Terence Crawford Shuts Jose Benavidez Up With Decisive Victory
The war of words between Terence Crawford and Jose Benavidez Jr. built and built until it had little option but to boil over — which it did the day before they were supposed to fight.
At the weigh-in, during the customary stare-down, the upstart challenger Benavidez shoved the 147-pound titleholder and pound-for-pound great. Crawford in turn stormed forward and launched a right hook. Benavidez dodged the shot. The two were separated.
The real fight would follow the next day. The real fight would be much different.
None of the talk would matter anymore. Benavidez assumed the expected role of counterpuncher, which made all of his trash talk make even more sense, as he wanted to goad Crawford into attacking. Benavidez also occasionally dropped his gloves and leaned his chin forward during the fight.
Crawford is too smart to get taken out of his game plan, though, and too great at boxing in general. He jabbed and boxed with Benavidez in the early rounds, picked up the pressure over time, dishing out combinations and dodging many of Benavidez’s shots. He used Benavidez’s defensive mindset against him.
“Keep his [Crawford’s] hands up and go behind the double jab,” said Crawford’s trainer, Brian McIntyre, describing their strategy to ESPN’s commentators as the fourth round got underway. “Benavidez will chase the first jab, but he won’t catch the second jab. He’ll cover up and you can get closer to him, start going to the body and come up to the head.”
Benavidez tended to look for single shots, barring the occasional exchanges. Crawford won rounds with activity and accuracy, landing more often and with more effect.
“We just took our time today,” Crawford said afterward. “Everything that went on this week, he was trying to get into my head, wanting me to get into a firefight with him. We knew if we got a rhythm, we could do whatever we want.”
Crawford also looked to counter the counter-puncher, throwing right hooks from his southpaw stance when Benavidez would try to retort. He knew that those were the moments when Benavidez would be most vulnerable.
In the 12th round, Crawford sent out a jab followed by a left hand. Benavidez tried to counter with a right uppercut. Crawford then laced a right uppercut in, dropping Benavidez down hard.
There was less than a minute left. Crawford had to know that he already had the victory in hand on the scorecards — which, indeed, were shown afterward to have him well ahead. But there had been a war of words. This was a fight in front of Crawford’s hometown crowd in Omaha. He had a damaged foe in front of him.
He went for the finish.
Crawford closed in closed the show, landing one big right hook, then another. The referee jumped in, protecting Benavidez from further damage.
Crawford moved to 34-0 with 25 knockouts, making the first defense of the world title he won at welterweight from Jeff Horn earlier this year. Crawford previously was the top fighter at 135 and 140 pounds in title reigns there.
He’s not the top fighter at 147 just yet. That’s something that needs to be decided, though there’s still uncertainty over whether that will happen. As always, boxing can get bogged down by the business aspects of the sport. Many of the other top welterweights are with another promoter and are more likely to fight on another network. Crawford, meanwhile, is tied up with his own affiliations.
All of which may preclude collisions with the likes of Errol Spence, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, or even the aging Manny Pacquiao, who has reportedly signed a deal with Al Haymon, the powerful adviser who has those other big names in his stable.
Crawford’s next fight could instead be against the winner of next month’s bout between unbeaten fighters Egidijus Kavaliauskas (20-0, 16 KOs) and Roberto Arriaza (17-0, 13 KOs).
As for Benavidez, he is now 27-1 with 18 KOs. This loss came against one of the best. But that moral victory won’t mean much if he doesn’t learn from it, improve afterward, and then see how he fares against other top competition.
Shakur Stevenson Impresses with Quick TKO of Viorel Simion
Shakur Stevenson took advantage of the spotlight afforded him on Saturday night, needing three minutes to score three knockdowns, finishing off Viorel Simion via first-round technical knockout.
It was one heckuva way to open up the ESPN broadcast of Crawford vs. Benavidez. And it was a heckuva way to show glimpses of just how far Stevenson has come in his brief time as a pro — as he transitions from a top prospect who won Olympic silver in 2016 into a true featherweight contender.
The hand speed has always been there. The power’s clearly coming along as well. Simion had never been stopped in either of his previous losses. He’d gone the distance in 2013 against Lee Selby (who went on to capture a world title a 126 pounds) and in 2017 against Scott Quigg (who was a contender at 122).
Perhaps the long year-and-a-half layoff since the Quigg fight didn’t help. But it’s just as likely that Stevenson’s skills and talent were always going to be too much for Simion.
The first knockdown came about halfway into the round. But a pivotal moment actually happened just before then. Stevenson had landed a lead left hand, and Simion had responded with a left hook counter that missed. Stevenson remembered this. Moments later, Stevenson led with a jab that intentionally fell short, then took a half-step backward, hoping to draw Simion in. Stevenson landed a lead left hand again, and once again Simion responded with an attempted left hook counter.
Stevenson was ready for it. He knew Simion’s chin was going to be exposed, and so Stevenson threw a right hook counter that beat Simion to the punch and dropped him on all fours.
Simion rose quickly and staggered toward a neutral corner. Stevenson soon closed in and landed several shots. Simion tried to respond, throwing a wild left hook that sent himself falling forward to the canvas. The ref wrongly called it a knockdown, not that it was going to matter in the long run. After all, the long run wasn’t going to be much longer.
The end came just as the round was coming to a close. And it was reminiscent of an earlier sequence. Stevenson landed a left. Simion tried to counter with a left hook. Stevenson nailed him first with a right hook that turned Simion inside out. Simion staggered back, falling down, his right glove holding on to one of the middle ropes. Simion pulled himself up to beat the count, then staggered backward into the red corner.
The bell rang to end the round, but the referee felt he’d seen enough, that there was no need to let Simion get a minute to rest and recover and try again. Simion is now 21-3 with 9 knockouts.
Stevenson credited his grandfather, who is also his trainer, for studying footage of Simion and spotting a weakness.
“He told me that the right hook was going to be there,” Stevenson said in a post-fight interview. “He watched the tape of the opponent. He said he [Simion] keep his left hand down. I capitalized on it.”
And now this 21-year-old phenom, who’s just 9-0 with 5 knockouts, who’s been pro for just 18 months, wants to move toward a title shot.
“Y’all can give me Lee Selby next. I feel like I’ve been calling Lee Selby out since forever,” Stevenson said. “I feel I’ll go to England and fight Lee Selby. After I fight Lee Selby, I’ll go fight Josh Warrington, too.”
Selby (26-2, 9 KOs) lost his world title to Warrington (27-0, 6 KOs) earlier this year. Warrington is due to defend against former titleholder Carl Frampton next.
Stevenson’s team, which includes retired champion Andre Ward, won’t rush their fighter into a shot just yet. They’ll want to prepare him just a little bit more for experienced, capable veterans.
The kid’s already come a long way in a short amount of time. It’ll be real interesting to see just what he can do in the not-too-distant future.
Mikaela Mayer Makes it Eight, Wins Decision Over Vanessa Bradford
It’s been a busy year for Mikaela Mayer. That’s a good thing. The junior lightweight prospect turned pro about 14 months ago and is building up her skills and her reputation.
Mayer’s latest appearance was in a preliminary bout underneath Crawford-Benavidez. Similar to what ultimately happened in the main event, Mayer was clearly ahead deep into the bout, then scored a knockdown late, flooring her opponent in the seventh round. Bradford was able to make it the eight-round distance, though. Mayer took the decision win.
Mayer is now 8-0 with 4 KOs. She seems to be settling in at junior lightweight — which has a limit of 130 pounds — after coming in for her first six bouts in-between 131 and 132. This was also her first time going eight rounds.
Bradford suffered her first defeat and is now 4-1-2 with no knockouts.