On call: Terence Crawford vs. Jose Benavidez Jr.
Kicking off his fight week, Terence “Bud” Crawford was given the perfect plug on Monday night, during a nationally-televised football game on ESPN between the Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints. Joe Tessitore – the long-time blow-by-blow man for boxing on the network – has been mixing in boxing lingo and similes throughout every call so far in his first season at the helm of a heralded broadcasting gig. After a replay of a New Orleans touchdown on “Monday Night Football,” Tessitore described the highlight as something with the speed and quickness of a Terence Crawford and as small a deal as you may deem the mention or how contrived it may seem, it was a nice touch for the headliner of this Saturday night’s ESPN (10:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. PT) card.
Bob Arum and Todd duBoef – Crawford’s promoter and architect of Top Rank’s deal with ESPN – certainly knew they were going to get these moments of assimilation with the mainstream sports through the network. It’s one of the many reasons they announced a new seven-year partnership with ESPN over the summer and off the heels of re-signing Crawford to a new multi-year promotional extensnion one month ago, Arum and duBoef must’ve been smirking after hearing Tessitore’s shout-out – at least until Booger McFarland, the network’s sideline football analyst, followed that up by saying it was like Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Crawford, 33-0 (24), looks to defend his recently acquired WBO welterweight title for the first time this Saturday night, in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, at the CHI Health Center Arena, where there will be plenty of hype surrounding one of the best boxing talents the United States has to offer. Challenging him for the title is Jose Benavidez Jr., an unbeaten 26-year-old who didn’t tread lightly when trying to get a fight with Crawford and took advantage of his promotional convenience by confronting Bud at a Top Rank weigh-in earlier this year.
On a media conference call last Thursday, Crawford was asked to describe what happened.
“Pretty much nothing,” Crawford answered. “He just came up to me, told me that I was ducking him and I never wanted to sign a fight; I never signed a contract and I was scared of him and he was going to knock me out, So I told him, I said, ‘Man, don’t you got a fight? You need to focus on your fight before you focus on me right now. You need to be focused on your fight.’ Then just a little heated discussion.That comes with the territory when you’ve got people that, you know, want your spot. They want to get the opportunity or the chance to prove their worthiness, to make a name for themselves. So that’s how I take it. He’s trying to piggyback off of my name to make himself bigger.”
Benavidez, 27-0 (18), scored his best wins at 140 pounds but still remains a physical problem at welterweight. Standing 6-foot-2 and armed with a 73-inch reach, Benavidez was an accomplished amateur and an intriguing prospect nearing contention in 2016 before everything was abruptly halted. While walking around in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, Benavidez was reportedly the victim of a gunshot wound to the leg and it left him out of commission until last February, when he barked at Crawford the night before his own return in Corpus Christi, Texas. Benavidez went on to win that fight by a final round stoppage and on the undercard of Crawford’s most recent fight this past June, knocked out another in the first round to set up the inevitable.
“Oh, why not? Why not?” Crawford asked about giving Benavidez the opportunity. “You know, talk is cheap. We’re in the same division, same promoter. It’s an interesting fight. He’s always saying that I’m fighting smaller guys, so this is a chance to see what you are made of.”
Crawford has had a history of getting into pre-fight arguments with his opponents but goes about it in the same nonchalant manner as he does outsmarting them in a boxing ring. In this case, Crawford didn’t have to think long and hard about finding a motive to punish Benavidez and at Wednesday’s media workout, the two sides stirred enough hostility to warrant more security for Thursday’s final press conference (Streamed live on ESPN+).
“It’s time to show the world what I can do. I’ve been waiting for this my whole life,” said Benavidez on Wednesday. “I am here. I am going to take over this city and I am going to take his belt. I’m not scared. I don’t see anything special in him. I don’t know why everyone hypes him up so much.”
Crawford, 31, stood with his arms crossed while he and his team berated Jose’s portion of the media workout.
“I’m just going to go out there and shut him up. That’s it. That’s all,” Crawford said. “It’s been real since day one, since the fight has been announced. It ain’t been nothing but real. Once he feels them punches going upside his head, I don’t even know if he’s going to want to stand there next to me.”
Asked if Benavidez even deserves a title shot, Crawford admitted, “No. Not at all. But that ain’t the point. The point is we’re here now and we’re fighting on Saturday. Come Saturday, all the talking will be out the window.”
Over the past few years, Crawford has built a legitimate fan base in the geographical heart of America and he’s drawn considerably well, reaching from Las Vegas to New York City. Under boxing’s standards, Crawford is already a star who has climbed great heights in achieving what very few have before. The last time he fought on ESPN, his debut on the network in August of last year, Crawford became the undisputed junior welterweight champion after walloping Julius Indongo with a third round body shot. While many things had to fall into place for it to happen, the championship match was ultimately an outclassing but Crawford wasted no time delivering an exciting knockout that ended with all four major world title draped over him and a rare glimpse of the air being clear. Of course that didn’t last long, as Crawford vacated the throne by moving up in weight in his very next fight, something to look forward to in and of itself.
Welterweight very well may be the class that define’s Crawford’s career, when it’s all said and done. After dominating Jeff Horn into an eventual ninth round stoppage win last July, Crawford officially entered the fray of a talent-rich weight class, in which questions loom as to whether or not he is the best at 147 pounds or if he even is the best American fighter. With the Horn fight being the first big main event on the new ESPN+ subscription service, Crawford’s debut had a limited audience but it didn’t diminish the occasion of him becoming an instant player in the welterweight division.
“I feel stronger. I feel like my body is growing into the weight division,” Crawford said on the call. “This is only my second fight at the welterweight division, so I feel like I’ve got a little more growing to do but, as far as strength-wise and how I feel, I feel great and I feel strong.”
Now on the regular airwaves of the “Worldwide Leader,” Crawford would like to showcase his talent for all the more to see and further his profile, as he nears closer toward a big negotiation for his biggest prizefight. Crawford has always left the matchmaking up to his promoter and when presented with the foreseen issues of landing the big fight on the call, duBoef chimed in.
“Can I answer this for him? I just want to make this crystal clear. We have said this following our recent announcement of re-signing Terence: Regardless of your affiliation, we will take on all comers. That’s it. We don’t care where you are, what you do. We will go and take on all comers, right? Terence is an elite fighter. He is at that class. In fact, when there was a big welterweight fight, a nice welterweight fight in early September (Shawn Porter vs. Danny Garcia), all they did was talk about Terence Crawford. We thank them for that.
“We’ve done the biggest fights with the biggest complications of all time. He wants to take on the biggest. We want to provide the biggest. So Terence, now you can chime in if you want. Sorry.”
“Well, you took everything out of my mouth,” Crawford said. “So, there’s nothing more for me to say. There you have it.”