Jose Benavidez Jr. (26-0, 17 KO) is nothing if not self-aware.
Benavidez, 25, returned to the ring after 18 months to punch in a TKO victory over Matthew Strode (24-6, 9 KO) on Saturday night at the American Bank Center. On the undercard of Top Rank’s latest ESPN production, the former interim Junior Welterweight champion toyed with the veteran as long as he could, on the undercard of Top Rank’s latest installment on ESPN, before breaking down Strode in the eighth and final round.
Round By Round Boxing spoke with the former titleholder after the fight.
“[Strode] was tough,” said Benavidez. “I hit him with some good shots and I ended it in the eighth round so I feel good about the performance.”
Benavidez was accompanied to the ring by his brother, David, the WBC super middleweight champion. The two are tight, both cornered by their father Jose Benavidez Sr. The 21-year-old David flaunted his green WBC strap on his shoulder, remaining at his older brother’s side for the interview.
Nicknamed “Merciless,” Benavidez Jr. made his return to the ring against Strode following a layoff that included a stint in the hospital when he was shot in the leg in August of 2016. The gunshot wound came just a month after a 10-round decision over Welterweight gatekeeper Francisco Santana in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Phoenix, Arizona native knew how long he had been away from the bright lights and was eager to shake off any ring rust.
“I wanted to get more rounds in because I had a long layoff,” said Benavidez. “I kind of felt like an amateur again fighting in front of all kinds of people. I hadn’t done that in a year and a half.”
Benavidez was just 22 when he lifted the interim 140-pound WBA belt from Mauricio Herrea at the end of 2014. That decision victory came under scrutiny from boxing fans the moment it was announced.
Bob Arum, Top Rank CEO, fast-tracked Benavidez to a world title after just four years as a professional and against the division’s biggest spoiler. Herrera was one fight removed from a controversial loss to Danny Garcia.
Now, Benavidez is fighting under the promotional banner for another opportunity at championship gold, this time at a bigger weight class, with bigger names. And he does not mind who is in front of him.
“I want every belt at 147,” said Benavidez. “I vacated the belt at 140, so I want to fight the best at 147—that’s the only way I’m going to get better by fighting the best.”
Photos by Mikey Williams/Top Rank