Jose Benavidez Jr. is healed, healthy and hunting for world title shot
On June 9, undefeated welterweight contender Jose Benavidez Jr., 26-0 (17), will step into the ring for the second time this year, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Benavidez will face Venezuelan Frank Rojas, 22-0 (21), in support of the main event that will see unbeaten former two-division champion Terence Crawford challenge Australia’s Jeff Horn for the WBO 147-pound world title that Horn won in July of 2017, when he defeated former eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao.
Benavidez won the WBA interim junior welterweight title back in December of 2014, after a red-hot start to his pro career in 2010. Jose Jr. turned pro as a 17-year-old and caught the attention of Top Rank, who handles the native of Phoenix, Arizona.
Benavidez was out of boxing for 2017 after being badly injured in a shooting in Phoenix. Luckily Benavidez recovered, slowly regained his strength and was able to return to boxing last February. Now he feels like he is getting back to his former fighting self and is looking to add to the win column, to get back in line for a world title shot.
However he knows, in the “What have you done for me lately?” world of boxing, he needs to impress in every fight, from now on, to prove he is indeed ready to return to the world title stage.
UCNLive.com caught up with Jose Jr. and his father/trainer Jose Sr., to get their thoughts on the upcoming June 9 bout and what the future holds for the former interim 140-pound titlist.
“He is looking good and getting back to where he once was,” said Jose Sr. “After he was injured, he was really lucky to survive that. I mean, he could have been killed, maybe unable to walk; anything could have happened. The doctor said, “He might not walk again, let alone box,” so we are very happy where he has gotten back to.”
Obviously while Phoenix was home, it was time to make a change while Benavidez healed and planned his return to boxing.
“Yeah, I said, ‘You gotta get out of Phoenix, Jose.’ I mean, it’s a small place and it can be dangerous. Any little thing can get you into trouble, so I knew we had to get him out of Phoenix and make a change,” said Jose Sr. “We went out to Oregon for a year and it was good move, get away from all the distractions there and focus on getting better and getting him healthy again. We are in Vegas now and it is a good fit for us. We really like it here. There is great sparring and I think we are going to make the move here as I think it will be perfect for us.”
While only 25 years old, Jose already has eight-plus years in the game but the last couple of years have seen him out of the ring more than in it. So everyone in the Benavidez camp knows is time to work on getting him back to where he once was as one of the hottest players in the welterweight division.
“He is very strong in so many areas” said Jose Sr. ”He has power and can really bang with his right hand but he is also very long and lean and can work behind a very strong jab. His jab is powerful; he can hurt you with his jab. Everything works off the jab and that may be his greatest weapon in the ring.”
While he is most happy just seeing his son alive and healthy, Senior is also happy to see Junior return to his boxing career.
And the ultimate goal is a world title shot.
“You know, if he can look good and remain healthy and not get cut or anything in his coming fights, I think he will be in a position to fight for a world title again before too long, Each time he wins, he goes up a little higher in the rankings in the Top-10, and then he will get his title shot and, when he does, he will be ready,” Jose Sr. said. “Things have been great out here in Vegas, working with Alex Ariza, who is our strength-and-conditioning coach. He is getting excellent coaching and sparring and everything is going great for him.”
While Jose Jr. knows patience is sometimes the key in boxing, he is more than ready and excited to compete against the very best in the world.
Jose Jr. clearly liked how holding a title felt. Now that he is healthy and back in the ring, he voiced that he is fired up for another crack at the crown.
“You know, if you just believe in yourself, anything is possible. I mean, after everything I went through, I just kept working hard and not giving up the faith. I knew if I just worked hard I could be back and working my way towards a world title shot again”, he said. “I want to prove all the doubters wrong. Every time I step in the ring, I want to show everyone that I am back and better than ever. I am looking forward to my fight on June 9th to show I am ready for anyone.”
Asked if there are any champions out there he would like to face, Benavidez said Crawford is the man. If Crawford can defeat Horn in the June 9 main event, Benavidez would love a shot at the Omaha, Nebraska-based star.
“If I could pick a title shot against anyone, it would be Terence Crawford,” he said. “That’d be a great fight; I think. We have been trying to get that fight but it hasn’t happened yet but that would be a great fight. But I’d fight any champion. I’m ready to fight anyone, anytime. I’d fight every month if I could. When I get that title shot, I’ll be ready.”