By Keith Idec
OMAHA, Nebraska – If there was ever any question as to whether the animosity between Terence Crawford and Jose Benavidez Jr. is real, they answered it emphatically Friday.
Benavidez shoved Crawford on the stage after they weighed in at CHI Health Center for their 12-round, 147-pound title fight Saturday night. Crawford responded by throwing a right hook that missed Benavidez, who moved backward.
Employees for promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. and security personnel quickly separated Crawford and Benavidez and ushered them off the stage following the incident.
Crawford officially weighed in at 145¼ pounds, slightly more than Benavidez (145).
ESPN will air Crawford-Benavidez as the main event Saturday night from CHI Health Center in Omaha, Crawford’s hometown.
Crawford, 31, will make the first defense of the WBO welterweight title he won from Australia’s Jeff Horn. The three-division champion improved to 33-0 and recorded his 24th knockout in his last fight, when he dominated Horn (18-1-1, 12 KOs) on his way to stopping him in the ninth round June 9 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Benavidez, 26, once held the WBA’s interim world super lightweight title. He endured an 18-month layoff, however, while he recovered from a career-threatening leg injury suffered during an unsolved shooting in August 2016.
Phoenix’s Benavidez (27-0, 18 KOs) returned to the ring February 3, when he stopped American journeyman Matthew Strode (25-7, 9 KOs) in the eighth round in Corpus Christi, Texas. Crawford and Benavidez engaged in a heated exchange at the weigh-in the day before Benavidez beat Strode, an incident both boxers acknowledge helped lead their promoter, Bob Arum, toward making this fight.
In his following fight, Benavidez knocked out relatively untested Venezuelan Frank Rojas (23-1, 22 KOs) in the first round of a scheduled 10-rounder on the Crawford-Horn undercard four months ago. Benavidez is ranked No. 10 by the WBO among its 147-pound contenders.
Before Stevenson and Benavidez weighed in, Shakur Stevenson and Viorel Simion also made weight Friday for their 10-round, super featherweight fight Saturday night.
The 21-year-old Stevenson (8-0, 4 KOs), a 2016 Olympic silver medalist from Newark, New Jersey, officially weighed 128 pounds. The 36-year-old Simion (21-2, 9 KOs), of Lehliu Gara, Romania, weighed in at 128¼ pounds.
ESPN will air their fight before the Crawford-Benavidez bout as part of a telecast scheduled to start at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT.
Simion, a late replacement for Wisconsin’s Duarn Vue (14-1-2, 4 KOs), will fight for the first time since losing a 12-round unanimous decision to former super bantamweight champ Scott Quigg in April 2017 at Wembley Stadium in London.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.