It was mid-September 2018 when news broke that David Benavidez, one of boxing's best young, rising stars, was revealed to have failed a drug test.
There's never a good time to commit a mistake as the one Benavidez did that forced the WBC to strip him of its super middleweight world title, but he was primed for major fights and main events in 2019 and beyond. But if one were to ask Benavidez, it's almost as if testing positive for benzoylecgonine, the central compound found in cocaine, was a blessing in disguise.
Only 22 years old, Benavidez feels humbled by the experience and has now found newfound hunger to get back his world title and is now just days away from reclaiming lost gold.
"What's changed [from September 2018 to today] is that I'm getting older, I'm more mature. I feel like the situation did more good to me than bad. It's made me realize that everything can be lost. It definitely took that to mature me and see that I had my whole life's work taken away over one error. I'm more dedicated now, but I'm going to value things way more too," Benavidez told Fightful over the phone in a media call.
Benavidez won the world title back in 2017 after Badou Jack vacated the belt earlier in the year. Benavidez defeated Ronald Gavril by split decision to claim the title, but then the two had a rematch in February 2018. In the rematch, Benavidez dominated Gavril, winning a wide unanimous decision. But a year's worth of effort inside the ring was wasted. Seeing his title in the waist of another boxer woke something in him.
When Anthony Dirrell won the vacant title in February with a technical decision victory over Avni Yildirim, Benavidez still saw himself as the champion. He never lost the belt in the ring and thought it would only be a matter of time before he got a chance to get it back. As time passed on and Benavidez was out beating J'Leon Love in March, Benavidez was simply waiting for that shot at Dirrell.
He's been training for months, knowing that he doesn't just have to beat Dirrell, but also do so in spectacular fashion to ensure that his name stays atop the super middleweight's best alongside the likes of WBA titleholder Callum Smith and IBF titleholder Caleb Plant.
"I felt it as soon as [Dirrell] fought for the belt in February. It was very hard just to go through seeing him win the title that was mine. But he's the real champion and he fought for the vacant title so I'm not going to take that away from him. But knowing that that was my belt that I have, I'm just coming in this fight very hungry, very motivated. I have about three and a half months training. So I was very focused for this training camp. So this is the best thing that you guys are ever going to see. That you guys have seen actually, so I'm very excited to go in there and give a great fight and get my title back. This is just a fight I want to look spectacular in," Benavidez said.
Shifting his focus to the present, Benavidez said he is taking nothing away from the crafty veteran in Dirrell, who has been in the ring with world champions such as Caleb Truax, Badou Jack and Sakio Bika.
"Dirrell, he's a great fighter, I take nothing away from him but I need these kind of opponents to reach my goals. I'm faster than last year, I'm smarter and my boxing IQ is higher. When I'm put in these types of situations, I never fold. The best comes out of me. This is my second pay-per-view fight that I'm going to be co-headlining and this is where I wanted to be my whole life so I'm going to take full advantage of this situation," Benavidez said.
Dirrell vs. Benavidez for the WBC super middleweight will be in the co-main event of the Errol Spence Jr. vs. Shawn Porter pay-per-view card at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Fightful will have live coverage of the entire event. You can listen to Benavidez speaking to Fightful at this link.