David Benavidez believes Canelo Alvarez is ducking him and that Jermall Charlo fears him.
The fighter known as “El Bhandera Roja” (The Red Flag) considers an all-Mexican clash with four-division champion Alvarez or a battle of unbeatens with WBC 160-pound champion Charlo among his most coveted matchups should he defeat former IBF middleweight titleholder David Lemieux on Saturday.
The 6-foot-2 Benavidez (25-0, 22 KOs) will pursue his sixth straight knockout and the WBC’s vacant interim 168-pound title against the 5-foot-10 Lemieux (43-4, 36 KOs) at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., near his hometown of Phoenix. The Premier Boxing Champions’ event will be on Showtime (10 p.m. EDT).
“My main focus is always to get the knockout or the stoppage, and that will be no different against David Lemieux. I don’t want there to be any doubts in anybody’s mind, so knockout is how I want the fight to end,” Benavdez said. “I’m going to use my range. My game plan for David Lemieux is that I’m not going to be staying in there on the inside.”
Benavdez’s reach is 74.5 inches to Lemieux’s 70.
“The smart thing for me with him being the smaller fighter and me having the longer arms is that I’m gonna touch him, but when I want to be inside, then I’ll be inside. When I wanna be on the outside, I’ll be on the outside,” Benavdez added.
“I’m not just gonna sit there for David Lemieux to throw his left hook at me. I’m not just going to go in there and fight shot for shot. I’m going to get my shots in and then move out of the way. I’m going to use my jab and just keep him at distance. I’ll be in my hometown, so I’m just ready to make another statement.”
Benavidez faces Lemieux two weeks after a unanimous decision loss by Alvarez (57-2, 39 KOs), who fell to Russian WBA 175-pound champion Dmitry Bivol (20-0, 11 KOs).
“I always knew Canelo wasn’t unbeatable. Bivol exposed him a little, and, I thought, beat Canelo more convincingly than 115-113 on all three of the judges’ cards,” said Benavidez, who looks to become a WBC 168-pound titleholder for the third time in his career.
“If it was me, I’m an attacker, have great power, great speed, great jab, great body shots, would have shown more power, definitely gone more to the body and for the knockout. I’m also younger, much taller and have longer arms than Canelo.”
Benavidez last fought in November with a seventh-round TKO of Kyrone Davis at The Footprint Center in Phoenix, a week after Alvarez’s 11th-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Caleb Plant.
In victory, Alvarez added Plant’s 168-pound IBF crown to his WBA/WBC/WBO versions to become the first fully unified super middleweight champion.
“I believe a fight between myself and Canelo is a bigger fight now than ever, and that if he comes back down to 168, that’s the fight that should happen. I’m motivated to leave it out there and to make sure that I come out of the ring with no less than a victory over Canelo Alvarez,” Benavidez said.
“That’s why I’m going to be fighting smart and definitely going for the knockout against David Lemieux. Once I win the WBC’s interim title, I’ll become the mandatory, and then Canelo’s got to fight me or else give up the belt.”
On June 18, Charlo (32-0, 22 KOs) will make his sixth defense of the WBC 160-pound title against Maciej Sulęcki (30-2, 11 KOs).
“Charlo doesn’t want to get in the ring with me,” Benavidez said. “Because he’s a p***y.”
Benavidez said he “saw fear” in Charlo’s eyes during a face-to-face confrontation last month while the fighters were ringside at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for IBF/WBA/WBC 147-pound champion Errol Spence’s 10th-round knockout of Yordenis Ugas.
Benavidez said the incident began as a result of an exchange between Charlo and Jose Benavidez Sr., his father and trainer.
“I saw him yelling at my Dad from the other side, so I went up to him, and I pushed him on his shoulder, and he went back, and he went behind his security guards, and that’s when he started yelling, and that’s when he started getting tough. But in reality, when I pushed him, if he really wanted to do something, then I was there and close to him. He didn’t have to go behind his bodyguards. We could have done whatever. I’m a fighter, he’s a fighter, so nobody wants to back down. I’m not going to let him disrespect me, and he’s not going to let me disrespect him,” Benavidez said.
“But when I put my hands on him and pushed him, I saw fear in his eyes. That’s when I knew he was scared of me. Why do you think he went behind his bodyguards? If somebody would have pushed me you know we would have gotten into it right there. I didn’t go behind any bodyguards. I’m not going to let somebody talk to me that way. So, I know he’s scared of me. He’s a little guy and I could see fear in him. If Jermall Charlo’s big, bad and tough like he says he is, then we’ll see if he moves up to 168. But I know he’s scared of me and what I’m gonna do to him once we get to that day.”
But for now, Benavidez’s focus is Lemieux, who is 9-2 (five KOs) in his past 11 bouts.
Lemieux became an IBF 160-pound champion in June 2015 with a unanimous decision over Hassan N’Dam but was dethroned that October by Gennady Golovkin, winner by eighth-round TKO.
“Styles make fights. David Benavidez comes to fight. That’s my style, too,” said Lemieux, 33. “Two bulls going in there. I do believe that my power will translate at 168 pounds. I have the style to hurt Benavidez, and I’m leaving with the WBC title on fight night.”
“I feel like I’ve been underestimated during my career. The only way to come back is with a strong victory against an opponent on an elite level. That’s what I’m planning on doing. I’m training hard to beat this guy.”
Once the youngest 168-pound world champion in history, Benavidez was stripped of his WBC crown in October 2018, declared “Champion in recess” and suspended for six months following a positive drug test for Benzoylecgonine (the main metabolite of cocaine).
Benavidez ended his ring absence with a second-round knockout of J’Leon Love in March 2019 before regaining the WBC crown that September with a ninth-round knockout of Anthony Dirrell.
An overweight Benavidez lost that title on the scales in advance of a 10th-round knockout of Roamer Alexis Angulo (August 2020) before scoring an 11th-round TKO over Ronald Ellis in March 2021.
“I’m kind of forgetting about Canelo because he’s over there doing his thing. Besides Caleb Plant or Jermall Charlo, Demetrius Andrade is the only other fight that makes sense. If not, it might be time to go up to 175 pounds. When I win the WBC interim title, I’ll have a little bit of leverage,” Benavidez said.
“I’m the complete package. I hurt everybody I touch, and there is nothing they can do about it. I have a good chin, I throw good body shots and combinations, I have a great jab, and I maintain a good distance. I have a great heart and desire to show and become the best fighter in the world. Once a fighter has that desire to do anything to earn his respect, he becomes a dangerous fighter.”
Edited by Richard Pretorius and Matthew B. Hall