It’s Tuesday and that means another installment of our weekly series “Rising Stars in Boxing.” This week our analysts Matt Andrzejewski and Kid Hersh zoom in two undefeated fighters who are at roughly identical stages of their careers despite a 10-year age gap. One of these men hails from Phoenix, but had his first seven fights in Mexico because he was too young to be licensed as a professional boxer in his native country. The other is a Ukrainian transplant who has developed an avid following in Los Angeles. Matt Andrzejewski gets us started with a look at David Benavidez.
At 19 years of age, David Benavidez is considered by many a young prodigy in the sport of boxing. Fighting as a pro for three years already, the super middleweight prospect has amassed a record of 16-0 with 15 of those wins coming by way of knockout. His promoter, Sampson Lewkowicz, is hopeful of moving Benavidez into a super middleweight title shot in the very near future.
If the Benavidez name sounds familiar, it should. Boxing runs in his family as his older brother Jose won a 140-pound belt in 2014 and is considered himself to be a top young fighter. David, however, is thought by most insiders to have far more upside as he is not only athletically gifted but carries much more natural power than his older brother.
In his last fight, Benavidez headlined an ESPN card facing veteran and one time top prospect Denis Douglin. Douglin entered having won six of his previous seven fights and was easily the biggest test on paper in the young professional career of Benavidez. In the early going, Benavidez struggled some and seemed to be looking for just one shot at a time as Douglin out-hustled him in spots. But Benavidez eventually started letting his hands go more as the fight progressed and he showcased his heavy quick hands by landing powerful combinations. After dropping Douglin at the end of round nine, Benavidez closed the show, forcing a stoppage after a barrage of punches in the tenth. Though it was not the most impressive showing due to lack of activity, particularly early, Benavidez did show in the end the power and skill that make many think he is a future star in this sport.
Simply put, Benavidez is blessed with natural ability. He possesses all the tools that fighters need to succeed. Benavidez is tall with a nice reach and has a beautiful sharp left jab. Though he is tall, he is an excellent inside fighter and often moves nicely on the inside to create the right angles to land his punches. He has above average hand speed as well and can often out-quick his opponents. Finally, there is real thudding power in both hands.
As seen in the Douglin fight, Benavidez has at times too many dead spots in the ring and can be out hustled by his opponents. He also has a tendency to stand straight up on the inside exposing his chin and leaving himself vulnerable to being countered. Thus far, he has gotten away with those flaws but will need to work in the gym to correct those things as he moves up in class.
Benavidez clearly has all the tools to be a star one day in this sport. He has the frame to not only make noise at 168 pounds but also as a light heavyweight one day. At only 19, his career is still in its infancy and it will be very interesting to see how he progresses going forward. – MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI
Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (17-0, 14 KO’s) is yet another European veteran with a boatload of amateur experience. He first had a kickboxing career of more than 200 fights before moving to boxing and racking up more than 200 bouts as an amateur before entering the highly paid ranks of professional fighting in 2012.
Vyacheslav, a light heavyweight, likes to be called “Slava” but his ring nickname is “Lion Heart.” This is something that was put to the test in his fourteenth professional fight when he took on fellow unbeaten prospect Paul Parker. Parker was completely unknown but lived up to his nickname of “Pay Per View” in the very first round when he threw right hand after right hand and dropped Slava twice, being right on the verge of taking him out as Slava’s legs were made of jelly and he couldn’t get out of the way of Parker’s right hand.
One could see the Lion Heart take form right before our eyes as he made it through the round only to come out super aggressive in the second round, knowing that he was down three points and that patience was not an option. He took plenty more blows but really turned the tide as he put body work in the bank and slugged away with everything he had to break down Parker who quit in the third round, turning his back to Slava rather than taking more punishment, prompting the referee to stop the bout. Quite the turnaround from what looked like a badly exposed man in the first round.
If you take a closer look at the scope of Shabranskyy’s career you can see a fascinating trend consistent with the previously mentioned bout: he likes to make people quit. A half-dozen fights – over a third of his entire record – consist of fights where either the corner or the fighters themselves threw in the towel. The Lion Heart moniker really comes into play here as this writer believes that Slava is the type of guy that looks to break your will to fight mentally more than trying to physically separate you from your senses for the stoppage. Sure he has heavy hands and knows how to use them but looking across the ring at those wide eyes of his is likely a very intimidating position to be stuck in.
The other fight that stands out on his record is his bout against the Cuban transplant Yunieski Gonzalez. Gonzalez was just coming off of his only professional loss, a unanimous decision to the very well-known Jean Pascal, a verdict greeted with boos by the crowd at Mandalay Bay. Slava had some similar problems with Gonzalez that Pascal had, due to Gonzalez not respecting his power, but he forced his game on Gonzalez and earned his respect with straight punches down the pipe, connecting before Gonzalez’s looping shots had a chance. Slava broke down Gonzalez, forcing him to go for broke in spurts but he maintained his composure against the dangerous Cuban and out-boxed him to a majority decision that should have been unanimous.
Vyacheslav “Lion Heart” Shabranskyy, who says please call me Slava, is a very fun fighter to keep track of. I believe he is the type of guy that will be involved in fight of the year candidates if matched correctly. A fight between him and someone like Artur Beterbiev is one that I would bet the house on being a memorable event. – KID HERSH