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Exclusive: Benavidez talks Gvozdyk, Canelo and Beterbiev-Bivol

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Unbeaten powerhouse David Benavidez will enter light heavyweight terrain for the first time when he takes on former champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on June 15. The 12-round bout will serve as a co-main event to the WBA lightweight title fight between Gervonta Davis and Frank Martin.

Benavidez (28-0, 24 KOs) has lobbied hard for a career-defining showdown against undisputed super middleweight champ Canelo Alvarez to no avail. Having already held two WBC titles at 168 pounds, Benavidez became obsessed with winning all the belts in the division and knocking off a pound-for-pound great in the process.

WATCH: Gervonta Davis vs. Frank Martin on Prime Video

“I haven’t given up on that fight,” Benavidez told The Sporting News in an exclusive interview. “I know in my heart that it is going to happen. I feel like it’s too big a fight to leave on the table. It’s good for both parties and the sport of boxing.

“When is it going to happen? I don’t know, but if he needs me to come down to 168 to fight him, I definitely would. I feel like it’s my right because I was the No. 1 contender for the past three years, I’ve won a title eliminator, and I’ve won the WBC interim title. It’s something I’ve earned.”

In the meantime, Benavidez seeks more glory in a second weight class. Many believe the move up to light heavyweight will be of huge benefit to the 27-year-old pressure fighter who has been draining his 6ft 2ins frame down to 168 pounds since he was a teenager.

“I feel really good,” said Benavidez, who looked very healthy on the Monday of fight week. “I’ve been at 168 for the last 10 years – my whole career – and this is probably the weight class we should have been fighting at all along. I feel comfortable, I feel really fast, I feel really strong. My endurance is lasting longer, too.

“You guys haven’t even seen the best of me and I’m going to showcase that on Saturday. This is going to be the best half of my career. We’ve always worked on strength and conditioning and made sure no stone is left unturned. I’m going to steal the show.”

MORE: Oleksandr Gvozdyk ready for ‘tough war’ with David Benavidez

Gvozdyk (20-1, 16 KOs) is an audacious choice of opponent for Benavidez’s debut at 175 pounds. The 37-year-old Ukrainian took bronze at the 2012 Olympics and captured the WBC light heavyweight title by stopping Adonis Stevenson in 2018. Tragically, Stevenson suffered a brain injury in that bout and was forced to retire.

After falling short against Artur Beterbiev in a unification bout, Gvozdyk took three-and-a-half years away from the sport. However, the ex-champ returned to action in 2023 and earned this opportunity by posting three straight wins. He is currently rated No. 7 by The Ring at 175 pounds.

“[Gvozdyk is] a great fighter,” acknowledged Benavidez. “He’s a decorated professional… decorated amateur as well. He comes from that Ukrainian boxing school, like [Vasiliy] Lomachenko, so I didn’t overlook this man at all.

“I actually sparred him when I was 21 years old, so we got a good look at him. He’s a good boxer, he moves around a lot, and he has a good right hand. I’m definitely going to have to neutralise that right hand, but I’m going to be the same as always. I’ll be putting pressure on him and throwing some good combinations.”

Benavidez is extremely confident of delivering a knockout on Saturday night. But despite his confidence, “The Mexican Monster” looked slightly uncomfortable when he was asked to look beyond June 15. Before offering his thoughts, the Arizona-born star explained that he takes things “fight by fight” and that Gvozdyk has his full attention right now.

“After I win the WBC interim title, that puts me in position to fight the winner of [Dmitry] Bivol and Beterbiev, so we’ve got some big fights coming in the future,” explained Benavidez. “We’re definitely going to stay sharp and ready, and we look forward to capturing titles in another weight class.

“I heard that they’ve rescheduled [Beterbiev vs. Bivol] to October 12, so we’ll just need to stay on standby, stay ready, and see what happens. If we don’t get that fight with Beterbiev or Bivol, then we’ll be looking to get another fight at 175 before the year ends.”

MORE: SN’s Top-12 best pound-for-pound boxers

If Benavidez weighs in at light heavyweight and looks like a light heavyweight, then he’s probably a light heavyweight. However, despite acknowledging that he should have been campaigning at 175 pounds several years ago and that he’s feeling great in the gym, the former two-time super middleweight champ will not rule out a return to his old division for Canelo.

“I’m already [at light heavyweight] right now,” Benavidez stated. “The only thing is, I’ll need to stay at 175 or 180. From 180 down to 168 is not that much weight, so as long as I keep myself there, I don’t think I put myself in danger. But I definitely have to watch what I eat and keep in shape until we get a date or figure out what’s going to happen with this fight.”

Canelo has long been Moby Dick to Benavidez’s Captain Ahab. That harpoon is still cocked.

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