By Keith Idec
OMAHA, Nebraska – Jose Benavidez Jr. just doesn’t see it.
He notices Terence Crawford’s name listed either No. 1 or No. 2 on most pound-for-pound lists. He hears and reads fans, media, other fighters and promoters complimenting Crawford’s uniquely diverse skill set, intelligence and killer instinct.
Benavidez still doesn’t consider Crawford as good as virtually everyone else seems to think.
“I don’t see anything special in him,” Benavidez said Wednesday during an open workout. “I don’t know why everyone hypes him up so much.”
The 31-year-old Crawford has won world titles in three weight classes over the past 4½ years. His dominance at lightweight and junior welterweight helped Crawford climb toward the top of pound-for-pound lists and has made him a professional franchise of sorts in his hometown of Omaha.
Crawford has drawn crowds of at least 10,943 for four fights in Omaha and one fight in nearby Lincoln since June 2014. Benavidez believes he’ll send another large, raucous, pro-Crawford crowd home very unhappy Saturday night, when they’ll fight for Crawford’s WBO welterweight title (ESPN; 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT).
“I am here,” said Benavidez, who’s ranked No. 10 by the WBO. “I am gonna take over this city, and I’m gonna take his belt. I’m not scared.”
If he pulls off what would be a huge upset Saturday night, Benavidez (27-0, 18 KOs) would rejuvenate a career that was stalled by a serious leg injury sustained during an unsolved shooting in August 2016. Phoenix’s Benavidez has fought twice since ending an 18-month layoff to recover from the shooting, but an eighth-round, technical-knockout victory over American journeyman Matthew Strode (25-7, 9 KOs) and a first-round knockout of untested Venezuelan contender Frank Rojas (23-1, 22 KOs) haven’t convinced most doubters that Benavidez can conquer Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs).
Benavidez, 26, is motivated to truly begin realizing the potential he first flashed when, as a 16-year-old, he became the youngest fighter to win a national Golden Gloves title.
“It’s time to show the world what I can do,” Benavidez said. “I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.”
Crawford admitted he would take personal pleasure out of beating Benavidez because his challenger has talked a lot of trash since their confrontation at a weigh-in eight months ago in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“Once he feels them punches going upside his head,” Crawford said, “I don’t even know if he’s gonna wanna stand there next to me.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.