David Benavidez makes strong statement in KO of Ronald Ellis

David Benavidez demonstrated on Saturday night that he might be the biggest threat to Canelo Alvarez at 168 pounds, title or no title.

The former champion, who lost his belt on the scales before his last fight, pummeled and then stopped Ronald Ellis in the 11th round of their scheduled 12-rounder at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn.

Ellis, a one-time amateur standout and solid pro, came to win and proved to be durable but took too much punishment to hear the final bell.

“I rate my performance pretty good but I know I could have done better,” Benavidez said “Ronald Ellis is a tough competitor. I just hope the fans like what they saw. I threw a lot of combinations, punches in bunches. There were a lot of times I thought Ellis was going to quit but he didn’t.

“Hats off to him, he’s a tough guy. It was a little later than I wanted but a stoppage is still a stoppage. I hope the fans got a good show tonight.”

Ellis (18-2-2, 12 KOs) got off to a strong start, outboxing Benavidez (24-0, 21 KOs) in the first round. However, the unbeaten Arizonan put his foot on the gas pedal in Round 2 and never took it off.

Benavidez walked down Ellis the entire fight, delivering fast, hard combinations to both the head and body. Ellis never gave up and had some good moments — quick jabs, some solid power shots — but he started to wear down by the middle rounds.

Ellis took a lot of punishment in Round 8 but survived. However, before the start of the next round, both his trainer and ring doctor made it clear that they wouldn’t allow him to take too many more punches.

He fought bravely the next few rounds but, when Benavidez unloaded a series of punishing blows in Round 11, referee Johnny Callas stepped in to save Ellis from himself.

The official time was 2:03 of the round.

Ellis was upset afterward that he was stopped.

“I could have popped the jab and controlled things a little bit more and not let him smother me,” he said. “Hell yeah, I wanted to finish. I didn’t want to give him that satisfaction. I could have moved a little bit more and not taken so many shots to the head.

“Hats off to him. He did what he had to do. He never hurt me, that’s the funny thing. I took a lot of shots but he didn’t damage me or have me super hurt. I never thought about quitting.”

David Benavidez now has his sights set on the biggest names at 168 pounds. Amanda Westcott / Showtime

Benavidez has said he’s willing to work his way into another major title fight but he has big names in his sights, including the biggest – titleholder Canelo Alvarez, who many believe is the best fighter in the world.

He also has mentioned middleweight champ Jermall Charlo and 168-pound rival Caleb Plant as desirable opponents.

“I want all the big guys,” he said. “Speaking for the fans too, they would love to see me against all the big guys because, as you can see, I love throwing punches. I love stopping people. So me versus any big name would be an amazing fight.

“I want Charlo, Canelo Alvarez, Caleb Plant, all of them.”

In the co-feature, Isaac Cruz (21-1-1, 15 KOs) defeated a surprisingly tough Jose Matias Romero (24-1, 8 KOs) by a unanimous decision in a lightweight title eliminator.