middleweight champion, Plant fought his heart out. This time, however, he saw the final bell.
"David's a helluva fighter," said Plant, who scored the 2022 KO of the Year with a ninth-round knockout of former titleholder Anthony Dirrell last October. "It's a big rivalry, but we got in here and settled it like men. I've got in there and I've rumbled with the best in the world; I haven't ducked anybody."
Plant added: "There's no excuse. David was the better man tonight."
Now, Benavidez will wait to see what happens between Alvarez and Ryder on May 6. "The Mexican Monster" may have to wait even longer, however, as WBA president Gilberto Mendoza has suggested for Benavidez to face mandatory David Morrell next, with the winner challenging the Canelo-Rydr victor. The idea has been widely criticized.
Benavidez has twice held a super middleweight title, and lost it twice without having lost in the ring.
He was stripped by the WBC in 2018 following a positive test for cocaine. After he regained the title, Benavidez was forced to relinquish it in 2020 after he failed to make weight for a voluntary defense against Roamer Alexis Angulo in 2020.