By: Sean Crose
Twenty year old David Benavidez aimed to make history Friday evening in Las Vegas as he battled to become the youngest fighter to ever attain a super middleweight championship. The talented, exceedingly hard hitting Phoenix native was putting his 18-0 record on the line against 18-1 Floyd Mayweather protege Ronald Gavril. The bout was the main event of a Showtime Special Edition boxing broadcast and was aired live from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Photo Credit: Showtime Sports
Before the Benavidez-Gavril bout, however, two other fights aired live. First, a pair of super middleweights faced off in a ten rounder. Up and comer Caleb Plant, 15-0, started off crisp against Andrew Hernandez, 19-6-1, employing his jab and effectively closing the distance. Plant kept up the momentum throughout the early portion of the bout, yet remained patient so as not to get caught unawares by his opponent.
By the middle rounds it had become clear that Hernandez, brave and game as he was, simply wasn’t as sharp and strong as his foe. Still, the Phoenix native was game. Bleeding from a cut and determined to show he could last, Hernandez did indeed make it to the final bell. The decision, however, went to Plant. While he certainly didn’t look bad, Plant didn’t particularly impress, especially when one considered the fact that Hernandez took the fight on short notice.
Next up, J’Leon Love, 23-1, fought Abie Han, 26-3, in another 10 round super middleweight affair. The early portion of the bout proved to be entertaining. Love’s shots and high guard were proficient enough, but Han’s off-beat style seemed to give Love some trouble, as did some of Han’s shots. To his credit, Love remained patient as the fight carried into the middle rounds. Han was very effective in his own right, though, making for a relatively fan friendly affair.
Then, in the eighth, a serious accidental headbutt impacted Love and sent Han to the ground in serious physical pain. So serious was the clash that ringside physicians had to attend to Han before a decision was read. Sure enough, the poor man – although conscious – had to be wheeled out on a stretcher. Needless to say, the judges ruled it a draw, though one judge had the score insanely biased in Love’s favor.
It was then time for the main event. With the WBC world title at stake, Benavidez and Vegas fighter (by way of Romania) Gavril had twelve rounds before them to prove who was the better man. The first round saw Benavidez trying to land clean while Gavril attempted to work the body. Gravil was excellent in the third – at least until the end, when Benavidez came on strong and started going powerfully to the body himself. The fourth was almost too close to call. Gravil regularly went to the body, but Benavidez had powerful moments.
By the time the middle rounds arrived, the fight had fallen into a pattern: Benevidez would throw the faster, flashier shots while Gravil kept his sights on Benavidez’ torso. It now seemed to be a question of whether or not Gravil’s body blows would eventually pay off. The sixth was largely a Gravil round. Was Benavidez taking a round off – or tiring?
As the fight rolled into the later rounds, Benavidez did indeed seem tired. “You took his best shot,” said Gravil’s trainer, former great Eddie Mustafa Mohammad, “he ain’t got nothing left.” And there was truth to be found in that statement, for Benavidez’ power seemed to have left him, at least to some degree. Yet the man found enough strength to hurt Gravil at the end of the tenth. There was no doubt, however, that Benavidez was taking a lot of punishment himself.
Still, Benavidez came back strong – very strong – in the eleventh. Sure enough, it looked like Gravil might actually hit the mat. The man survived, though. He even got some strong shots in of his own. The round, however, clearly belonged to the rejuvenated Benavidez. The twelfth and last round opened with Benavidez landing strong. Gravil managed to hold on, though. Then, stunningly enough, Benavidez went down from a Gravil shot. The fighter got up and survived the round, but it was some kind of fight.
When all was said and done, Benavidez walked away with the split decision win…and the WBC title belt.