David Benavidez scored the biggest win of his career with a unanimous decision victory over Caleb Plant on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Plant jumped out to an early lead on the strength of his jab and movement in the large, 22-by-22 ring, but Benavidez was able to hurt his opponent on several occasions.
Benavidez's nonstop pressure wore down Plant over the second half of the super middleweight fight, and Benavidez prevailed by scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 117-111.
"I want to give a big shout to Caleb Plant," said Benavidez, ESPN's No. 2 super middleweight. "We fought like warriors in the ring, and this guy's a f---ing helluva fighter. ... I showed defense, head movement ... and cut the ring really good. I hit him with a lot of hard shots."
Benavidez also called out Canelo Alvarez, the undisputed champion at 168 pounds.
Alvarez, boxing's top star, is set to defend his four super middleweight titles against John Ryder on May 6 in Mexico -- but Alvarez always fights on Mexican Independence Day weekend in September too.
Alvarez has been calling for a rematch with Dmitry Bivol, who defeated Alvarez in May, but Benavidez has now made his case too.
"I have a lot of respect for Canelo Alvarez, but he has to give me that shot now," he said. "That's what everybody wants to see in September. ... I don't think he's trying to avoid me; I just believe he has a lot of options."
Plant, who lost his title to Alvarez via 11th-round stoppage in November 2021 for his lone previous defeat, showed off his impressive jab and footwork from the opening bell. The 30-year-old Tennessee native who fights out of Las Vegas was able to keep the larger, longer Benavidez at bay with the lead hand.
Every time Benavidez (27-0, 23 KOs) was able to pin Plant (22-2, 13 KOs) on the ropes, Plant was wise to spin off to evade danger. When Benavidez worked his way onto the inside, Plant held each and every time.
The tactic was smartly deployed, and veteran referee Kenny Bayless surprisingly allowed Plant to clinch without much warning. Hall of Fame boxer Oscar De La Hoya quipped on Twitter afterward that Benavidez was fighting two men in the ring.
"Kenny Bayless is a helluva referee, but he didn't give Plant any warnings," Benavidez said.
"I had to find a way to work around it," he added.
Plant, ESPN's No. 3 super middleweight, continued to pile up rounds during the first half on the strength of his jab and distance control, but eventually, Benavidez's pressure broke through.
Benavidez, a 26-year-old Phoenix native who fights out of Seattle, appeared to sweep the second half of the fight. He buckled Plant with a chopping right hand in Round 8 that sent the former champion stumbling. However, Bayless quickly halted the action after a clash of heads left Plant with a vertical gash in the middle of his forehead that bled for the remainder of the fight.
Benavidez, who is nicknamed "Mexican Monster," started to mix in body shots and a jab to go along with his best punch, the left hook. Under duress from Benavidez's pressure and thudding shots, Plant's jab mostly disappeared.
And again in Round 10, Benavidez had Plant in trouble, this time from a series of left hooks that forced Plant to desperately hold on.
Benavidez continued to push for the stoppage of his rival in the penultimate round -- a bundle of left hands and chopping rights wobbled Plant's legs -- but Plant never tasted the canvas. He showed tremendous heart throughout the bout, just as he did against Alvarez, and made it to the final bell while still exchanging.
"David's a helluva fighter," said Plant, who scored a spectacular KO of former titleholder Anthony Dirrell in October. "It's a big rivalry, but we got in here and settled it like men. ... I've got in there and I've rumbled with the best in the world; I haven't ducked anybody."
"There's no excuse," Plant added. "David was the better man tonight."
Now, Benavidez will wait to see what happens between Alvarez and Ryder in May while hoping for his own shot against boxing's most bankable fighter.
Benavidez has twice held a super middleweight title and both times lost it outside the ring.
He was stripped by the WBC in 2018 following a positive test for cocaine. After he regained the title, Benavidez was forced to relinquish it in 2020 after he failed to make 168 pounds.