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THE MARKSMAN FIRES FILE: Q n A With Judge Robert Hoyle



The business of boxing has multiple levels of understanding. Sports officials usually let their results do the talking and rarely reveal much about themselves, or the method to their madness. And from a distance, officials in sports are obsessed with perfection. But what gets lost in officiating is the passion for the sport.

Dancing boxers and Mike Tyson fights are some of the things that run through the mind of Robert Hoyle, the highly regarded boxing judge out of the state of Nevada.

Hoyle never fought professionally but grew up a fighter. He was in the military for 21 years before entering boxing.

In this interview, Hoyle reminds us that judges are not getting rich writing on scorecards. As Hoyle tells us, “No one has came up and said, ‘Hey, here is some money. Take care of my guy.’ But as sports are viewed as a level playing field where the best man usually wins, Hoyle oversees the outcome and senses the disconnection at times between the way fans and officials watch fights.

Hoyle’s boxing journey started in the 1980s when he worked security at Caesars Palace sports events, covering prizefights like Marvin Hagler vs. Ray Leonard. In 1992, Hoyle switched roles to be an inspector, working corners and overseeing fighters. In 1999, Hoyle seized the opportunity to become a boxing judge, and he has worked some of the more memorable fights in recent memory, including the third fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, and the Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto fight.

Read on as Hoyle explains the art of judging, the Mike Tyson mystic, and the myth behind “fixed fights.”

Ray Markarian: Thanks for taking the time, Robert.

Robert Hoyle: Well hey, you called me, man, this is a privilege. I didn’t want to miss the chance to get to talk to you.

RM: Well, you know, to speak to a respected boxing judge that has worked many high profile fights is my privilege. Let’s keep it free flowing…. Let’s start off by telling me why you wanted to be a boxing judge.

RH: You know, I’ll tell you, my first exposure to boxing was when I started out as an inspector. And, I am not sure if you are familiar with the duties of an inspector. We work the corners and work with the fighters before the fights…

RM: Yeah.

RH: OK. So, some of the fights that got me real charged up back in the day were the Tyson fights. Mike Tyson real made me a fan of boxing. From working security for events to becoming an inspector, I got the opportunity to go into the amateur program as a boxing judge and it became like a bug to me. And once you catch the bug in boxing you’re stuck. It’s the same reason why a lot of fighters can’t retire. They keep coming back because they got that bug. And that’s what I got. So, once I started as an inspector, I wanted to do more. I enjoyed what I was doing with the fighters in the dressing rooms and sitting ringside. It felt good to be a part of the event and actually make a difference. I think we all come across situations in life where we get an opportunity to make a difference, and I wanted to make a difference in boxing.

RM: So, how did you even get a job as an inspector? I’m sure it’s not easy.

RH: Yeah, it’s funny you say that. I saw your interview with Kenny (boxing referee Kenny Bayless.) Kenny and I have this six-degrees of separation. Kenny started off as an inspector. When he got called up to be a referee, I took his spot as an inspector.

RM: Wow. Small world.

RH: Yeah. I just happened to be in the right place at the time.

RM: What is the main thing that has changed about your experience as judge from when you started in 1999 to the present day?

RH: You never stop learning. I worked with a lot of officials that are more senior than I am, and they don’t think they need to learn anymore. They think they know it all. But you always see different angles when you learn.

RM: Then what makes you different from any other judge?

RH: Well, I wouldn’t say I am different. But I am constantly try to reinvent or recharge myself.

RM: You always want to stay sharp.

RH: Exactly. You see, as a judge, I learn a lot from referees and other judges. Referees need to know the rules. And judges need to know the rules. If a referee calls a knockdown, it’s a knockdown. But if he doesn’t see it, it didn’t happen.

RM: What is the biggest disconnection in your opinion between the way fans and officials sees fights?

RH: Everybody wants to believe that a fight is close. If one round is close, sometimes a fan thinks the entire fight was close. The casual fan needs to remember that a 12 round championship fight has 12 individual fights.

RM: So, do you use a basic criterion for every fight?

RH: Well, before every round I want to see who controls the action and who can do the most damage. In my opinion, the smart fighter will come out in the first round and jump on the other guy. That’s why we had so many knockouts in the first round back in the day… The best fighters never gave their opponent the chance to get into his groove. The smartest thing to do is catch the opponent off guard in the first round.

RM: What are you looking for when there isn’t a knockout?

RH: Well, I am still looking at scoring blows. Fans don’t remember a scoring zone. As a judge you have to remember if a punch landed on the opponents’ back or back of the head, then it’s not a scoring blow. It may have caused some damage, but it’s not a scoring blow.

RM: So, tell me more about that. What is a scoring blow?

RH: A scoring blow is any punch that lands between the navel and top of the forehead. You split the ears and go back down to the body. Any punch on the back, I don’t care how strong of a punch that is… You have a lot of boxers that like to turn their back defensively; they are forcing their opponent outside of the scoring zone.

RM: Do you remember the first fight between Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe?

RH: Yeah I do.

RM: Well, Bowe knocked Holyfield down with a blow to the back of the head. In the 11th round, Bowe kind of got out of his way and Holyfield fell into the ropes, and took an illegal shot. The referee scored that a knockdown. Is that a scoring blow?

RH: Well, that’s the referee’s call. In a particular fight, if a fighter is throwing a punch and you turn your head to cause that blow to land outside the scoring zone, the referee can call it a knockdown. The name of the game is to hit and not get hit.

RM: But if the referee did not call it a knockdown, then it’s a rabbit punch, and you just keep going?

RH: Right. But you do consider the attacking fighter’s aggression. Let me just tell you this; if the round is really close, you must identify the effective aggressor. Now, that Bowe punch wasn’t an effective, aggressive punch because it was outside the scoring zone but he was still aggressive. He was trying to win the fight. Out of everything I tell you, you have to remember that a boxing judge is looking for that guy who is trying to win.

RM: Looking for that guy who is trying to win?

RH: Yeah.

RM: Well, most times both of the fighters are trying to win, right?

RH: Very true.

RM: So how do you prepare to judge a fight?

RH: People ask me that question all the time. But you never know who is going to show up in the ring on that particular night. It could be Tyson and Holyfield. Everybody knows those fighters but I don’t know where Tyson’s mind is going to be on that (fight) night and I don’t know where Holyfield’s mind is going to be that (fight) night. I just know that someone is going to establish that dominant authority when they come together in the ring. And that’s what I am looking for, I am looking for that fighter that is establishing dominant authority in that ring for that particular round.

RM: How much does momentum play into a fight?

RH: Look, I am not a fortuneteller. You can look at all of the history you want. I can’t tell you which fighter is coming in that ring the hungriest. If Fighter A and Fighter B jump in the ring today and then fight again six months from now, I expect the fight to be completely different, because you don’t know what’s going on in their head. Boxing is a mental sport. If your mind is not ready for what you are about to engage in, it will take you out of the fight.

RM: What do you think it takes to get recognized as a “good” judge?

RH: Well, I am just very lucky to grow up as an official around the top guys in the game, here in Las Vegas. I am fortunate enough to pick their brains to ask what they are looking for, and how they identify who is causing the most damage. I say the word “damage” sort of nonchalantly but to me boxing is like a dance. If you watch two people dancing together, you automatically can spot who is leading the dance.

RM: Referee Jack Reiss once told me that there are a lot of posers in boxing. He said that many officials do not know what it feels like to take a punch. Do you agree with his thoughts on poser officials?

RH: Well, there are a lot of officials that don’t know what it takes to step in the ring. Sometimes it is good to know what a fighter is feeling. There are many officials that have not hit a punching bag. I am positive most officials have not laced up a pair of boxing shoes and stepped in the ring, not to fight an opponent, but just hop around in that ring. That boxing mat feels like sand after a while. You start feeling heavy around your feet. You begin to gain a different level of respect for fighters that can fight for 12 rounds, and still fight strong in that 12th round. You gain a whole new respect for them. If you don’t understand and see what happens in the gym, whether it’s sparring or just working out, you are doing yourself a disservice as an official.

RM: What is the first thing you are looking for when the round starts?

RH: One thing I can spot right away is when a particular fighter is moving in the wrong direction. The best fighters come with a plan. If you watch a fight closely and think of boxing as a dance, you can see one guy leading the other guy into a big punch. And that tells me the best fighters come with a plan. There’s guys that come to fight and there’s the ones that come with a plan. The fighters with a plan are like fortune tellers because they see the end coming. They watch their opponent’s movement.

RM: I hear you. One fighter will throw a punch to set it up for three or four punches later.

RH: That’s right. That’s exactly right.

RM: But we are talking about the casual fan that does not see it.

RH: No. They don’t see it. One thing I will tell you about becoming an official is that it robs you of the fandom. I watch fights at home like it is work. I don’t enjoy fights anymore. It’s work. I remember the last time I was a fan. Before I became an inspector, I was working security for a Tyson fight. Tyson used to create so much electricity in the arena. He made me feel like I was fighting.

RM: Sounds intense.

RH: I am not knocking any of the guys that are fighting today. There’s some great talent right now. But Tyson used to make you feel like you were a part of the event. I was a fan of Mike Tyson because he was so destructive and explosive.

RM: Which Tyson fight are you talking about?

RH: The Frank Bruno fight.

RM: Oh, the first fight?

RH: Yeah. You have to remember, Frank Bruno was a big guy. Tyson used to fight some massive guys. And Bruno was huge, but he was breathing so hard because he was nervous…. I was sitting ringside for that fight and Bruno’s abs looked like bricks. I remember thinking that if I fought this guy (Bruno) and punched him in the stomach I would probably break my wrist. When Mike comes out of the dressing room he was menacing. He had the look of, “Man, I am going to kill this guy.” We all know the end result. Tyson destroyed (Bruno). See, that’s the mental side of the sport that I am talking about. Bruno had the looks of a winner that night, but a lot of guys have the fight taken out of them before the walk in the ring.

RM: Can you give me an example of a time you worked a fight when a guy lost it mentally before he entered the ring?

RH: Well, I will tell you about the time when Mike Tyson fought Bruce Seldon. I worked as an inspector in Seldon’s corner, and we could hear Tyson warming up in his dressing room. And, when I am talking about warming up, I am talking about Tyson throwing punches at a wall.

RM: Tyson was shadow boxing?

RH: Yeah. But in Seldon’s dressing room we were thinking, “What is that noise? What is going on?” But Bruce knew what was going on… He knew what he was about to face. So, only a fighter can decide if he is ready to face that.

RM: That is a crazy story.

RH: Yeah. As an inspector, you have to stay neutral but I was just thinking about Seldon’s stress at the moment.

RM: You know, these stories are fun to talk about but I remember during that particular time, a lot of people thought the Tyson/Seldon fight was fixed.

RH: They can say what they want. But if you are not mentally prepared for someone like Mike Tyson, he will scare the hell out of you.


RH: I mean, that’s just the truth. I think Bruce was ready for the fight physically. But he didn’t have the mental toughness like Holyfield. Holyfield made up his mind that he wasn’t going anywhere. Holyfield said he was good or better than Mike Tyson. And Holyfield went after him.

RM: But as a judge, I am sure you hear about “fixed fights” often…. I’ll be honest, I Googled your name before we got on the phone, and one of the first things that came up was an article written to the Nevada State Athletic Commission criticizing you about a fight that you judged. The article was basically declaring the fight corrupt partially because of your scorecard. How do you feel when you hear that?

RH: Well Ray, I am glad you asked me that question. I am fortunate enough to judge fights in the fight capital of the world. I mean there are some other great cities and states that hold amazing fights including California and New York. But let me just tell you this, Las Vegas is not a fighter-dependent city.

RM: What does fighter-dependent city mean?

RH: Some places have fighters that go to the top level and they represent a city, or state, or even a country. Las Vegas does not have that. Mike Tyson, Holyfield, and Mayweather, they built this city. Now, this guy that wrote an article about me, and I will tell you, I am in awe that he even took the time to pen that much about me, but no one in Las Vegas can even tell you about the fighters he is talking about. You know?

RM: And you always have to do a good job because your name is on the line.

RH: Exactly Ray. You can’t get discredited as an official and keep going. Everything that I do is critiqued so heavily. Most fighters will live to fight another day. An official is only as good as his last fight. I have to do a good job tonight because I have to work tomorrow. And I have to do a good job as the fans, the media, and the commission interpret it.

RM: Did you get any backlash from the commission for that article?

RH: I didn’t. But would they be eager to assign me to one of those fighters again? I don’t know. It is what it is.

RM: I hear you.

RH: I have no hidden agenda with any fighter. I feel like the justice of the sport is in my hands. If I don’t do the right thing, not only do I fail the fighters, but also I fail myself and my family, and my credibility in the sport.

RM: It is easy to question the credibility of a judge, right?

RH: Look Ray, I have done fights all over the world and I’ll be honest with you, I have seen home cooking. But for me, I don’t care who is the hometown or visiting guy. I just care about who wins that round.

RM: OK. But what does that say about the sport? How do you expect boxing fans to feel about the sport when they hear a professional judge talk about home cooking? Not about you, but about the sport.

RH: Well, what I will say about it is that a lot of the commissions and sanctioning bodies are aware of it. They know, and hear all the criticism. Nowadays, officials are not going to get away with it because someone is always watching. Being an official, I can watch a fight and read a scorecard, and I know what that judge was doing by reading the scorecard. It’s like reading a book. A long time ago, judges used to give a courtesy round.

RM: A courtesy round?

RH: Yeah. You know, if you have a guy that is winning eight or nine rounds straight, some judges used to start feeling bad for the guy that is losing and they say, “oh well, let’s give him a round.”


RH: That type of stuff doesn’t work today. Every round is counted and scrutinized. You have to be on your A game every round. If an official makes a mistake, somebody is watching you do that and they will ask, “Why did you give him that round when he didn’t win it?” and you have to have a clear answer to justify it. Because you have the TV crew and the fans watching closely as well, sometimes you even have a fighter that says he didn’t win a round in a fight. So, as an official you have to be on your ‘A game.’ You cannot make a mistake. Good thing for the fans is that the officiating is continuing to get better. Everyone is working to get it better. There are more eyes on it. I will tell you what, for any fight that anyone feels challenged by me, one thing I will do is I will take the video and I will watch it with my director or other judges that I respect. I will ask them what they see.

RM: You want to use every fight as a learning tool.

RH: Correct.

RM: You are considered an expert but at the end of the day you want to continue to learn and become even better at what you do.

RH: That is right.

RM: What’s the best advice anyone has given you about your profession?

RH: Best advice?

RM: Yeah.

RH: Richard Steele once told me before one of the first big fights that I got assigned to, he said, “Don’t start doing something new today. What you have done has gotten you this far. Don’t change that and start something new.” I have always kept those words with me.

RM: What does boxing mean to you as a sport?

RH: You know, it’s just like for you in writing. I have read your articles. I saw your interview with Kenny. I know Kenny. You captured his essence. I visualized it. It was like I saw him talking. I wish I could write like you. But that wasn’t my calling. I don’t know how you found your calling, but you found it. I used to box when I was younger. I had some street fights when I was younger. So boxing was in me, but I joined the military so I didn’t really have a chance to pursue the sport. I didn’t choose boxing I fell into it. Something clicked.

RM: The passion for boxing just oozes out of you. I love it.

RH: Look man, we are not going to retire off of this sport. We do this for the love. Going back to how people say they pay us (judges) off. No one is coming up to us saying here’s 10 million dollars when their fighter is getting paid 30,000.

RM: That’s true.

RH: I’ll be honest with you, no one has came up and said, “Hey, here is some money. Take care of my guy.” Look, promoters and managers are paid to do what they do. It’s their job to hype up their guy. But I am going to tell you just like I would tell them, “the responsibility falls on your fighter. He needs to get in the ring to do what he is supposed to do because I have to do my job. And my job is score each round fairly for both fighters.”

RM: You have to look out for yourself first, right?

RH: Well, it’s like I said, I live and die by each fight.

You can follow Ray on Twitter @raymarkarian or email him here


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Rey Vargas: “The featherweight title is absolutely still mine”




Although there have been many speculations and comments about his boxing future, Mexican Rey Vargas affirms with total conviction that he will only decide after his fight against American O’Shaquie Foster on February 11th at the Alamodome in Texas.

Undefeated and current WBC featherweight champion, Vargas (36-0, 22 KOs) will seek to add the vacant WBC super featherweight belt that American southpaw Shakur Stevenson (19-0, 9 KOs) lost on the scale last September when he beat Brazilian Robson Conceicao (17-2, 8 KOs) by unanimous decision.

Referring to his 126-pound title, Vargas expressed via a translator, “The featherweight title is absolutely still mine, so no worries about that. As far as 130, this is definitely an interesting challenge, an interesting place to be. We haven’t really decided what we’re gonna do afterwards, but we’re focused on the moment right now. Let’s focus on this fight, on this great crowd that we’re gonna be in front of, and then whatever happens, it will come after this fight.”

Born 32 years ago in the Federal District and residing in Otumba, Mexico, Vargas captured the world featherweight belt in February 2017, defeating Gavin McDonnell (22-2-3, 6 KOs) by majority decision at the Ice Arena in McDonnell’s hometown of Hull, England.

During the following two years, he made five successful defenses and in November 2021 he was victorious in a 10-round bout against his compatriot Leonardo Báez (21-5, 12 KOs) at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas.

Eight months later, in his second appearance at 126 pounds, Vargas defeated then-undefeated Philippine champion Mark Magsayo (24-1, 16 KOs) by split decision. Magsayo was defending his WBC belt for the first time that night at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

After beating Magsayo, Vargas’s representatives made arrangements to collide with Mexican Leo Santa Cruz (38-2-1, 19 KOs), who at that time was the WBA featherweight super champion.

However, the agreement with Santa Cruz did not materialize and Vargas directed his attention towards the 130-pound belt, which Stevenson lost at the weigh-in in September. Considering his status as champion, the WBC agreed to Vargas’ request and ordered him to compete with O’Foster, who is ranked at the top of the category.

In a statement on its website, the WBC specified that the winner between Vargas and Foster has the obligation to make two defenses, according to the rules and regulations of that sanctioning body.

“The Leo Santa Cruz fight is definitely something that we have been meaning to do for years now,” Vargas said. “But as the process got more complicated and other stuff just kept getting in our way, this door opened for us where it was definitely an interesting challenge, something that can be as good as the Leo Santa Cruz fight.”

“(I’m) in a new division, the super featherweight division, where I can test myself,” said Vargas. Yes, it’s not my division per se, but I’m always up to new and exciting challenges, and this is definitely one of them. So, even though this isn’t the Leo Santa Cruz fight, it can definitely live up to the hype just as that one would.”

Foster (19-2, 11 KOs) has nine successive wins, the most recent against Tajikistan southpaw Muhammadkhuja Yakubon on March 18 of last year in Dubai, where they fought for the WBC silver belt.

Born 29 years ago in Orange, Texas, Foster said in an interview that this opportunity to face Vargas for the 130-pound crown “is a dream come true. And I’m so happy I can’t even hide it.”

Foster continued, “It’s something that I’ve been working for since I was eight years old. I never had a dream to be an Olympian, it was always to be a world champion so I’m feeling great and I’m ready to put on a show for the world.

“I feel like everything is happening at the right time and it’s my time to take over. I would love to unify once I get the title and then go undisputed if I can.  I’ve got big, big, big aspirations coming up.  We’re going to make it happen.”

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Álvarez in Spanish.

Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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Navarrete Overcomes Adversity to TKO Wilson in a Corker




Mexico’s Emanuel Navarrete won his 31st straight fight, pushing his record to 37-1 (31) and captured a title in a third weight class tonight at the Desert Diamond Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, but nearly came a cropper himself in a match in which both he and his opponent Liam Wilson were on the deck and hurt on multiple occasions. At stake was the WBO 130-pound belt vacated by Shakur Stevenson.

The obscure 26-year-old Wilson, subbing for Oscar Valdez who had to pull out with a rib injury, was making his U.S. debut and appearing in his first scheduled 12-rounder. The skinny on him was that he had a puncher’s chance because of a powerful left hook, but with only 12 pro fights on his ledger he was a massive underdog.

Navarrete got a taste of that left hook in the fourth round which Wilson landed after landing a hard overhand right, and suddenly it appeared that the Queenslander was poised to score the biggest upset in Australian boxing history since Jeff Horn upended Manny Pacquiao. Navarrete hit the deck, lost his mouthpiece and was clearly hurt, but managed to survive the round after precious seconds elapsed as he was getting his mouthpiece re-fitted.

Navarrete fought his way back into the fight and was having a strong sixth round until the final 30 seconds when Wilson hurt him again, this time with a right hook. But the Mexican weathered the storm, winning the next two rounds decisively and closed the show in round nine when he put the intrepid Aussie on the deck with an overhand right, the prelude to an assault that forced the referee to waive it off.


In a tactical junior welterweight fight that heated up in the final round, LA’s Arnold Barboza continued his steady ascent toward a title fight with a narrow but unanimous decision over Puerto Rican veteran Jose Pedraza, a former Olympian and world title-holder in two weight divisions.

Barboza, who fights well off his back foot but isn’t a hard puncher, won by scores of 97-93 and 96-94 twice to push his record to 28-0. The 33-year-old Barboza fell to 29-5-1.


In the opening bout on ESPN’s main platform, Tulare, California’s Richard Torrez Jr, a silver medalist at the Tokyo Summer Games, scored his fifth fast knockout in as many opportunities at the expense late sub James Bryant

Torrez came out like gangbusters, as is his custom, and sent Bryant stumbling back into the ropes with a harsh left uppercut followed by a straight hand in the waning seconds of the opening round. A highly decorated high school football player in Pennsylvania who had a cup of coffee with two NFL teams, Bryant, 37, was saved by the bell but elected not to come out for round two.

Torrez has mentioned that he would welcome a fight with British up-and-comer Frazer Clarke. Both were defeated in the Tokyo Olympics by fearsome Uzbek southpaw Bakhodir Jalolov, the heavy favorite.


Las Vegas super featherweight Andres Cortes (19-0) overcame a deep cut on his left eyelid to keep his undefeated record intact with a lopsided decision over Luis Melendez. The cut was caused by an accidental clash of heads in round six. Cut man deluxe “Stitch” Duran used his magic potion to stem the bleeding and the match continued on its established course. Cortes, the busier fighter, won all 10 rounds on all three cards. Melendez, a Puerto Rican from Hialeah, Florida, declined to 17-3.

Nico Ali Walsh, Muhammad Ali’s grandson, advanced to 8-0 (5) with a unanimous decision over a local fighter, Eduardo Ayala (9-3-1), in a six-round middleweight affair. The scores were 60-53 and 59-54 twice.

Walsh, who sparred with Caleb Plant in preparation for this fight, had Ayala on the canvas in round two, compliments of a short right hand, but his durable opponent managed to last the distance.

In an 8-round junior welterweight match, Mexico’s Lindolfo Delgado, a 2016 Rio Olympian, advanced to 17-0 (13) with a unanimous decision over Clarence Booth (21-7), a 35-year-old Floridian. The scores were 80-71 and 79-72 twice.

The heavy-handed Delgado, who had Robert Garcia in his corner, scored the fight’s lone knockdown, knocking Booth off his pins in the final stanza with a chopping right hand to the ear.

In the ESPN+ opener, 18-year-old Emiliano Vargas (3-0, 2 KOs) won a 4-round unanimous decision over 19-year-old Tex-Mex southpaw Francisco Duque (1-2). Vargas won all four rounds, but Duque had several good moments.

Emiliano Vargas is the youngest and most well-touted of three fighting sons of Fernando Vargas, the former U.S. Olympian and two-time world super welterweight champion.

A 10-round super featherweight fight between Zavier Martinez (18-1) and Yohan Vasquez (25-3) was cancelled when it became obvious that Martinez would not make the contracted weight.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 223: An Act of War Benavidez vs Plant Press Confab




LOS ANGELES-Heated words straight out of a burning furnace filled the cool air in downtown L.A. at the press conference on Thursday for top super middleweight contenders David Benavidez and Caleb Plant.

“Every fighter has one of these grudge matches that brings the best out of them. I don’t like Caleb at all, but I want to thank him for bringing the animal out of me. I’m more motivated than ever,” said Benavidez. “On March 25, I finally get to put hands on Caleb Plant.”

Plant was cool in his response.

“This rivalry only started because we agree to disagree on who’s better. And that’s fine, he should feel like that. That’s how great fighters are supposed to feel. It’s slowly built up over time,” said Plant.

Both are former world champions and both are ready to engage.

A large media turnout arrived at the Conga Room in LA Live to witness the two opposite style fighters, much like fire and ice.

Fiery Benavidez (26-0, 23 KOs) seemed eager to fight on the stage as the mere presence and cool demeanor of Plant (22-1, 13 KOs) seemed to ignite anger. They have both agreed to meet in the prize ring on March 25, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Showtime pay-per-view will televise the TGB Promotions card.

“If you know anything about boxing, you know this is one of the very best fights that can be made in the sport. The consensus No. 1 and No. 2 contenders in this division,” said Stephen Espinoza president of Showtime boxing. “This is a high-stakes matchup, personally and professionally. There’s a personal rivalry here. There are bragging rights here. There is supremacy in the division at stake.”

Both fighters have held world titles before and for years debates sprung up on who was better.

Benavidez was the youngest super middleweight champion at 20 when he first won the WBC version in 2017 defeating Ronald Gavril. He lost the title for testing positive for illegal substances the next year. In 2019 he faced Anthony Dirrell for the WBC title again and stopped him in nine rounds in Los Angeles. However, he failed to make weight in his next fight and lost the title again on the scales.

He is hungry to regain a world title but even more hungry to defeat Plant.

“I’ve been wanting to fight him for a long time and now the winner of this fight gets to be the mandatory for Canelo Alvarez. I’m super motivated,” Benavidez said.

Plant agrees that their match up is motivating because the winner gets Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and a hefty payday.

“I knew I was next in line to fight the interim champ before that fight, and that meant David Benavidez. I’m in the fight that I want,” said Plant who formerly held the IBF title.

Plant’s last fight was voted WBA Knockout of the Year when he double-left-hooked Dirrell to unconsciousness last October in Brooklyn. It was a shocking ending. His fight before that saw him lose the world title to Canelo Alvarez by knockout.

No shame in losing to Canelo.

Now the title former world titlists are eager to regain their former status and grab a mega payday fighting Alvarez. It’s perhaps the best fight in over a year for men’s boxing.

“I believe that this fight between David Benavidez and Caleb Plant will be added to the list of epic brawls between two warriors taking it to the next level,” said Tom Brown of TGB Promotions. “This fight will be one of, if not the winner of Fight of the Year this year. This is one you don’t want to miss.”

Top Rank

Mexico’s Emanuel Navarrete (36-1, 30 KOs) challenges Australia’s Liam Wilson (11-1, 7 KOs) for the vacant WBO super featherweight title today, Feb. 3, at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. ESPN+ will stream the Top Rank card.

Wilson, 26, has never fought outside of Australia but is known for his strength and power. He is also taller than Navarrete.

Navarrete and Wilson

Navarrete and Wilson

Navarrete is the former WBO featherweight champion and has not lost a fight in over a decade.

Also, Arnold Barboza (27-0) meets Jose Pedraza (29-4-1) in a super lightweight battle. And several others such as Lindolfo Delgado, Richard Torrez and Nico Ali Walsh will be performing.

Ontario Card

Southern California’s hot super lightweight prospect Ernesto “Tito” Mercado (8-0, 8 Kos) fights Jose Angulo (14-4) at the LumColor Center in Ontario, California on Saturday, Feb. 4. RedBoxing Promotions is staging the event.

Doors open at 6 p.m.

Photo credits: Esther Lin / SHOWTIME; Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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