David Benavidez defeats David Lemieux and stops him in three

GLENDALE, Ariz. — David Benavidez has vowed to leave the ring with a knockout and the title on the line.

It was mission accomplished for Phoenix’s favorite son, who beat Montreal’s David Lemieux en route to a third-round knockout victory. Benavidez floored Lemieux – a former IBF middleweight tilist – early in the second round and beat the former IBF middleweight title all the way through before forcing a stoppage at 1:31 of the third round to claim the interim United Nations title. WBC super middleweight in Showtime’s main event on Saturday night at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

The fight was the second straight local headliner for Benavidez, who has clearly established himself as the region’s biggest attraction.

“I just want to thank everyone who came out tonight,” Benavidez said of the adoring crowd, who filled the entire lower bowl and provided the energy for an Arizona Cardinals game, the NFL stadium across the street. “If it hadn’t been for my people from Arizona, I wouldn’t be here.

“It’s surreal to me. I will give my heart in the ring for you every day.

Benavidez brought his heart and full offensive arsenal on Saturday night. He nearly finished Lemieux near the end of the first round with a volley of punches that put the 33-year-old in trouble.

It happened moments after Lemieux confidently opened the round, while Benavidez just watched the finish before finally letting go of his hands. The fight ceased to be competitive at this point, with Lemeiux beaten by a barrage of right hands, uppercuts and left hooks. Benavidez rocked Lemieux late in the first round, with the Montreal native nearly tripping over the canvas only to be saved by the bell.

Benavidez immediately got to work in the second round. An uppercut from the undefeated Phoenix native sent Lemieux through the ropes and onto the canvas.

“I knew it was going to be open all night,” admitted Benavidez. “I landed that first right hook to the body and was surprised it came so soon. But I kept pushing. I was surprised they didn’t stop the fight in the first round or even give an eight count. So I kept coming.

Lemieux beat the count but was apparently one punch away from being brutally knocked out. Benavidez unloaded with a series of uppercuts, as well as an assortment of power shots that opened up a cut under Lemieux’s left eye that somehow avoided a second trip to the canvas.

Referee Harvey Dock gave Lemieux a long look between rounds before allowing the action to continue. Benavidez immediately got back to work, punching Lemieux along the ropes and landing at will. The assault was severe enough that Lemieux’s corner had the ring inspector get on the ring apron and signal Dock to stop the fight.

The brutally one-sided affair was well reflected in Compubox’s unofficial statistics. Benavidez landed 74 of 151 punches (49%), compared to just 26 of 109 (23.9%) for Lemieux, who landed 24 of 83 power punches (28.9%).

Benavidez landed 58 of 111 (52.3%) of his power shots.

A five-fight winning streak comes to an end for Lemieux, who drops to 43-5 (36 KOs).

“Tonight just wasn’t my night,” admitted Lemieux. “I will speak to my team to reevaluate. David Benavidez is one hell of a fighter.

The lopsided loss was likely his last day in the sun at this level. Lemieux briefly held the IBF middleweight title, a reign that only lasted five months before an eighth-round knockout loss to Gennadiy Golovkin in their October 2015 middleweight title unification bout at the Madison Square Garden in New York.

Efforts to regain his title form never returned, as evidenced by a lopsided loss to then-undefeated WBO middleweight Billy Joe Saunders. The hope of staying at the heart of the middleweight division proved to be detrimental to his health, pulling out of a December 2018 fight with Tureano Johnson. Much of his career has been plagued by injuries, while his run at super middleweight showed that he really was a middleweight. Lemieux showed off a meaty 166.2 pounds on Friday and seemingly unable to return to a weight more suited to his body. Still, he jumped into the ring for the fight.

“Thanks to David Lemieux, who was the one with the balls to jump in the ring with me,” Benavidez told Showtime’s Jim Gray as he improves to 26-0 (23KOs). The win was his second straight at home, six months after stopping Kyrone Davis in seven innings on Nov. 13 at the Footprint Center in Phoenix.

“I’m proud to take this city and carry it on my back,” Benavidez noted.

Benavidez is now the interim WBC super middleweight title slate and, more importantly, the WBC mandatory challenger to undisputed super middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (57-2-2, 39KOs). The feeling is that such a fight won’t work anytime soon, leaving Benavidez to set his sights on the rest of the division.

“We don’t need to talk about Canelo,” Sampson Lewkowicz, Benavidez’ Hall of Fame promoter, told BoxingScene.com after the fight. “We all know Canelo won’t fight him, so let’s stop talking about him.”

Names such as WBC middleweight title roster Jermall Charlo (32-0, 22KOs), former IBF super middleweight title roster Caleb Plant (21-1, 12KOs) and secondary super middleweight title roster -WBA middleweight David Morrell have all been mentioned in recent days and again on Saturday night.

“I’m just waiting for these guys to sign the contract,” Benavidez insisted. “These bitches know what’s going on.”

Jake Donovan is Senior Writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox

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