David Benavidez was still three months shy of his 21st birthday when he won his first world title. He's fought seven more times in the five years since that victory over Ronald Gavril in 2017, going 7-0 with six knockouts to establish himself as one of boxing's brightest young stars.
But as Benavidez sees it, that was all done during his apprenticeship. He turned professional at the tender age of 16, an age when a lot of his friends were working up the courage to ask their girlfriends to go to the prom with them. Benavidez set sail on his boxing journey with plenty of confidence and belief in the future, even if he didn't know what he didn't know.
On Saturday (9 p.m. ET, Showtime PPV) at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, Benavidez will take the most dangerous fight in his career when he defends the interim WBC super middleweight title against Caleb Plant. It's been 10 months since last he fought, a third-round stoppage of veteran David Lemieux, but a lifetime away.
Benavidez finally is where he wants to be as he prepares for the Plant fight.
"I feel now I'm moving into my prime," said Benavidez, who is now 26 and ready to translate that potential into performance. "I've felt like a young veteran because I've been a professional for so long. I'm coming up on a decade now that I've been a professional. I turned professional at 16. Everything I've done coming up, everything I've learned, it's all been experience.
"Now, I'm coming into my prime. I feel extremely strong. I feel extremely fast. My mind, you know I'm thinking really good in the gym. I'm enjoying every single moment of it. I'm very happy with what I've been through and I feel this is the perfect time to make this fight happen."
He's grown up in the spotlight and he's been around boxing for most of his life. His older brother, Jose Jr., is a former world champion who once fought pound-for-pound king Terence Crawford for the welterweight title.
The expectations around him were exceptionally high, even as he was struggling as a teenager to get his weight under control. Before he turned pro, he was over 250 pounds and struggling to get into the shape he needed to be to take advantage of his talent.
He has been scrutinized throughout his career but said he never let the attention or expectations others had for him negatively affect him. It ramped up when he won a title as a 20-year-old but he's been able to take it in stride.
"I've never felt there was extra weight on my shoulders," Benavidez told Yahoo Sports. "I just had to live up to the expectations and that's definitely always motivated me and given me the drive to get to where I'm at today. Like I said, undefeated, 26-0 with 23 knockouts. This is my first pay-per-view [as a headliner] so I feel like this is my second wind in my career. I'm very excited. The stars are aligning and everything is where it's supposed to be and now it's my time to shine."
A win over Plant would be huge for Benavidez. Plant is 22-1 with 13 KOs and his only defeat coming at the hands of Canelo Alvarez. Plant not only fought well against Alvarez before being stopped in the 11th, but he returned by scoring one of the best knockouts of 2022 against veteran Anthony Dirrell.
There has been plenty of trash talk going back-and-forth between Benavidez and Plant, but Benavidez shakes it off. He's expected all of this and it's one thing he's benefitted from by fighting at such a high level from such a young age.
He believes he's ready to take things to the next level starting with Plant on Saturday. Benavidez is a -350 favorite at BetMGM, with Plant at +240.
"I've turned 26 and now I'm finally starting to get these fights, so I feel this is like the start of my second coming of my career," Benavidez said. "I'm starting to get these fights and I know after this fight, I'll have nothing but big fights to come. It's good that I've stayed focused and maintained and prepared. I put that work in because I knew what was about to come. Now, I'm about to do everything I said I was going to do when I was a little kid and be the champion I said I was going to be."