Life couldn't have been going any better for David Benavidez.
He had become the youngest super middleweight champion of all time at 20-years-old in September 2017, when he defeated Ronald Gavril by unanimous decision to capture the vacant WBC belt. He followed it up in February 2018 with a more dominant performance in the rematch with Gavril.
But everything came to screeching halt when it was revealed during an August random drug test that Benavidez tested positive for cocaine. The 22-year-old was stripped of the title and subsequently suspended through February. Benavidez (20-0, 17 KOs) knows he disappointed a lot of people with his actions. He says he made a mistake and plans on making it up to everybody, starting with his fight on Saturday night against J'Leon Love in the co-main event of the Errol Spence Jr.-Mikey Garcia card (9 p.m. ET, Fox PPV).
"This is a fight for the fans, just so they could see that I don't want nobody to lose faith in me because I know I'm the best I've ever been right now," Benavidez told Sporting News during a recent conference call. "I just turned 22-years-old. I feel stronger than ever. So, this fight is definitely going to be for them, so they don't lose faith in me."
Benavidez was not only embarrassed, but ashamed of his actions.
The harsh reality of his errors set in for Benavidez when he watched Anthony Dirrell and Avni Yildirim in February competing for the title he had to relinquish. Going through adversity for the first time in his professional career forced Benavidez to look hard at himself in the mirror to see what type of person he is.
"It wasn't a good feeling to have everything you worked for taken away from you in an instant," Benavidez said. "But it happened and it just made me hungrier and more motivated to keep working harder and to get back what's rightfully mine. Being on the sidelines, seeing my belt won by another person I know I could destroy, kind of did it for me. We're not going to take any more steps back. We're working hard and we're going to reclaim what's ours and we're going to put on spectacular performances and that's how it's going to be."
Benavidez hasn’t competed in 13 months. During his period of reflection, there's one thing "El Bandera Roja" learned about himself that keeps driving him as he inches toward his return.
"Just the hunger," Benavidez said. "Just being hungrier, being more dedicated now, being closer to my family. And I just owe it to the people who've been supporting me since the beginning. I just want to be a better person and a better fighter for them, so they could have that fighter that they could be proud of."