Terence Crawford closes the show with 12th round TKO of Jose Benavidez Jr.
Terence “Bud” Crawford closed the show with a stunning 12th round technical knockout of Jose Benavidez Jr. on Saturday night, in his first defense of the WBO welterweight title.
“I had been seeing it rounds ahead of time but I seen him pulling back,” Crawford said about the stellar right uppercut that ruined Benavidez in the final round. “Then he started getting tired because I was touching him to the body. Then I threw the shot and it landed.”
Headlining on ESPN and in front of 13,323 hometown fans at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska, Crawford made a moment out of what could’ve easily been a wide unanimous decision win. Benavidez, 26, started the 12th round how he should’ve: down on the cards and with the type of aggressiveness that was lacking for most of the fight. It led to heated exchanges to close out the fight but Crawford’s uppercut erupted the arena as Benavidez crashed to the canvas shoulder-first. Benavidez was in trouble and on legs that had already shown weariness as early as round seven. He rose from the initial shot but Crawford pounced on the hurt fighter, trapped him on the ropes and prompted referee Celestino Ruiz to jump right in and stop the bout. A final Crawford right hand just beforehand crumbled Benavidez to the mat once more, as it was waved off.
“I gave him a hell of a fight and I got caught,” Benavidez said afterward. “That’s boxing. He’s a great fighter. I wanted to give the fans the fight that they paid for.”
Benavidez, 27-1 (18), was competitive with Crawford in the first half of the fight. He stood firm and commanded respect in the early going and kept up with Crawford jab-for-jab during the feeling-out process in the opening rounds. In the fourth, Benavidez had perhaps his best moment when a body shot sent Crawford back with pause but he was never able to visibly hurt him. Benavidez was taking Crawford’s shots well early on and until the 12th but his lack of movement, activity and skill was what separated them by the end.
“We just took our time today,” Crawford said after the victory. “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 could get in a rhythm, we could do whatever we want and that’s what we did today.
“He made me work in the early rounds. He was trying to counter me. Working on my distance – I couldn’t figure it out at first – but, once I got my distance, it was a wrap from there.”
Crawford, 34-0 (25), had much to do with Benavidez not doing enough. He switched to southpaw midway through the first round and started mixing in quick combinations to the body and head in the third. Once doubling up his jab, the power left hands landed more often in the middle rounds and forced some moments in which Benavidez just laid his back on the ropes and took it. Benavidez postured throughout the fight – he even taunted Crawford before the uppercut – and it looked as though the mouthy challenger could proclaim he could hang at the championship level, going forward after a solid effort. That may still be true in some respect but Crawford stopped all that talk in the immediate aftermath.
“I want ’em all. I’ve been saying it all along,” Crawford said when asked by ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna whom he wanted next. “It ain’t my job to get the fights done. It’s my job to want to fight the fights that everyone wants to see. I’ve been calling for all of them ever since I moved up in the division. That’s up to (CEO) Bob (Arum) and Top Rank.”
In the ESPN co-feature, American featherweight prospect Shakur Stevenson blasted out Viorel Simion in the first round of a proverbial step-up fight. The contest was scheduled for 10 and for a vacant WBC featherweight trinket.
Stevenson, Newark, New Jersey, had already scored two knockdowns before delivering a beautiful two-punch combination that had the 36-year-old Romanian twisting to the canvas and trying to catch his fall on the ropes. A right hand on the chin sent him there and it was a lightning quick shot that came in just as Simion himself was throwing. Simion, 21-3 (9), had never been dropped before, let alone stopped. After getting up a third time, referee Curtis Thrasher didn’t like the way he looked and waved it off just as the bell ending the round sounded. Once getting caught with a left hand midway through the first, Simion just couldn’t recover from the first flush shot he took from the fast-handed 21-year-old. Stevenson, 9-0 (5), maintained a the required distance to keep Simion at the end of his punches and went on to produce the best win of his young career.
Capping off the Top Rank undercard – which was streamed entirely on ESPN+ – “Mile High” Mike Alvarado brutally knocked out Robbie Cannon in the second round to produce another exciting win amid his patient comeback.
Alvarado, 40-4 (28), a former interim titleholder at junior welterweight, trotted across the ring, knowing he had his opponent helpless and hurt from a right hand that had just sent him to the canvas earlier in the second. Cannon, 16-14-3 (7), was wary to even continue after getting temporarily fried on the ropes before folding but somehow came to his feet only to be on the wrong end of a highlight knockout.
Alvarado, 38, lunged in with an overhand right, once reaching Cannon across the ring and hit the 33-year-old square on the chin. Cannon dropped to the canvas unconscious and his fall may’ve woke him back up, only to squirm on the canvas as the referee waved off his count. In his quest to get another shot, Alvarado produced yet another wild knockout and, even though many of these opponents are overmatched against the veteran, the Denver, Colorado, native is doing it the only way he can to be taken seriously.
Carlos Adames produced a quick second-round stoppage win over Joshua Conley to collect a regional junior middleweight belt. The contest was scheduled for 10 rounds.
Adames, 15-0 (12), picked his defensive-minded foe apart in the first round and sent Conley to the canvas the first time with a body shot that strayed low. Conley, 14-3-1 (9), may’ve been screwed out of that deal but was reluctant to get into a fight with the pressing Dominican. Fighting on his back foot, Conley was easy to trap on the ropes and eventually got caught by a hook and dropped suddenly in the second round. Adames went right after Conley once action resumed and, after an accumulation of shots to the body and head, Conley crumbled to the mat near the ropes again. Though he got up in time to beat referee Celestino Ruiz’s count, Conley spit out his mouthpiece beforehand and didn’t argue, once the bout was waved off.
Steven “So Cold” Nelson squashed Oscar Riojas to the canvas twice in the fourth round to force a referee stoppage and earn a technical knockout win. The light heavyweight contest was scheduled for six rounds.
Nelson, 12-0 (10), confidently stepped toward his Mexican foe and unleashed a lead left hand that caused the bruising of Riojas’ right eye. Riojas, 17-11-1 (6), hung tough, despite getting popped with lefts and right hooks constantly. Nelson eventually went to the body, as the fight neared its midway point, and it set up a chopping hook that caught Riojas perfectly on the chin and dropped him for a flash knockdown. Once getting up – and smiling about it – Riojas remained an open target for Nelson, who didn’t need much time to land a flush one-two combination that flattened him for the second time in the fourth round. Wobbly while getting up, Riojas elected to continue and, while getting swallowed up on the ropes by a Nelson barrage, referee Tom Anderson stepped in to rightfully wave it off.
Mikaela Mayer earned a shutout unanimous decison (80-71 on all three scorecards) win over Vanessa Bradford and highlighted the win with a seventh round knockdown. Mayer, 8-0 (4), was outboxing her foe in every way until a right hand flattened Bradford to the canvas. Bradford, 4-1-2, had already taken plenty to the head leading up to the seventh but it was the first time the Canadian broke after a whole lot of bending. Mayer, 28, won a regional lightweight title with the victory and put on a performance that will help push the female prospect toward title contention.
Coming off his first defeat, Ismail “Sharp Shooter” Muwendo received a wide unanimous decision (59-55 x3) win over Andre Wilson after six rounds of lightweight action but not without a scare in the third round.
Muwendo, 20-1 (12), was winning comfortably until a a straight right hand bopped him on the chin, while pulling back. The shot buckled his legs before another flush left followed and Muwendo couldn’t hide the truth behind his punch resistance. Wilson, 15-12-1 (12), grew confident once knowing he could hurt the Ugandan and, after having Muwendo reeling for most of round three, the second half of the fight was interesting. That big shot didn’t come for the counterpunching southpaw, however, as Muwendo, 30, recovered nicely behind his jab and had the stamina to outwork Wilson for the remainder of the fight.
Junior lightweight Jose Valenzuela beat up Hugo Rodriguez for four rounds to earn a shutout unanimous decision win that included three knockdowns. Valenzuela, 2-0, started the bombardment in the opening round with his right hand, dropping Rodriguez in the first, second and third rounds. Rodriguez, 0-1, was glaringly outclassed against a prospect in his pro debut but did show great toughness in sticking in there and making the distance.
In the opening bout of the Top Rank card, welterweight prospect Keeshawn Williams earned a unanimous decision (40-36 twice, 39-37) win over Ramel Snegur to remain unbeaten. Fighting out of Washington D.C., Williams, 4-0-1 (1), had to close the fight on a good note after a third round in which he was visibly stunned by an errant shot. Snegur, 2-3-1 (1), couldn’t follow up his success, once Williams returned to a dictating jab in the fourth round but provided the scare of a draw in an overmatched four-rounder.