David Benavidez keeps choosing the wrong fights

David Benavidez is a good, if not very good, boxer who has what hounds far too many top-level boxers these days: pathetically mediocre opponents.

On paper, Benavidez’s fight with David Lemieux for the interim WBC super middleweight title (why? why? why?) on Saturday in Glendale, Ariz. should have been highly anticipated. Benavidez was one and Lemieux was two in the division.

But the only thing the sanctioning bodies – and in this case this applies to the WBO, WBA and IBF in addition to the WBC – are good at manipulating their rankings. Is there anyone on God’s green earth outside of Lemieux’s family and close friends who believed Lemieux did anything to deserve such an absurdly high rank?

In case you don’t remember, after losing to Billy Joe Saunders in a middleweight title fight on December 16, 2017, Lemieux went on to win five straight. The reason you probably don’t remember is that those wins came over Karim Achour, Spike O’Sullivan, Max Bursak, Francy Ntetu and David Zegarra.

Lemieux had just as much to do fighting for a world title – even a fake interim one – as I would to compete in the NBA slam dunk contest.

This isn’t so much about Lemieux, however, as it is about Benavidez and why he fights so often against second-rate opponents.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - MAY 21: David Benavidez (R) throws a left at David Lemieux during their WBC Super Middleweight Interim Title Fight at Gila River Arena on May 21, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Kelsey Grant/Getty Images)

David Benavidez (R) throws left to David Lemieux during their bout for the WBC Super Middleweight Interim Title at Gila River Arena on May 21, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Kelsey Grant/Getty Images)

Showtime’s Jim Gray will be rightfully inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame next month for his often brilliant work in the ring interviewing fighters. However, it wasn’t his prime interviewing Benavidez after Benavidez stopped Lemieux in the third round of a fight that should never have been booked.

Gray’s question made it sound like Canelo Alvarez, who holds the WBC super middleweight belt, was somehow avoiding Benavidez.

“Well, they almost can’t dodge you now,” Gray told Benavidez of the Elite at 168. “Either there’ll be a furlough, Canelo vacate that title, or at some point he’s going to have to fight you.”

Let’s remind Gray and everyone else that Benavidez has fought Roamer Alexis Angulo, Ronald Ellis, Kyrone Davis and Lemieux for the last two years while Alvarez has fought World Champion Callum Smith, mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim, World Champion Saunders and World Champion during that time Champion Caleb Plant and World Champion Dmitry Bivol.

One is not like the other.

However, Benavidez has tremendous talent and needs to go head-to-head with someone who can rival him.

The only gap in Canelo’s opponent list lately is Yildirim, a low profile opponent who didn’t deserve at all to be the must-contest but got the chance nonetheless. He meekly capitulated to Canelo at the first sign of trouble and is now ranked 40th in the most recent WBC super middleweight rankings, less than 15 months after their fight.

The sanctioning authorities could improve the fan experience of this sport so much if they stopped awarding titles like mints and if they accurately ranked all fighters in a division, including champions from other organizations.

There was little reason for Benavidez to fight Lemieux and it would always play out the way it came. Give Lemieux credit: he was outclassed and outmatched, but he persevered and shot as long as he could until referee Harvey Dock stepped in.

He was simply overwhelmed in that fight and the fact that it was a title at stake says more about the organization that sanctioned him than it does about Lemieux.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - MAY 21: David Benavidez celebrates after defeating David Lemieux via TKO via corner stop during their WBC Super Middleweight Interim Title Fight at Gila River Arena on May 21, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Kelsey Grant/Getty Images)

David Benavidez celebrates after defeating David Lemieux via TKO by corner stop during their WBC Super Middleweight Interim Title fight at Gila River Arena on May 21, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Kelsey Grant/Getty Images)

Alvarez announced this on Monday Next he meets Gennadiy Golovkin. Benavidez needs to fight one of the other elite super middleweights – Plant would be a good choice – to prove he belongs there once and for all.

He brings a lot to the table and if he keeps his head level he has the potential to be a lot better than he is now. But at some point, like all fighters, he should be forced to face off against an equally experienced opponent if he is to call himself the best.

This has been a great year for boxing and it’s only going to get better. But we can’t take our foot off the gas pedal, because that will only succeed if the right battles are fought consistently.

Put Benavidez next with someone like Plant – or even Jermall Charlo if he moves up to 168 – and we’re very interested.

But beyond that, spare us. No one, especially Canelo Alvarez, is dodging David Benavidez.

He’s a good fighter with a lot of potential but it’s about time he showed it against the best.

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