By Jim Dower
In an off performance, a very lackadaisical looking 20-year-old David Benavidez (19-0, 17 KOs) became the youngest fighter to ever win a super middleweight title in defeating Ronald Gavril (18-2, 14 KOs) by a 12 round split decision to win the vacant WBC 168 lb. title on Friday night on Showtime Boxing from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The judges scored it 116-111, 117-111 for Benavidez, and 116-111 for Gavril. Boxing News 24 scored the fight for Benavidez by a 116-111 score. Gavril dropped Benavidez with a big left hook in round 12 that put him down on the seat of his pants. Benavidez was squared up at the time he was hit by Gavril’s left hook. Benavidez walked into the shot, and caught him perfectly. Benavidez was standing straight up while coming forward the entire fight, making him an easy target for the shots from Gavril. With the way that Benavidez was gassing out in the middle rounds, you can make a case for Gavril winning rounds 6, 7, 8, 9 and 12. That would make it a draw if the judges had given Gavril those rounds.
Benavidez was trying to pick off the punches from the 31-year-old Gavril on his gloves, but he wasn’t doing a good job of it. In the second half of the fight, Benavidez looked exhausted, and was dropping his hands and not throwing shots. Benavidez looked like he wasn’t in good enough shape to fight hard for a full 3 minutes. He was lethargic looking the entire fight.
Benavidez appeared to hurt Gavril with body shots in rounds 3 and 4. However, Benavidez was unable to press the attack hard enough for him to get Gavril out of there. One problem that Benavidez had was he kept missing when he was plow forward. Benavidez’s accuracy was poor with his punches.
In round 5, Benavidez began to fight with his mouth open, looking tired and clearly drained. Benavidez still did enough to win the round, but he was starting to get very tired.
In rounds 6 through 9, Gavril outworked the very tired looking Benavidez. Some of those rounds could have gone either way though, but Gavril was more energetic of the two fighters, and he was landing the cleaner shots. Benavidez looked so exhausted. He was still punching with a lot of power, but he didn’t look good. Gavril was catching Benavidez with clean shots to the head during those rounds. He was also landing hard body shots that seemed to take the energy out of Benavidez.
It’s unclear whether the effort to make weight for the fight took something out of Benavidez or what. He did not strong in the fight. At the weigh-in on Thursday, Benavidez appeared to be very thin looking, as if he’d taken off a great deal of weight.
”I was very relaxed in there,” said Benavidez after the fight.
The problem was Benavidez was TOO relaxed for his own good. He was not pressing the issue nearly enough for him to win in a dominant fashion.
Gavril says he wants a rematch, and you can’t blame him. It was a close enough fight for there to be a rematch. Gavril would be doing Benavidez a favor by fighting him again, because he doesn’t look ready to fight the best guys at 168.
Based off this performance, Benavidez is not going to be able to hold onto the WBC 168 lb. title for long. As soon as the top fighters like Chris Eubank Jr. and Callum Smith get done competing in the World Boxing Super Series, they’re going to come after Benavidez and likely beat him. Benavidez needs to hope that the World Boxing Council doesn’t order him to face former WBC champion Anthony Dirrell, because that’s a guy that would be a nightmare for him. A healthy Dirrell would beat tonight’s version of Benavidez with ease.
Benavidez has a lot of areas in his game that he needs to improve. Without Benavidez improving these areas, I think he’ll wind up losing his WBC title almost right away:
• Stance. Benavidez stands too straight up when he fights, making him susceptible to getting hit. The 6’1” Benavidez needs to crouch down more like Gennady Golovkin so he can present a smaller target, and to prevent any future knockdowns that might come as a result of that.
In other results on the card, super middleweight J’Leon Love (23-1-1, 13 KOs) fought to an 8 round technical draw with Abie Han (26-3-1, 16 KOs). The fight was stopped after Han suffered a cut after a head-butt. The judges scored it 79-73 for Love, 76-76, 76-76 even. Love did not look good in this fight. The only good news is he wasn’t knocked out like he had been in his defeat to Rogelio “Porky” Medina.
Undefeated super middleweight contender Caleb Plant (16-0, 10 KOs) defeated Andrew Hernandez (19-7-1, 9 KOs) by a 10 round unanimous decision in a showcase fight. The judges scored it 100-90, 100-90 and 100-90. Plant hit Hernandez with a lot of shots and he dominated the action. However, Hernandez was able to connect with a lot of his own punches in exposing Plant’s slow hands and poor defensive skills. Plant was doing a terrible job of getting out of the way of Hernandez’s shots.
It was a good thing for Plant that he was fighting a guy with not much power and boxing skills, because he likely would have lost the fight if it had been a good contender. I don’t know if Plant will ever win a world title at super middleweight. He looks like he’s got too many flaws for him to take his career o the next level. He might be a good contender, but I don’t see him having the skills to become a world champion. The 25-year-old Plant is going to need to step it up at some stage in his career and start fighting better opposition.
Former WBO middleweight champion Peter Quillin (33-1-1,23 KOs) defeated journeyman Dashon Johnson by an 8 round unanimous decision in light heavyweight action. The judges’ scores were 78-74, 79-72 and 79-73. It was the first fight for Quillin since his 1st round knockout loss to Daniel Jacobs nearly 2 years ago on December 5, 2015. Quillin took a lot of time off from boxing after that defeat. Quillin is moving up to super middleweight due to him feeling like it’s a good time for him to make the move. The 168 lb. division is probably the better division for Quillin right now, as their some weak champions that Quillin would have an excellent chance of beating starting with David Benavidez with his WBC title he won tonight. Quillin would have a good chance of beating Benavidez and WBA champion Tyron Zeuge. Quillin would have problems with George Groves, Callum Smith, Gilberto Ramirez and Chris Eubank Jr. Those guys might be too young and talented for Quillin to get by them. It’s still going to be awfully tough for Quillin to be able to turn his boxing career around given the extended amount of time he’d had in being out of the ring. This wasn’t the first long layoff that Quillin has had in his career. He was also out of boxing for a 1-year period after he vacated his WBO middleweight title in April 2014. He stayed out of the ring until April 2015. The time off didn’t help Quillin’s stamina, because he ran out of gas in the second half of his comeback fight against Andy Lee in April 2015 and he was held to a 12 round draw.