OMAHA, Neb. — Jose Benavidez Jr. slipped a Terence Crawford right hand one day earlier and vowed his opponent would need to be a lot faster on fight night.
The challenger promised he would eat “that motherfucker alive”; that he would “take his fucking soul.” The bravado proved to be an empty threat.
Benavidez was no match for Crawford in Saturday’s welterweight title fight, though it appeared he would safely (relatively speaking) make it to the finish line. Crawford (34-0, 25 knockouts) held other plans. “Bud” connected on a counter right uppercut with 50 seconds remaining in the ESPN-televised contest, and Benavidez slumped over, his right forearm on the canvas, support for his battered body.
He was up on his feet before the count of 10, and that’s when Crawford pounced, letting loose with a series of blistering shots until referee Celestino Ruiz corralled him with just 18 ticks left in the contest, saving Benavidez from further unnecessary punishment.
The crowd of 13,323 at CHI Health Center (a record for boxing in Nebraska) exploded as Crawford walked away and stuck his tongue out at the agitator who hurled insult after insult in the lead-up. What a conclusion, and what a way for the hometown favorite to ensure his knockout streak, one that dates to December 2016, stays intact.
“I did what I said I was gonna do. (The knockout) was coming. It was just a matter of time,” said Crawford, who was making the first defense of the welterweight title he won from Jeff Horn in July. He earned a career-high $3.65 million to $500,000 for Benavidez.
“He slowed down tremendously. He was tired and once he slowed down I seen I can catch him with (the uppercut). It feels so good to shut somebody up who’s been talking for so long. I’m at ease.”
Benavidez (27-1, 18 KOs) was at ease for the majority of the fight, too, and that was part of his undoing. The 26-year-old fought in spurts, even when he found success. The Phoenix native, in his first world title fight, applied pressure, reset, and crouched, his hands at his side, his head on a silver platter for Crawford.
He ate plenty of shots — the speed disparity was stark — and looked to impose his size over Crawford’s skill. Benavidez was able to inflict damage with a smattering of heavy right hands to Crawford’s left rib cage, and the champion was forced to hold on numerous occasions. Benavidez, strangely, never attempted to capitalize.
Even in Round 4 — easily his best of the night — Benavidez was content to admire his handiwork after a series of right hands buzzed Crawford. He clearly was searching for a single, fight-ending shot that never materialized.
That Benavidez even won a single round is somewhat of an accomplishment against a fighter the ilk of “Bud” Crawford. It’s difficult to recall the last time an opponent had so clearly asserted himself against him, if only for three minutes. The moment was fleeting. As the fight entered the final frame, Crawford was comfortable ahead on all three scorecards: 110-99, 107-102 and 108-101.
“I gave a hell of a fight to the best fighter in the world,” said Benavidez, who wore a black sleeve over the scar on his right knee where he was shot in 2016. He was told then he would never walk again, and Benavidez said the knee began to hamper him after Round 7. “This is boxing. It happens. He is a great fighter, but I’m a great fighter, too. We gave the fans a great show.
For as one-sided as the matchup was, it actually was entertaining. Benavidez’s ability to withstand the punishment was impressive, even if he owes much of that punch resistance to his far superior size. Crawford connected on more than double the shots Benavidez landed, but he never really hurt him until the final round.
The 31-year-old was confident that the body shots would take their toll, slowly but surely. And he invested plenty of work there on his stationary foe, all set up by an excellent jab and his patented tricky switch-hitting style.
“A lot of people they say, ‘Oh, I’m little, I don’t punch hard.’ It’s like he was saying that all week but once you get in their and feel my power he wasn’t itching to come inside,” said Crawford, who also won titles at lightweight and junior welterweight.
“When you look at it, Jeff Horn was supposed to be the bigger guy, (Julius) Indongo was supposed be the bigger guy. When we get in the ring it’s different. I’m strong for the division.”
So, too, is his talent. It’s great for any division, of course. He’s The Ring’s No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter, a man who’s yet to meet a foe who can hang with him, much less push him (unless you count Benavidez’s shove at Friday’s weigh-in).
Part of the problem: he’s promoted by Top Rank. The other three welterweight titleholders, and many other worthy opponents — are aligned with Al Haymon, who doesn’t do business with Bob Arum and Todd duBoef.
Afterward, Arum dismissed PBC fighters like Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia as boxers who aren’t elite and therefore undeserving. The 86-year-old did, however, admit that a fight between Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. is a worthy one. That, of course, is one of the biggest fights that could be created in the sport.
Another issue: Top Rank owns an exclusive partnership with ESPN, and PBC is aligned with Showtime/Fox. However, duBoef told The Ring he has no issue bridging the divide for a joint pay-per-view in order to make Crawford-Spence happen.
Now, it’s up to Top Rank and PBC to come together and make the only fight that matters for Crawford. Anything else won’t do.
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger
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