By Paul Mason
Major pound for pound player, Terence Crawford, headlines in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska this weekend, when he defends his WBO Welterweight Title against Phoenix, Arizona native, Jose Benavidez Junior. Both bring a combined 60-0 record to the CHI Heath Centre. You can catch the action on BoxNation in the UK. Here I preview the bout
Terence Crawford (33-0, KO24) v Jose Benavidez Jr (27-0, KO18) – 12 Rounds, WBO Welterweight Title
The Bob Arum promoted Terence Crawford figures in most people’s pound for pound top five, after a stellar four and a half years since going to Ricky Burns’ backyard to wrench the Scotsman’s WBO Lightweight Title in March 2014. “Bud” turned professional in 2008, after a decent amateur career, that included wins over future World Champions Danny Garcia and Mikey Garcia. After compiling 22 straight wins against the likes of former Amir Khan conqueror, Breidis Prescott and Andrey Klimov (both unanimous) Crawford earned a shot at the WBO Lightweight Title at the Scottish Exhibition Centre in Glasgow against Burns. Crawford impressively outboxed Burns for the duration of the contest, and a star was born. He backed this up with wins over solid contenders in Yuriorkis Gamboa (KO9) and Raymundo Beltran (Unanimous) and then jumped up to Super Lightweight to beat Thomas Dulorme (TKO6) and win the WBO Title at a second weight.
After two low key defences against Dierry Jean (TKO10) and Hank Lundy (TKO5), Crawford unified for the first time, picking up the WBC Title and the coveted Ring Magazine belt in unanimously outscoring the previously unbeaten Ukrainian, Viktor Postol in Las Vegas. Two marking time fights followed. John Molina Junior was stopped in eight rounds in December 2016, and Felix Diaz was retired in ten rounds in May 2017 in New York.
This set up a showdown for all available Titles at Super Lightweight against Julius Indongo. WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO Titles were all om the line, but the Namibian was no match for Crawford, spectacularly knocked out in three rounds. Crawford has fought once since. He moved up to Welterweight to become a three weight World Champion, expertly dethroning Jeff Horn to lift the WBO Title in Las Vegas in June.
Benavidez is unbeaten but expected to be a tune-up as Crawford awaits the big fish in the Welterweight division. This will be Benavidez’s first World Title challenge, following a two-fight spell as a WBA interim Super Lightweight Champion in 2014/15. His record is unspectacular, and his best wins were in those two bouts. He outpointed Mauricio Herrera in Las Vegas in December 2014 to win the fringe Title, before stopping Jorge Paez Junior in the last round of his first defence. He gets his chance following one round knockout win against the then 22-0 Frank Rojas in June in Las Vegas.
I don’t expect him to trouble Crawford, who will likely dazzle him with his supreme footwork and speed. I expect Benevidez to be halted just after halfway.