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FIGHTERS have, since time immemorial, been known to prattle on about how it’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog and to some extent, too, there is an element of truth to this.
And yet, more often than not, what we find in big fights, especially evenly matched ones, is that size can become an attribute every bit as key to the result as speed, power, strength, or endurance. In fact, a lot of the time a big fight between two well-matched operators will be decided on the basis of which of the two is more comfortable and more productive at whatever weight at which the fight is taking place.
Tonight (November 25), for example, in a super-middleweight battle between David Benavidez and Demetrius Andrade, it became clear at numerous points that Andrade, while never found wanting for either guts or even skill, was time and time again finding himself in situations in which he felt outgunned or overpowered by his bigger and stronger opponent. Aware no doubt of the possibility going in, Andrade, 32-1 (19), had previously spent time as both a super-welterweight and a middleweight, divisions in which he won titles, so knew he would be up against it and would have to implement a certain strategy in order to attempt to take Benavidez’s size away.
This, at times, he accomplished, too, particularly early. Setting a good pace, he stayed close to Benavidez, rushing him and on occasion stifling him, and that appeared clever, if only because it reduced the capacity for Benavidez to stand off him and drill him with long and heavy shots. In these moments, Andrade displayed impressive variety as well, as often he has done in the lower weight classes. He would throw, for example, combinations that were inventive and hard to predict, and he would also work the body whenever close enough to Benavidez for this to be a possibility. Always, however, no matter what Andrade did, there remained a sense that the busier the southpaw would get, the more opportunity there would be for Benavidez to land something heavy and truly make a dent in him.
This proved to be the case as the fight wore on and Benavidez, happy to walk the smaller man down when the time was right, started to connect with some meaty and hurtful punches. This was especially true in the fourth round, when the Mexican nailed Andrade with a right cross to the forehead which had the two-weight belt-holder slumping to the canvas after an initial delay. If indeed any evidence of Benavidez’s power at this level had been needed, we, both the audience and Andrade, now had it.
He wasn’t about to let up, either. Feeling at this stage that he had his man wounded, and therefore more wary of coming forward and letting his hands go, Benavidez simply increased his workrate and the power in his shots. Meanwhile, Andrade, by contrast, was now poking and prodding with a lot of his, which, in a fight between two dogs of similar size may have been a wise energy-saving strategy, but here, against Benavidez, it merely served to highlight the disparity between them.
And so, after seeing Benavidez use their exchanges to crack Andrade with a series of heavy blows in round six, it came as no real surprise when Andrade’s corner, having cottoned on to (a) what was happening and (b) what could unfold later, decided to save their man for another day. It was, on reflection, a mercy stoppage of sorts; that is, a good one. It was proactive rather than reactive, with them perhaps fearing the worst, and it also offered an insight into the team’s pre-fight game plan, which had not worked, and indeed their contingency plan.
“I think the first shot I caught him with was when I dipped his left hand and came back with a right hand, and that made a point,” said Benavidez, now 32-1 (19). “I knew I had to keep putting the pressure on him because he wasn’t going to keep taking those shots.
“Everybody says I’m not this, I’m not that; I’m flat-footed, I have no defense. But this guy is really good offensively and he could barely even hit me. So I think that says a lot on its own.”
Following that, it would have been remiss of Benavidez not to mention Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who remains, both for Benavidez and the rest, the end goal. “For Canelo and everybody else,” he said, “it just shows I’m not f**king around,” which happens to be an observation every bit as true as the right hand Benavidez landed on a shell-shocked Andrade in round four.