Even as the NHL’s Golden Knights, the NFL’s Raiders, the WNBA’s Aces and even Formula One have captured most of the attention in the local sporting scene this year, Las Vegas has quietly reasserted itself as the boxing capital of the world.
A year of major fights is to culminate tomorrow with two undefeated boxers — David Benavidez and Demetrius Andrade — to meet for the interim WBC super middleweight championship.
“Vegas is the Mecca,” Andrade said. “It’s the marquee spot in the sport of boxing.”
The year’s first major fight in Las Vegas took place in April when Gervonta Davis stopped Ryan Garcia in the seventh round in a bout between undefeated lightweight challengers. The division’s unified champion, Devin Haney, won a unanimous decision over Vasiliy Lomachenko a month later.
Terence Crawford became the unified welterweight title holder with a ninth-round technical knockout in July of Errol Spence Jr and in September, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez defended his unified super middleweight championship with a one-sided unanimous decision over Jermell Charlo.
So Benavidez (27-0, 23 knockouts) and Andrade (32-0, 19 KOs) have a lot to live up to. Benavidez is the WBC interim title holder and Andrade is a two-division champion.
“This is a great way to close out the year,” Benavidez said. “I feel like this is going to be the best card of the year, because everybody has so much to prove on this card. This is going to be an amazing card and we’re definitely not going to disappoint the fans.”
Benavidez’s brother, Jose Jr (28-2-1, 19 KOs), faces Jermall Charlo (32-0, 22 KOs), whose WBC middleweight belt is not on the line because it is a catchweight fight.
However, two other championships are on the line.
“Everybody on this card is going to make history someway, somehow,” Andrade said.
As for the top of the card, Benavidez, 26, is a minus-430 favorite over the 35-year-old Andrade, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
A victory for Benavidez, who was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and lives in Las Vegas, could set him up for a shot against Alvarez.
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman has declared Benavidez would indeed fight Alvarez, but Canelo has not committed to a bout.
If Alvarez turns down Benavidez, the WBC likely would vacate his championship.
When asked about the future after beating Jermell Charlo, Alvarez said: “Cinco de Mayo [May 5] against whoever. I don’t care.”
Benavidez has the more immediate concern of needing to take care of Andrade, a 2008 Olympian from Providence, Rhode Island.
“This is the best fight that can be made because he’s at the top of the division,” Benavidez said. “He showed the world that he’s a really good fighter. He’s an Olympian and a two-division world champion. It’s the only direction that I thought I could go to prove that I’m the best.”
“He’s not an easy opponent. He’s very technical. He has very good defense, but I always find a way to win and Saturday night [tomorrow] is not going to be any different. I’m going to find a way to beat him,” he said.
Andrade expressed similar respect for his opponent.
“David and I agreed to make this happen and now we’re here,” Andrade said. “At the end of the day, I have nowhere to go and he has nowhere to go. May the best fighters fight each other. That’s what we’re proving and that’s what we’re doing.”
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