David Benavidez routs Caleb Plant, calls out Canelo Alvarez

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 25: David Benavidez (R) poses with referee Kenny Bayless after defeating Caleb Plant in a WBC super middleweight fight at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 25, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Benavidez retained his WBC interim super middleweight title by unanimous decision.  (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)
David Benavidez retained his WBC interim super middleweight title by unanimous decision over Caleb Plant on Saturday at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

David Benavidez turned potential into performance on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas against his toughest opponent, roaring down the stretch to come-from-behind and defeat Caleb Plant in a rout.

Benavidez did it despite an unusually poor performance by referee Kenny Bayless. Bayless was overly involved throughout the bout. He never so much as warned Plant for holding, and Plant was holding nearly as much as the Cleveland Browns’ offensive line. And despite two clear low blows by Plant, Bayless never took a point.

Benavidez, though, kept his composure, stuck to his plan and won an impressive decision.

Judge Tim Cheatham scored it 115-113 for Benavidez. Dave Moretti had it 116-112 for Benavidez and Steve Weisfeld made it unanimous by scoring it 117-111 for the “Mexican Monster.” Yahoo Sports had it 116-112 for Benavidez.

“Kenny Bayless is a hell of a referee, but he didn’t give Caleb Plant no warnings,” Benavidez said after improving his record to 27-0. “It is what it is. I had to work through it. He’s a tough fighter and I had to figure a way to get around that.”

Neither fighter was particularly busy in the first half of the fight, but Plant was winning the early rounds by moving around the massive 22-by-22 ring and going to the body.

Benavidez is an accurate puncher who usually works off the jab, but he was following Plant early and not throwing much. He said he was getting used to Plant’s style.

They went at it hard throughout the build-up to the fight and described themselves as bitter enemies. They embraced at the end and he praised the other.

“David’s a hell of a fighter,” Plant said. “It was a big rivalry but that’s what boxing is about. We got in here and settled it like men. I take nothing from David. We haven’t been the best of friends, but we got into the ring and settled it like men. That’s what you are supposed to do.”

Plant showed great heart in making it to the finish line. He was stopped in the 11th round by Canelo Alvarez in his only loss, and there were moments down the stretch where it appeared he may not make the finish line.

He found a way to survive, though, and finished on his feet. But at the end of the day, he had to survive an onslaught from Benavidez, who won the final six rounds on all three cards. Benavidez wasn’t throwing much early, but wound up connecting on an absurdly high 43 percent of his power shots, 180 of 419, according to CompuBox. He landed 210 of 551 punches overall, for a 38-percent connect rate. Plant landed only 91 of 624 punches.

The win gave Benavidez the insignificant interim super middleweight belt, which means little. It did, however, establish he’s the clear threat to face Alvarez, the undisputed and only 168-pound champion.

Alvarez is fighting John Ryder in May and then later in the year will have to decide whether to take a rematch with Dmitri Bivol or face Benavidez.

“I want to tell everyone that I have a lot of respect for Canelo Alvarez, but he needs to give me that shot now,” Benavidez said. “That’s what everyone wants to see, me versus Canelo. I don’t think he’s trying to avoid me. He has a lot of options. But now the fans will be calling for this fight. The legends will be calling for this fight and so, let’s make it happen.”