Maturing David Benavidez ready for return, ready to stay busy and ready for a career that might ...

By Norm Frauenheim

From height to reach, a tale of the tape is a reliable enough scale. But it doesn’t measure maturity. Growing up is a lot different than growing bigger. It’s an intangible, making it hard to quantify, but it’s there in tone and temperament.

You know it when you hear it.

It’s there in David Benavidez, a 23-year-old super-middleweight champion and wise beyond his years. An ongoing pandemic has already altered behavior and is about to change the marketplace, especially for prizefighters who grew accustomed to unprecedented wages during pre-COVID days.

Those days are gone. So, too, is a lot of the money, although it’s becoming clear that not everybody has awoken to the sobering news.

There are increasing reports of fighters at or near the top of the pay scale balking at projected fights because of money. Dollar-for-inflated dollar, Canelo Alvarez stands alone. But there are increasing reports that DAZN is asking him to take a cut in pay.

The streaming service, which signed Canelo to a contract worth $33 million-a-fight, is trying to cut costs. According to a Bloomberg story, DAZN wants out of its soccer deal with UEFA Champions League in Asia.

That report coincides with news that DAZN wants to re-negotiate with Canelo for a fight that has been proposed for Sept. 12. During the COVID era, there are no guarantees. There are no crowds either, which means Canelo will either have to wait for a later date – perhaps November — or a virus-killing vaccine, whichever comes first.

Then, maybe – just maybe – the eight-figure paycheck will be back in the market place. But don’t bet on it.  Only masks and social distancing are guaranteed these days. Benavidez seems to understand that.

“It’s understandable to think that taking a pay cut isn’t fair,” Benavidez said during a conference call introducing a Showtime schedule that begins Saturday with junior-featherweight Andy Leo against late stand-in Tramaine Williams and continues on Aug. 15 with Benavidez in a World Boxing Council title defense against Roamer Angulo in Uncasville, Conn.  “My contract states that my deal stays the same for this fight and the next fight.

“If I have to take a pay cut, I will take a pay cut. That’s up to my promoter and my manager, you know. We can definitely come to an agreement.’’

It looked as if Benavidez was poised to take big step up the pay scale last September after he scored a ninth-round stoppage of Anthony Dirrell and became only the second Arizona fighter to collect a $1-million purse since junior-flyweight legend Michael Carbajal scored the seven-figure feat against Humberto Gonzalez in a 1994 rematch.

But then there was COVID, which altered budgets if not mindsets. Amid reports of stalled negotiations with Canelo, Terence Crawford said he wouldn’t take a pay cut. Ryan Garcia said he wanted big money. Thursday, The Athletic reported Teofoimo Lopez was balking at offers to fight Vasiliy Lomachenko. Lower your masks, gentlemen. It’s only supposed to cover your nose and mouth. Not your eyes. That marketplace is changing. There’s no Floyd Mayweather Jr.-like payday in anybody’s post-COVID future.

Benavidez gets it.

“As for my fights, I give the best fights that I can possibly can give and deserve the pay that I get. But if we have to come to an agreement, we can come to an agreement.”

Dollars are the devils in the details, of course. But it sounds as if Benavidez has an unspoken awareness of what he has to do. To wit:  Keep himself in the mix and in the public eye.  His immediate goal is still a fight with Caleb Plant, who holds the International Boxing Federation’s version of the 168-pound belt.

But his name continues to be dropped as a possibility for Canelo, the reigning middleweight champion who won a secondary 168-pound title over Rocky Fielding and relinquished the 175-pound belt he won in a stoppage of Sergey Kovalev.

Callum Smith appears to be the leading candidate for whenever and where ever Canelo fights next.  If not Smith, maybe David Lemieux. Or maybe Benavidez.

Benavidez knows he is on Canelo’s short list. That awareness was evident this week when he appeared on the WBC’s internet production, Tuesday Coffee.

“I have a title that Canelo wants, the WBC,’’ said Benavidez, who had been scheduled to fight Angulo in Phoenix on April 18 in his first hometown appearance in five years. “If he gives me the fight it will be an honor for me. And if he gives me the opportunity I will be ready. I think I have what it takes to beat him: Youth, strength, speed.  I think I can beat him.”

“It is a fight that I want and, if he gives me the fight, it is going to be a war for people and it is a fight that people want to see. Boxing wins with that fight.” 

For now, however, Canelo-Benavidez has only been talk.

“Never an offer,’’ Benavidez said during the Showtime call.

 Also, never a doubt about a maturing fighter’s foresight to know that one day there’ll be one.

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