By Keith Idec
LAS VEGAS – Jose Benavidez Jr. made just the type of statement Saturday that he feels he had to make to get a shot at Terence Crawford next.
Benavidez needed just one minute and 24 seconds to knock out previously undefeated Frank Rojas on the Crawford-Jeff Horn undercard at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Benavidez rocked Rojas with a straight right hand and followed it up with a sneaky left hook to Rojas’ liver.
Rojas fell into a corner and couldn’t get up. That’s when referee Vic Drakulich waved an end to their scheduled 10-round fight.
Phoenix’s Benavidez boosted his record to 27-0 and produced his 18th knockout. Venezuela’s Rojas, who had knocked out 21 of the first 22 opponents of his career, lost for the first time as a pro (22-1, 21 KOs).
“I worked hard for this fight, so I didn’t go in there trying to knock the guy out right away,” Benavidez said. “But the knockout came. I caught him with some clean shots and he couldn’t get back up.
“I thought I looked good enough. He was a guy who was 22-0, with 21 knockouts. I had a great camp, and the result showed that.”
The 26-year-old Benavidez said before facing Rojas that he wants to fight Crawford next, assuming the heavily favored Crawford defeats Horn to win the WBO welterweight title in the main event Saturday night.
Benavidez and Crawford had a confrontation at the weigh-in for Benavidez’s previous fight, an eighth-round stoppage of Matthew Strode on February 3 in Corpus Christi, Texas.
His victory over Strode marked Benavidez’s return from suffering a gunshot wound to his leg in August 2016 in Phoenix. Benavidez suffered serious injuries to his right leg that threatened his career during that incident.
“I felt better tonight,” Benavidez said. “Last time out, I hadn’t fought in nearly 18 months and there was some ring rust. I’m back and I want the winner of Horn and Crawford.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.