By Keith Idec
Those who’ve watched Terence Crawford beat up opponents who’ve talked trash might not believe him, but Crawford claims he hasn’t taken any of what Jose Benavidez Jr. has said about him personally.
“That comes with the territory when you’ve got people that, you know, want your spot,” Crawford said during a recent conference call. “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 my name to make himself bigger.”
The 31-year-old Crawford – commonly considered one of the top two boxers, pound-for-pound, in the sport – will make the first defense of his WBO welterweight title versus Benavidez (27-0, 18 KOs) on Saturday night in Omaha, Nebraska, Crawford’s hometown. ESPN will televise their 12-round, 147-pound championship match from CHI Health Center in downtown Omaha.
It’s an optional title defense for Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs), who could have difficulty securing the fights he truly wants because the other welterweight champions – Shawn Porter (WBC), Errol Spence Jr. (IBF) and Keith Thurman (WBA) – fight for Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions organization and appear on different networks (Showtime, FOX) than Crawford (ESPN). The unbeaten Benavidez is ranked No. 10 among the WBO’s welterweight contenders, but was a logical option because he had Crawford have history and both are promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc.
“Why not?,” Crawford said when asked why agreed to box Benavidez. “You know, talk is cheap. We’re in the same division, [have the] 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.”
Phoenix’s Benavidez confronted Crawford prior to a weigh-in the day before Benavidez’s eighth-round, technical-knockout victory over Matthew Strode on February 3 in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“He just came up to me,” Crawford recalled, “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 gonna 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.”
Crawford challenged Benavidez to step outside during that heated exchange. They were separated soon thereafter.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.