By Paul Magno | March 27, 2023

Saturday’s David Benavidez-Caleb Plant card from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas was a sneak peek at how boxing would be if we cut out all the bullshit and just got into the actual sport again. It was a brief flashback to the days before social media had us fighting over contracts and revenue tallies more than styles matchups and clashes of personalities. Honestly, it was goddamn refreshing. 

Mind you, there was still plenty silliness out there. I had to dodge a few “but PBC is going out of business” buzzkill posts and the occasional my network/promoter vs. your network/promoter flame war, but, for the most part, people were just talking about the actual fight. That’s the way this boxing shit is supposed to work. 

A big reason for that rests in the fact that this was a really compelling fight headlining a good card from top to bottom. It’s hard to be too cynical when the product is really good (although some dedicated, agenda-wielding pantsloads certainly try). Basically, Saturday’s card was a good example of what I call Good Matchmaking Karma, which is the common sense boxing theory that good things generally happen when you make good, well-matched, meaningful fights. 

As for the fights, themselves?

Well, I’m sure you don’t want to be reading recap no. 231 of the fights, featuring the same quotes from the same post-fight interviews. So, here are some of my notes from the show.

-- David Benavidez has proven himself to be THE challenger at 168 and there is now zero reason for Saul “Canelo” Alvarez to not be addressing his challenge. Forget a second go at Bivol, Benavidez has to be September’s B-side. 

-- Benavidez has always been a personal favorite of mine and I was fairly sure that he was “for real.” But his resume, up until Saturday, was slim. Realistically, he had yet to fight an opponent who wasn’t tailor made to be a fall guy. This performance against Plant proved that Benavidez is more than a front runner beating up guys destined to highlight reel defeat.

-- Caleb Plant, by the way, has also been a personal favorite of mine. His strategy of trying to disrupt Benavidez’s rhythm with movement, a smart jab, and strategic clinching was working through the first seven rounds of the fight, which I scored 5-2 in his favor. Benavidez, however, proved to be too big, too strong, and too unflappable. Plant couldn’t hurt Benavidez and wasn’t strong enough to keep him in check, two factors that eventually led to him being worn down in the second half of the fight. 

-- Plant’s clinching ruffled a lot of fans’ feathers and led to criticism of referee Kenny Bayless for “letting” it happen. The criticism is not entirely fair, though. Clinching/holding used to be a lot more prevalent in the old days and, just like on Saturday, referees were slow to act on it then, as well. The reason is that clinching straddles the fence of what is or is not permissible in boxing. It’s not actionable, unless it’s “excessive” and there’s no clear definition of what’s considered “excessive.” As such, referees will almost always err on the side of caution when it comes to warnings and point deductions for holding. It’s basic Reffing 101 to remove yourself from being the story of a fight and/or being too much of a factor in the natural flow. The impetus for curtailing Plant’s clinching fell on Benavidez, who should’ve fought his way out of the clinches and/or wrestled to remove himself to such a degree where Bayless HAD to act. Traditionally, clinching only becomes an actionable offense when it turns a fight into a sloppy mess...and it can’t become that sloppy mess when one guy is accepting the clinch, waiting patiently for the ref to break it up.

-- Jesus Ramos beat the stuffing out of Joey Spencer en route to a seventh round corner stoppage. I had a strong suspicion that this super welterweight pairing of undefeated 22-year-olds may end up this way, but when the two fighters actually stood face-to-face in the ring, the outcome was a sure thing. Spencer was clearly outclassed, but he also looked to be facing a damn light heavyweight in there. Ramos was huge and it makes you wonder how many pounds he gained from weigh-in to fight night. Given the ugly beating he delivered to Spencer, who looked like he was trying to counter a brick wall, it kind of makes my case for tighter reins on weight manipulation. This bout could’ve turned into a tragedy.  

-- When Jose Valenzuela dropped Chris Colbert hard in the first round of their lightweight bout, I knew there would be fan unrest when it comes to the scoring if Colbert were able to right his ship and go the distance. The truth is, even with the knockdown in the first and a couple of other instances where Valenzuela buzzed Colbert, this fight was close. 95-94, in either fighter’s favor, would’ve been fair. As it turned out, Colbert got the 95-94 nod, which, predictably, produced outrage among some fans. But boxing scoring isn’t about who hurts who most, it’s about the tallying of individual rounds. Lord knows boxing judges get things wrong often enough, but they were fine on Colbert-Valenzuela.

-- Cody Crowley is a solid second-tier welterweight with aspirations of being top-tier. He made the top-tier case for himself on Saturday when he handled Abel Ramos pretty decisively (despite two judges being off with 114-114 and 115-113 scores). It’ll be interesting to see how his wall-moving-forward style gets over against the top names in the division-- and I have my doubts as to how successful he’ll be against the elite-level talent at 147-- but he’s definitely a presence and fun to watch. 

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