By Zakkary Brog

The Interim World Boxing Council Super Middleweight Title clash between David Benavídez and David Lemieux on May 21 is set to last 12 rounds.

However, both men will enter the ring at Gila River Arena in Glendale hoping to end the fight before it goes the distance. Across both fighters’ 68 career wins, 58 of the contests ended in a knockout victory.

Because of that, neither fighter underestimates their opponent’s skills. Benavídez has a professional record of 25-0-0. He knows he’ll have to perform at his absolute best to stay undefeated and continue his rise in the sport.

“I see flaws in David’s game and I’m sure he sees flaws in me,” Benavídez says.

“I know he wants to stop me, and I want to stop him. This is going to be a great fight for the fans. This could be the fight of the year because of what’s at stake and because of the type of fighters we are. We’re two bulls going in there to see who has the most heart.”

Lemieux will enter the matchup with a professional record of 43-4-0. The experienced French Canadian has the edge in experience. He has 22 more fights under his belt than Benavídez, and he’s also 8 years Benavídez’s elder. He knows that many are predicting Benavídez to continue his march to the top levels of the sport, but Lemieux is confident that he will put a stop to it.

“Anything can be done, you just have to go out and do it,” Lemieux says. “David Benavídez is a very good fighter, but everybody is beatable. Nobody is invincible. That’s what we have to prove. There’s no cheating boxing. You train hard for a fight. You don’t underestimate your opponent and surprises can happen. I’m planning on bringing that title back home to Montreal.”

A Phoenix native, Benavídez will undoubtedly have the “home advantage” on fight night in Glendale. His last fight, which ended in a TKO victory against Kyrone Davis, was at the Footprint Center in Downtown Phoenix last November. The atmosphere was electric that night, and it should be no different at Gila River Arena.

“I wanted to fight back in Arizona again because we had a great event in November,” Benavídez says.

“This is my first title fight back at home and it’s a dream come true for me. Everything has fallen into place for me. I’ve had an amazing camp and I’m preparing for a great opponent. This has all the makings for a great fight. The energy is right. This is one of the biggest fights of my life and that’s how seriously I’m taking it.”

Many are touting Lemieux as the clear underdog due to his age, facing a fighter the caliber of Benavídez, and the fight location. Lemieux, who cites his experience, is embracing it.

“Regardless of your age, it’s really now or never in every fight in the boxing ring,” Lemieux says. “You don’t get many chances to leave a good mark in the game, so every fight needs to be taken very seriously, especially a fight of this magnitude. There’s a lot at stake for me. I know I’m the underdog, but I don’t care. I’m just going in there to fight, underdog or not. I’ve been the underdog in the past and I’ve won the fights. It doesn’t really bother me.”

Although Benavídez is focused on this matchup, he thinks about the potential reward for winning the interim title: challenging Canelo Alvarez for the WBC Super Middleweight Championship.

“If you win the interim title that means the next fight has to be for the title,” Benavídez says. I don’t think it should be any difference in this case. If Canelo Alvarez wants to fight at light heavyweight, then he’s going to have to vacate. It’s only fair.”

Lemieux knows he could claim that opportunity as well. But, like Benavídez, he is focused on this fight first and foremost.

“I’m not looking past this fight,” Lemieux says. “I’m just concentrated on Benavídez. This is a big fight ahead of me. Canelo chooses a lot of his fights but there are rules in boxing that you have to respect. The winner of the interim belt has to fight the champion so if he follows the rules, the rules are the rules. That’s it.”

The men are confident they will walk out of Gila River Arena as Interim WBC Super Middleweight Champion. That result will be determined not just by the fight, but the preparation that the men have put in for weeks.

A theme in both camps has been motivation. For Benavídez, it’s the motivation to prove that he belongs with the best.

“I feel like I deserve the biggest fights,” Benavídez says. “I’ve paid my dues and I’ve been here for a long time. But I have plenty of fuel in the gym solely because of how big this fight is. I think the other top guys are making a mistake not giving me the fight now, because the more I’m in the ring, the more I’m learning. It’s going to turn around and bite them when it’s time to get in the ring with me. Everything is going to be through the roof.”

For Lemieux, it’s the chance to shake up the landscape in the super middleweight division.

“It’s definitely a big task in front of me,” Lemieux says. “When I sat down with my team and Benavídez’s name came up, we knew it was a tough fight. He’s a tough fighter and a big guy, but we’re preparing and getting ready for him. It’s all in the preparation. Styles make fights. I have the style to hurt Benavídez and I’m training hard to beat this guy.”

Premier Boxing Champions: David Benavídez vs. David Lemieux

WHEN: 4 p.m. Saturday, May 21

WHERE: Gila River Arena, 9400 W. Maryland Avenue, Glendale

COST: Tickets start at $50