By Keith Idec
OMAHA, Nebraska – Terence Crawford wasn’t about to lie for the sake of promoting his fight against Jose Benavidez Jr.
When he was asked Wednesday during an open workout whether Benavidez even deserves a shot at his WBO welterweight title, Crawford was brutally honest.
“No,” Crawford said. “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.”
Crawford, 31, will make his first defense of the WBO 147-pound title versus Benavidez on Saturday night in Omaha, Crawford’s hometown. The undefeated three-division champion won that title in his last bout by stopping Australian Jeff Horn (18-1-1, 12 KOs) in the ninth round June 9 in Las Vegas.
Benavidez, 26, once held the WBA’s interim world super lightweight title. He didn’t fight for 18 months, though, after suffering a career-threatening leg injury when he was attacked during an unsolved shooting in August 2016.
Since his return, Benavidez (27-0, 18 KOs) has stopped American journeyman Matthew Strode (25-7, 9 KOs) in the eighth round February 3 in Corpus Christi, Texas. In his following fight, Benavidez knocked out essentially 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 at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Benavidez is ranked just No. 10 by the WBO among its 147-pound contenders. Like Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs), Benavidez is promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc., which made this optional title defense for Crawford easy to arrange.
Crawford wants to face fellow welterweight champions Errol Spence Jr. (IBF), Keith Thurman (WBA) and Shawn Porter (WBC). Those title unification fights will be harder to make because Spence, Thurman and Porter are aligned with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions and fight on different networks, Showtime and now FOX, than Crawford, whose fights are televised by ESPN.
“I’m just gonna keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Crawford said, “and that’s winning the fights and looking spectacular each and every fight. Everything else will fall into place.”
For now, Crawford is focused on settling a personal score with Benavidez. The Phoenix native confronted Crawford at a weigh-in the day before Benavidez beat Strode eight months ago and claims Crawford has long avoided him.
“[Our beef has] been real since day one, since the fight has been announced,” Crawford said. “It ain’t been nothing but real. I’m just gonna go out there and shut him up. That’s it. That’s all.”
ESPN will broadcast Crawford-Benavidez as the main event of a broadcast from CHI Health Center in downtown Omaha (10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.