Before the fight, there was a lot of trash talk between Jose Benavidez Jr. and WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford. It even came to a point where Crawford nearly punched Benavidez at the weigh-in after being pushed. Come fight time, Crawford proved to his opponent how good he is and to the world that he may be the best fighter in the sport.
Crawford knocked down Benavidez with a right uppercut in the 12th round and then threw a flurry of punches with nearly 30 seconds left in the fight to have referee Celestino Ruiz stop the fight at the 2:42 mark in the 12th to give Crawford the 25th knockout of his pro career and improves his record to 34-0. Benavidez, who fought for a world title for the first time in his career, suffers his first pro loss.
It was a performance by the multi-division champion that some people expected, but did have moments where Crawford got caught with some good shots. The original plan by Benavidez was to bait Crawford to commit and then catch him with a right hand counter. In the first few rounds, both fighters looked to find their range against each other with jabs. The taller Benavidez was right in front of Crawford and dropped his hands early and often, leaving himself open to any shot that Crawford would choose to throw. With that being stated, he also wanted to set traps for the Omaha native. However, Crawford would not fully commit to that.
There was some success by Benavidez in the 4th with two shots down near the belt line of Crawford and a few combinations early in the 5th, but that was most of the activity that Benavidez had for the majority of the fight. Crawford finished the 5th round well and then carried that momentum for the middle rounds as he got in the jab then threw combinations, which brought out a shrug from Benavidez and a shake of his head. That was the story for the next few rounds as Crawford picked up the activity on his side and saw openings that he could take advantage of. The inactivity by Benavidez allowed Crawford to easily win rounds as the fight went on.
From the 9th round, the hometown crowd for Crawford saw their guy visibly be comfortable against the challenger as he started to stick his tongue out after exchanges or when he caught Benavidez with a big shot. In an attempt to get back into the fight, Benavidez tried to lure Crawford to the ropes to pull off a counter right to stun him but it did not work as Crawford moved in and out of the pocket to avoid the response of the shots that he was landing.
Crawford was basically coasting to a decision win before the activity elevated in the 12th, and then the right uppercut in close quarters put down Benavidez for the first time in his career. He was able to beat the count but could not stop the onslaught that came afterwards. The crowd of 13,323 in the CHI Health Center cheered loudly for their hometown hero after the fight was stopped, and Crawford showed that he could end a fight at any time. It was his first defense of the WBO welterweight title that he won earlier this year over Jeff Horn, and after the fight said that he was able to be patient to get the finish.
“We just took our time today,” Crawford said in his summary of the fight with Benavidez. “Everything that went on this week he was trying to get in my head…wanted me to have a firefight with him. We knew if we got in rhythm we can do whatever we want, and that’s what we did.”
Crawford did bring up the start by his opponent and how he made adjustments to get the upper hand in the fight.
“He was trying to counter me…I couldn’t figure it out at first, but then once I got my distance it was a wrap from there.”
In defeat, Benavidez gave props to his opponent and pointed out the keys to his loss to the defending champion.
“I got caught,” Benavidez told Bernardo Osuna after the fight. “That’s boxing. (Crawford) is a great fighter. I just wanted to give the fans a fight that they paid for and I thought I gave him a hell of a fight.”
“He’s the best of the best for a reason. He caught me with a good shot. I just have to get back to the drawing board. My leg started to hurt but that’s boxing. I just have to train harder.”
This win gives Crawford more consideration by those that follow the sport to consider him as the best pound-for-pound, but there are fighters within his division that they want him to face in the near future. The other champions in the division may pose a challenge to him, but it is up to Crawford’s promoter Bob Arum and the managers for the other title holders to get something done for them to prove who is the best in the welterweight division.
Cover photo by Mikey Williams