When David Benavidez and Ronald Gavril squared off for a vacant super middleweight world title on Sept. 8 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, they turned in one of the most action-packed fights of 2017.
It was a fierce fight, but Benavidez, 20 at the time, escaped with a split-decision victory as he was crowned the youngest 168-pound world titleholder in division history.
Gavril (18-2, 14 KOs) demanded a rematch and Benavidez (19-0, 17 KOs), a proud warrior from Phoenix, knew it was a very close fight. He and promoter Sampson Lewkowicz agreed to give Gavril another shot in an immediate rematch, which will take place on Feb. 17 (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET) at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Both fighters know what to expect from the other and they are diligently preparing for another battle.
"He's a tough opponent," Benavidez said at an open workout for the media on Thursday at the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas. "He came ready to fight last fight and I respect that. But I am ready to show everyone why I'm the best fighter in my division. I am not focused on anything except for this fight.
"He says it's going to end in a knockout, but I promise you I will finish him with a knockout come fight night. I'm here to give the fans what they want, and that's another great fight."
In their first fight, Gavril knocked Benavidez, 21, of Phoenix, down in the 12th round in what had been a back-and-forth slugfest.
Few expect anything other than another barnburner, including Benavidez.
"I think we're definitely going to steal the show Feb. 17," Benavidez said of the sequel that will serve as the co-feature on the card headlined by the welterweight world title elimination fight between former welterweight and junior welterweight world titlist Danny Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) and former lightweight titleholder Brandon Rios (34-3-1, 25 KOs), who will position themselves for a mandatory shot at unified titlist Keith Thurman.
"It was a great fight last time and I have no doubt it's going to be exciting again, as long as it lasts," Benavidez continued. "There's only one way this fight ends and that's with me knocking him out. We've been working really hard in training camp. We've made some adjustments off the last fight and I think I'm going to give an even better performance.
"I knew Gavril was a tough fighter the first time we faced each other. I didn't take him lightly, but this time I feel even more prepared. I'm going to take advantage of everything I've been working on."
Gavril, 31, a Romania native fighting out of Las Vegas who is promoted by Floyd Mayweather's company, believes he won the September encounter, but he vowed to start faster and to leave no doubt this time around.
"I've been working and training really hard for this fight. I still believe I did everything to win that last one, but I am ready to prove everyone wrong," Gavril said at the workout. "Last fight I was able to figure him out toward the middle rounds. This fight I will be quicker to download his plan and attack.
"I proved that I have the skills in the first fight. Now I have to make my adjustments to get the win. I am here for a reason. It's not going to be an easy fight for him. I feel quicker, stronger and more mentally prepared. I know he is going to try and switch up his game plan for this fight, but my team has been preparing me for anything that he may try and bring on fight night. I will be the next WBC super middleweight champion. Last fight was a battle, but this fight will end in a knockout."
The tripleheader will open with another welterweight title elimination bout between Yordenis Ugas (20-3, 9 KOs) and Ray Robinson (24-2, 12 KOs), who will compete to move a step closer to an eventual mandatory shot at 147-pound world titleholder Errol Spence Jr.