THE RIGOURS OF YOUTH

Be­navidez must look back and learn from this vi­cious war, writes Ken­neth Bouhairie

Boxing News - - Action -

DAVID BE­NAVIDEZ hasn’t reached le­gal drink­ing age, but he’s old enough to go to war. Be­navidez and Ron­ald Gavril en­gaged in one for 12 rounds with the former over­com­ing a non-stop as­sault and a flash knock­down to win a split de­ci­sion and the va­cant WBC su­per­mid­dleweight crown.

Be­navidez, still three months shy of his 21st birth­day, is now box­ing’s youngest cur­rent cham­pion and the youngest in 168lb king his­tory. There’s work to be done if he’s to un­lock an­other achieve­ment, but this fight will teach him plenty. The Mex­i­can-amer­i­can is still learn­ing on the job, af­ter turn­ing pro at 16 with only 15 ama­teur bouts. A fix­ture in the west coast gyms, heads took no­tice of the teen dur­ing his spar­ring ses­sions against Gen­nady Golovkin and Kelly Pav­lik, where he more than held his own.

Last May, Be­navidez stopped former world ti­tle chal­lenger Ro­ge­lio “Porky” Me­d­ina with an in­sane seven-punch com­bi­na­tion in the eighth (look it up on Youtube, if you haven’t al­ready). Gavril fig­ured to lose in sim­i­lar fash­ion. An ac­com­plished ama­teur of 180 bouts, the Ro­ma­nian hadn’t been as suc­cess­ful in the pros, suf­fer­ing a points loss to jour­ney­man Elvin Ayala in 2015.

The set­back didn’t de­ter Gavril, who con­tin­ued to work at his craft at the May­weather Box­ing Club un­der the tute­lage of former light-heavy­weight cham­pion Ed­die Mustafa Muham­mad. The re­fine­ment showed on this night. Gavril dic­tated the pace, ap­ply­ing a sound game­plan that ex­posed sev­eral flaws in his young op­po­nent.

Be­navidez, how­ever, was the more ex­plo­sive of the two. Gavril landed sev­eral notable body punches in the first but a pow­er­ful one-two to­ward the end of the round snapped his head back.

That pat­tern con­tin­ued dur­ing the first six rounds: Gavril fo­cus­ing his at­tack down­stairs but eat­ing plenty of hard coun­ters in re­turn. He was vis­i­bly hurt by sev­eral blows but, to his credit, never took a step back. The crowd at the Hard Rock Ho­tel & Casino warmed to the ac­tion quickly; what was sup­posed to be a for­mal­ity for Be­navidez was turn­ing into a Fight of the Year can­di­date. Trainer Muham­mad urged Gavril on be­tween rounds, scream­ing, “He’s tired!” He was right. Be­navidez, who barely threw a punch in the sixth, ad­mit­ted af­ter­ward that he must learn how to pace him­self. His shots car­ried more pop, but Gavril was throw­ing and land­ing more—and his punches weren’t ex­actly soft ei­ther.

The sev­enth and eighth fea­tured more of the same. An up­set ap­peared to be brew­ing, but Be­navidez found his sec­ond wind in the 10th. He en­joyed an even bet­ter 11th, throw­ing 92 punches, most of them hurt­ful com­bi­na­tions. Gavril wisely clinched when he could but also fought back, urged on by seem­ingly the en­tire May­weather Pro­mo­tions sta­ble sit­ting ring­side, in­clud­ing ring­leader Floyd and star pupil, Badou Jack.

Be­navidez came for­ward in the 12th with his hands down and paid for it when Gavril caught him off-bal­ance with a hard left jab. Be­navidez tum­bled to the mat, pop­ping up unhurt. They then en­gaged in a non-stop ex­change that kept ringsiders on their feet un­til the fi­nal bell sounded.

The fi­nal cards didn’t re­flect the ac­tion: 116-111 for Gavril while the other cards read 117-111 and 116-111 for Be­navidez. Box­ing News had it 114-113 for the win­ner.

In the sec­ond bout of this Show­time Cham­pi­onship Box­ing su­per mid­dleweight triple-header, J’leon Love and Abra­ham Han fought to a draw af­ter an ac­ci­den­tal head­butt mid­way through the eighth opened a ter­ri­ble cut on Han’s fore­head and forced the bout to the cards.

Love was for­tu­nate to es­cape with a draw. Other than the fourth, he threw spar­ingly and rarely landed when he did. Han con­trolled the ac­tion and landed the harder punches. Cards read 79-73 for Love and two scores of 76-76.

Floyd May­weather, the show’s pro­moter, gave su­per-mid­dleweight

Caleb Plant a “C” grade for his per­for­mance against late-sub­sti­tute

An­drew Her­nan­dez in the tele­vi­sion opener. Plant shut Her­nan­dez out on all three cards, but against an out­classed jour­ney­man who lost fought at 154lbs (and lost), he should have ended it ear­lier.

Peter Quillin ended a 21-month lay­off with a tougher-than-ex­pected, eight-round unan­i­mous de­ci­sion over

Dashon John­son. John­son, whose record prior to this fight was an un­sightly 22-21-3, hurt Quillin sev­eral times be­fore fad­ing down the stretch.

THE VER­DICT Be­navidez hangs tough to claim ti­tle but there’s plenty he needs to learn.

Pho­tos: ROSIE COHE/SHOW­TIME

WORK IN PROGRESS: Be­navidez ploughs his right into Gavril

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