David Benavidez wins WBC eliminator for Canelo Alvarez shot

David Benavidez

Amanda Westcott

Former two-time world champion David Benavidez kept his perfect ring record intact with an 11th-round technical knockout victory against veteran Ronald Ellis in their WBC Super Middleweight Title Eliminator main event on Saturday night’s SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast, live on SHOWTIME from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., in a Premier Boxing Champions event.

Phoenix’s Benavidez (24-0, 21 KOs) flashed brilliant hand speed, accuracy, and power as he dominated Ellis (18-2-2, 12 KOs) of Lynn, Mass., over 11 rounds before referee Johnny Callas finally waved off the fight at 2:03 of the penultimate round. The 24-year-old star held a significant lead on all three scorecards (99-91, 98-92 x2) at the time of the stoppage.

“I rate my performance pretty good, but I know I could have done better,” said Benavidez, who extended his perfect record to 24-0. “Ronald Ellis is a tough competitor. I hope the fans like what they saw. I threw a lot of combinations, punches in bunches. There were a lot of times I thought Ellis was going to quit, but he didn’t. Hats off to him. He’s a tough guy. It was a little later than I wanted, but a stoppage is still a stoppage. I hope the fans got a good show tonight.”

A boxing prodigy turned youngest super middleweight world champion in boxing history, Benavidez turned in a masterful performance as evidenced by his punch stats, landing 289 of 532 power punches thrown for an eye-popping connection rate of 54%. Benavidez connected on 50 punches in the 11th round, which ultimately led to the stoppage. Both fighters combined to throw 1,403 punches. Following his dominating win on SHOWTIME, Benavidez is one step closer to reclaiming a super middleweight world title.

“I want all the big guys,” Benavidez added. “Speaking for the fans too, they would love to see me against all the big guys because, as you can see, I love throwing punches. I love stopping people. Some versus many big names would be an amazing fight. I want [Jermall] Charlo, Canelo Alvarez, Caleb Plant, all of them.”

Ellis, 31, showed tremendous determination and a very sturdy chin as he absorbed the constant onslaught from the former two-time world champion. Often working off the ropes as Benavidez pressed the action, Ellis landed 89 of his 334 jabs.

“I could have popped the jab and controlled things a little bit more and not let him smother me,” said Ellis. “Hell yeah, I wanted to finish. I didn’t want to give him that satisfaction. I could have moved a little bit more and not taken so many shots to the head. Hats off to him. He did what he had to do. He never hurt me. That’s the funny thing. I took a lot of shots, but he didn’t damage me or have me super hurt. I never thought about quitting.”

Isaac Cruz (21-1-1, 15 KOs) of Mexico City earned a unanimous decision victory over Argentina’s Matias Romero (24-1, 8 KOs) in the co-main event, a 12-round WBA Lightweight Title Eliminator. It marked the first time that the 22-year-old Cruz went 12 rounds in his professional career. The judges’ scorecards read 114-113, 115-112, and 118-109. SHOWTIME’s unofficial scorer Steve Farhood scored the fight 115-112, giving rounds 10 through 12 to the rising star.

“I’m not happy about the style of the fight, but I am satisfied I took the victory home, and we’ve come to the No. 1 spot in the WBA,” said Cruz. “I didn’t know what was going to happen [as far as the judges]. We forced the fight at all times, and it would have been impossible for the judges to do something to me when I was the one pushing the fight.”

Throughout the 36-minute affair, Cruz constantly applied pressure against his opponent, which led Romero, the more seasoned professional, to hold excessively in an attempt to stall the pressure. Despite being warned frequently by referee Harvey Dock, the 24-year-old Romero was never penalized. However, during the rough-and-tumble contest, Cruz has docked a point in the sixth round for a low blow.

“He was a fighter who didn’t want to exchange punches,” Cruz added, about the persistent clinching. “I was very fed up with the clinches—there was never a warning toward him. I did my best out there. Not the best way I wanted to do it but thank God we won the fight, and we’re taking the victory home.”

Romero presented an effective jab throughout the fight, landing 89 of 282, but it was Cruz’s power punching that ultimately earned him the victory. Cruz, who is now the No. 1 contender for a world title shot at 135 pounds, landed 145 of 459 power punches, including 91 body shots.

“Obviously, I’m not happy with the decision,” stated Romero, following his first professional loss. “I thought maybe it was a draw. Overall I’m happy with my performance. He’s supposed to be the ‘Pit Bull,’ and I went the distance. You have to take the opportunities when they are presented, and I wish I would have had more time to get ready for this fight.”

In the evening’s opening bout, Cleveland’s Terrell Gausha (22-2-1, 11 KOs) scored an impressive second-round technical knockout over fellow Ohioan Jamontay Clark (15-2-1, 7 KOs) of Cincinnati. Gausha, 33, did not land a single power punch in the opening round but worked well behind the jab, winning the round on two of the judges’ scorecards. As the second round neared completion, Gausha beautifully countered a lunging left hand from the southpaw Clark which sent the 26-year-old to the canvas for the first time in his professional career. Clark beat the count but moments later was met by a barrage of unanswered punches in the neutral corner. Referee Arthur Mercante jumped in and called a halt to the bout at 2:44 of the second round.

“I knew Jamontay was a tough kid, I’ve been watching him since Cleveland, so I knew about him already,” said Gausha. “I felt like I had a chance to knock him out, but I didn’t know how the fight would play out. But I feel I did good, executed the game plan. My coaches had been studying film, and we executed.

“I just took my time,” added Gausha. “I was setting traps. I knew he would be open eventually, but I had to be cautious because he’s a rangy guy and has a good left hand. But I knew there were holes in his game, and we executed, and when the opportunity presented itself, we landed that big right hand.”

With his emphatic stoppage win, the 2012 Olympian emerges as a contender for a title shot in the super welterweight division. In his first and only world title shot in 2017, Gausha dropped a unanimous decision to current super welterweight world champion Erislandy Lara.

“I know I made a statement tonight,” added Gausha. “I put the division on notice. I’m locked and loaded, and I’m ready. I want to be a world champion, so I’m looking to fight whoever I need to fight to get to the belts.”

Saturday’s SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast will replay Sunday at 8:55 a.m. ET/PT on SHOWTIME and Monday at 10 p.m. ET on SHOWTIME EXTREME.