Trainer of the Year Bob Santos felt that David Benavidez’s win over Caleb Plant on Saturday went almost exactly according to plan; but while praising the Arizonan for his victory, he believes his own super-middleweight, David Morrell Jr., has what it takes to hand him his first loss.
“I thought everything that transpired, other than the stoppage itself, was going to play out that way,” Santos, who had predicted a late KO win for Benavidez, told the Showtime Boxing Podcast. “Plant was able to tie up more than I thought the referee would allow him to do. If the referee had given him a warning or taken some points, I think Benavidez probably would have gotten the late stoppage.”
Santos, who was voted Trainer of the Year for 2022 by both Ring Magazine and Sports Illustrated for guiding junior lightweight Hector Garcia, junior middleweight Alberto Puello and middleweight Carlos Adames to title belts, feels that, even in victory, Benavidez is still not given enough credit for his ability, with observers focusing more on his size and strength and less on his nuanced boxing skills.
“I’ve been in camp with him, I lived with him, I worked with him for a time, so I know him pretty well,” he said of the now 27-0 (23 KOs) Benavidez. “And he’s a much better boxer than people think. He’s kind of a savant in the ring. He’s very good at parrying punches on the inside, turning punches over, little things of that nature that people don’t see, He’s almost like an old school fighter. He can parry punches and walk you down. He does a lot of tricky little things in there.”
That said, there is one super middleweight whom he thinks matches up well with Benavidez, and that’s the unbeaten Morrell (8-0, 7 KOs), whom he co-trains alongside lead trainer Ronnie Shields.
“David Morrell is a tremendous athlete; the job that Ronnie Shields has done with him is second to none,” he said. “He’s coming along really, really well. He’s got great length, he’s a southpaw, he’s a great puncher. Great hand speed, great foot speed. I tell people all the time that if he wasn’t a professional prizefighter he’d probably be playing center field for the New York Yankees, or safety in the NFL. He’s just a tremendous, tremendous athlete. I think we match up very, very well with Benavidez. I like our guy to come out victorious in that fight, just from the standpoint that he’s a southpaw, he’s got faster feet, his hand speed is pretty comparable, we’ve got much more length than he does, and in terms of punching power we’re going to be right there with him. So, I think it’s going to come down to his feet, and Morrell’s got superior foot speed, and the punching power, unlike Caleb Plant, to keep Benavidez honest.”
Sitting ringside at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday night, Santos said that “There were a lot of points when I was thinking to myself that I probably would have been very, very close to stopping the fight. It’s very difficult when the other guy is that much more of a devastating puncher than you.”
That said, he felt that Plant’s stock also went up, even in defeat.
“It’s always better when you come out the winner, but I don’t think Caleb Plant did himself any disservice with the heart that he showed. To me, he showed he’s up there with the elite; he can win himself another world championship, but when you’re talking about David Morrell Jr., Benavidez, and obviously Canelo, the elite of the elite, that’s pretty tough hauling. But you know, he showed tremendous heart. I don’t know what more he could have done to win that fight. My hat’s off to him just for going the 12 rounds.”