A unification fight between WBC super middleweight titlist David Benavidez and IBF titlist Caleb Plant is one of the best matchups that could be made in boxing. Both are undefeated and in their primes and to say they don’t get along is putting it lightly.
Their personalities outside the ring are as contrasting as their styles inside of it. Benavidez (22-0, 19 KOs) is a powerful two-handed offensive machine. Plant is a slick boxing technician.
There’s nothing not to like about a bout between the two. It’s an elite pairing, pitting ESPN’s No. 2 and No. 3 super middleweights, Benavidez and Plant, respectively, against each other.
Unfortunately, fight fans likely will have to wait until 2021 to see them fight. Benavidez faces Roamer Alexis Angulo in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card at Mohegan Sun Casino & Resort in Uncasville, Connecticut, on Saturday. Plant, who last fought on Feb. 15, scoring a 10th-round stoppage of Vincent Feigenbutz, currently doesn’t have a fight scheduled, but he says he’d like to defend his world title in 2020 a second time.
Until then, the emotion in this rivalry will have to simmer.
“He’s probably the fakest dude I’ve ever met,” Benavidez told ESPN. “He’ll look at you in the face and say some good things about you, be respectful. But as soon as he turns his back, they’ll give him an interview and he becomes super disrespectful.
“So that’s kind of what it is. … Obviously, he thinks he’s the best, so none of that animosity is going away until we get to see each other in the ring. And I guarantee when I see him, it’s going to be ugly.”
Benavidez and his brother Jose, a welterweight title contender, already have had a scuffle with Plant. They also exchanged words after Plant won the title in Jan. 2019 against Jose Uzcategui at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
Plant says it’s really about “agreeing to disagree,” just two prideful pros believing they are the best in their division. However, he acknowledges the animosity is personal.
“It became overboard once they started talking about my daughter,” said Plant, referring to his daughter, Alia, who died at 20 months after suffering from a condition that gave her constant seizures. “They started saying stuff like I’m using her to get famous. Just things of that matter, I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to speak on my daughter or anyone’s daughter.
“I think they say that energy doesn’t die, it only transfers. She’s still here, she lives through me. So I don’t try and cram anything down anyone’s throat, but I just don’t think it’s right. … I have no respect for him, or his team.”
So what’s the holdup in making this fight? Boxing fans will hate to hear this, but the powers that be want this fight to marinate for a while.
“It’s maybe one of the best fights ever in that division,” said Sampson Lewkowicz, who promotes Benavidez. Lewkowicz said he has never encountered two boxers who ”hate each other” quite like this duo, but wants to wait for the right time for them to fight.
“It would be so stupid to do it now with no fans, and it’s not good enough for pay-per-view,” he said. “If it were up to Benavidez, that fight would happen in his backyard, but I can not allow this to happen.”
The point about not having live gate available for major events is valid. Tom Brown, who promotes most of the PBC cards, said the business justifies the wait.
“That’s a fight where you need an in-house audience,” Brown said. “That’s a high-quality unification match, two undefeated champions.”
Should Benavidez-Plant come to fruition, the fight could end up on pay-per-view.
PBC already has three pay-per-view events scheduled for the fall: Jermall and Jermell Charlo against Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Jeison Rosario, respectively, on Sept. 26; Gervonta Davis vs. Leo Santa Cruz on Oct. 24 and Errol Spence Jr.’s return against Danny Garcia on Nov. 21. The third bout between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder is tentatively scheduled for December. Even if PBC and the fighters wanted to do this fight in 2020, there might not be room on the calendar.
“The holdup is not on my team or me,” said the 28-year-old Plant. “It’s the only fight I’ve wanted, it’s the fight I’ve asked for. There’s evidence out there, their team, their promoter saying that they’re not fighting us in 2020, that it needs to wait.”
While Benavidez, 23, is five years younger than Plant, with his 6-foot-2 frame, his time at super middleweight could be over soon. Given his stature, Benavidez could go up to light heavyweight sooner rather than later.
But he says his run at 168-pounds will not be complete until he faces Plant.
“I won’t move up until I fight him,” Benavidez said. “Honestly, my plan is I won’t move up to 175 until I get Callum Smith, Caleb Plant, and if I could get a fight with Billy Joe Saunders, that would be cool, too, and then Canelo [Alvarez]. I won’t move up until all those fights are made.”