BN Preview: Andrade and Benavidez find each other at a time when they probably need each other

By Matt Christie

TO SAY that an unbeaten fighter, who is about to box in the headline bout of a pay per view event, might also be entering Last Chance Saloon sounds ridiculous on the surface. But should 35-year-old Demetrius Andrade, 32-0 (19), find himself convincingly beaten by David Benavidez on Saturday night (November 25), it’s certainly difficult to foresee a situation where he progresses beyond this level.

Though this is an excellent matchup inside Las Vegas’ Michelob Ultra Arena, and an important one in the super-middleweight mix, that viewers in the USA will have to pay to watch (on Showtime PPV), illustrates the peculiar business model that has seen boxing become increasingly marginalised in recent years. How well it performs is likely a moot point to the broadcaster, given that they are pulling out of the sport at the end of the year. But for the fighters – particularly the winner of Benavidez-Andrade who will become the leading challenger for world champion Canelo Alvarez – exposure and attention are crucial factors in determining their pulling power moving forward.

The 26-year-old Benavidez, 27-0 (23), is the 2/7 favourite but no sure thing to win. Though he’s a seasoned super-middle for his age and has the superior wins on his record, he’s not yet what we would traditionally call a box office fighter. His breakout win, a ninth knockout of Anthony Dirrell in 2019, has only been surpassed by his most recent success, a reasonably impressive 12-round points win over Caleb Plant in March. Other victories, over the likes of (a faded) David Lemieux (rsf 3), Ronald Ellis (rsf 11), Ronald Gavril (sd 12 and ud 12) and Roamer Alexis Angulo (rtd 10), highlight both his promise and current standing. Las Vegas-based Benavidez – whose career has been blotted by moments of ill-discipline – puts his punches together with finesse and power, his judgement of distance is impeccable for a 6ft 2ins long-limbed man, but in southpaw Andrade he meets arguably his toughest test yet.

The Rhode Island man, a world class operator since 2013, has won belts at 154 and 160 but found that such trophies – particularly in the modern, fractured boxing landscape – don’t guarantee opportunities at the very highest level. In fact, while winning and defending WBO and WBA straps, he’s only faced a handful of opponents who could legitimately claim to be widely regarded as top 10 boxers. As such, though he’s for a long time demanded a chance against the leaders, he’s largely been ignored. If he might be Benavidez’s most difficult assignment, Benavidez is undisputedly his.

Though Andrade – who has fought only once at 168 – may pull a Winky Wright and craft the best of himself in his twilight years after spending most of his career on the fringes, all available evidence points to Benavidez being too big and strong for him. However, Andrade could bang when in the mood at the lower weights and is both awkward and artistic in his approach. The odds on him winning on points, 4/1, are worth considering but we go for the cards to favour Benavidez at the end of 12.

David’s older brother Jose Benavidez Jnr, 28-2-1 (19), now campaigns at middleweight after spending much of his career at 147. He starts as a 6/1 underdog against Texan Jermall Charlo, 32-0 (22), in a 10-rounder.

Charlo isn’t picking an easy option following 29 difficult months out of the ring, however. Benavidez was once regarded as one of the leading prospects in the sport and at 31 remains a top-drawer competitor. But the jump to middleweight may prove too much and Charlo, a sublime boxer at his best, simply too good. The former WBC belt-holder claims to have his mental health under control and, if so, he can win a wide decision.

There are two ‘world’ title fights on the card.

At super-featherweight, the Dominican Republic’s Hector Luis Garcia, a 16-1 (10) southpaw who was stopped in nine by Gervonta Davis up at lightweight in January, returns to 130 to defend his WBA strap against Lamont Roach, 23-1-1 (9). Though neither are ranked in the world top 10, this one should be competitive. Washington-born Roach, inactive since June last year, is hard to beat but we edge towards Garcia, providing gaining and losing weight hasn’t affected him at the age of 32.

Meanwhile, at super-lightweight, the seventh-ranked Subriel Matias, 19-1 (19), defends his IBF belt against Uzbek southpaw, Shohjahon Ergashev, 23-0 (20). This looks set to be explosive and could come down to a battle of the whiskers. Matias’ power is tested at a higher level, however, and he looks a decent bet to end this one in the second half.

The Verdict: An excellent scrap atop a solid bill but this PPV looks unlikely to draw a huge audience.

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