David Benavidez cruises by Oleksandr Gvozdyk, still wants Canelo

LAS VEGAS -- David Benavidez looked relatively at home in his first appearance at light heavyweight, cruising to a unanimous decision over Oleksandr Gvozdyk at the MGM Grand on Saturday night.

Benavidez (29-0, 24 KOs) moved up to 175 pounds for the first time after his repeated efforts to entice undisputed super middleweight champ Canelo Alvarez into a bout fell short. He beat Gvozdyk (20-2, 16 KOs) comfortably, with the judges favoring Benavidez 119-109, 117-111 and 116-112, and claimed a WBC interim world title in the victory.

"I think it's a 7 out of 10, to be honest," Benavidez said when asked to grade his performance. "Oleksandr is a great fighter. It's no wonder he's a former champion, a former Olympian."

Benavidez, 27, revealed that he suffered a facial cut and torn tendon in his right hand before the fight. It didn't really show in his performance, as he landed 223 punches compared with 163 for Gvozdyk, according to CompuBox. One criticism of the performance might have been a lack of power. He never had Gvozdyk in true trouble, despite teeing off on him multiple times throughout the 12 rounds.

Whether Benavidez's power fully translates to 175 pounds will likely be a topic of discussion if he ever moves on to potentially marquee fights against titleholders Artur Beterbiev or Dmitry Bivol. For now, Benavidez said he will look at both light heavyweight and his natural weight class of super middleweight. He said his fight night weight Saturday was 189 pounds.

"We're still looking to go down to 168 to fight for the title," he said. "If we're going to get Canelo or if they're going to vacate it, I would like to win it one more time."

Some of Benavidez's best work came in the first half of the fight. He had a lot of success with a looping left hook, which looked like it could turn into a fight-ending shot in the early rounds before Gvozdyk made some adjustments. Benavidez constantly pressured Gvozdyk backward and highlighted some of his work with shots to the body.

Gvozdyk, a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, weathered the storm well, especially for a 37-year-old who retired from boxing in 2019 before returning to the sport last year. Gvozdyk even mounted a bit of a comeback in the later rounds and opened a small cut over Benavidez's left eye.

Despite some late success, Gvozdyk routinely found himself on the back foot against his advancing opponent. Benavidez continued to look for the finish in the later rounds, but Gvozdyk ate his best shots.

Saturday's bout was Benavidez's first of 2024. He could be a candidate for the winner of an Oct. 12 undisputed light heavyweight championship bout between Beterbiev and Bivol.