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Benavidez Home again But Canelo Is His Target

Esther Lin/Showtime

New York- Saturday evening David Benavidez will be home in Phoenix, Arizona for a second consecutive fight at the Gila River Arena in nearby Glendale. But this is more than another homecoming for the undefeated and two-time world champion.

He opposes former world middleweight champion David Lemieux on the Showtime Championship Boxing 12-round main event for the WBC Super Middleweight interim title and a win should get him a long awaited opportunity at meeting undisputed 168=pound champion Canelo Alvarez.

So the significance here is obviously a potential meeting with Alvarez. There’s no secret this is what Benavidez (25-0) has been aiming for. He has made it known over the past year and the WBC would have to grant that opportunity if he prevails against a viable and former champion.

Regardless this is not one of those tuneups for Benavidez, who brings a strong punch and to many has the ability to dethrone Alvarez if and when they meet.

“I want the big names,” Benavidez said this week. “I feel like I’ve earned it. I’ve been champion twice and now I’m fighting for another belt. I’ve been wanting to fight the other big fighters, but they haven’t accepted the challenge.”

Reality though, Benavidez has been waiting for Alvarez who claimed all the titles and unified the 168-pound division for the first time in the four-belt title era. Alvarez, the richest free agent in boxing, considered the best pound-for-pound, had another agenda and opted to go after another title at light heavyweight, losing a majority decision for the WBA bid a few weeks ago to Demitry Bivol.

In turn, Alvarez, and because of his status, put the unified titles on hold and Benavidez along with others had to find other options. Boxing politics, as it is all the time, got involved.The Benavidez camp and his promoters at Sampson Boxing petitioned the WBC for their fighter to be next in line and the interim title is one of many the Mexico City based sanctioning organization uses to dictate who is next in line to challenge the champion.

That champion of course is Canelo Alvarez who has indicated he is leaning more towards a rematch with Bivol.

But first at hand, Benavidez needs to take care of business Saturday night. He once held the titles and was stripped because of using an illegal drug substance. He has battled COVID and opponents not making weight or testing positive for COVID in the past two years.

“Lemieux has a great resume with a lot of knockouts and I feel like he’s probably one of the most dangerous fighters I’ve faced,” Benavidez said. “The only guys who are more dangerous than him, haven’t stepped up and taken the challenge.”

“I’ve given Lemieux the respect he deserves. I’m already on weight and I’ve done everything right in training. Now I’m just ready to go in there and get a big victory. I don’t want to act like I’m just going to go in there and knock him out like it’s nothing. Sometimes fighters who you don’t think aren’t going to give you problems end up giving you problems. We have to see what happens, but I do feel like I’m going to get him out of there eventually.”

Also featured on the telecast is Cuban prospect Yoelvis Gomez and Mexico’s Jorge Cota, who meet in the 10-round super welterweight co-main event. The Showtime Championship telecast begins at 10pm ET.

Gomez is confident about a knockout and has a significant fight in his early career.

“I want Cuban people to know that I feel their love and support across borders,” he said. “I’m very excited to have their support like that.The knockout depends on how my opponent comes out to fight. However, if Cota comes out like I expect him to, don’t be surprised if the fight is over in the first round.”

Gomez added, “My fists are going to dictate how long the fight lasts. I wish him and his team nothing but the best, but it’s ‘Viva Cuba’ on Saturday night.”

Rich Mancuso is a senior writer Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

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