By Thomas Gerbasi
Jose Benavidez Jr. is a good fighter. A 27-0 record that includes 18 knockouts doesn’t usually lie, even if it can fib a little at times. But there is no indication that he will enter the ring at the CHI Health Center in Omaha on Saturday night and take Terence Crawford’s WBO welterweight title.
That’s not an indictment of Benavidez. It’s more the reality that Crawford will be favored against practically anyone competing at 147 pounds. That’s both a blessing and a curse for “Bud,” who has reached that rarified air once occupied by Roy Jones Jr., where the result is never in question but the opportunity to see the man work is still reason enough to tune in.
“Some people rate me number one, some people rate me two,” said Crawford of the pound-for-pound race he’s in with Top Rank stablemate Vasyl Lomachenko. “I can't complain. I'm in the top two and almost everybody is rating me, so I'm just blessed to be in the top two.”
Crawford earned his spot at the top by cleaning out the 140-pound weight class, capping off his dominant run with a blistering third-round knockout of Julius Indongo in August 2017. With nothing left to prove at junior welterweight, Crawford moved up to welterweight and stopped Jeff Horn in nine rounds in June to add a new belt to his trophy case. It was typical Crawford despite the added poundage, but while getting all the belts at 140 proved to be a fairly smooth process business wise, that isn’t expected to be the case in his new division, where Errol Spence, Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman all fight under the PBC banner.
Top Rank’s Todd duBoef disagrees.
“I just want to make this crystal clear,” he said during a recent media teleconference. “Regardless of your affiliation, we will take on all comers. That's it. We don’t care where you are, what you do. We will go and take on all comers, right? Terence is an elite fighter. He is at that class. In fact, when there was a big welterweight fight, a nice welterweight fight in early September, all they did was talk about Terence Crawford. We thank them for that.
“We've done the biggest fights with the biggest complications of all time,” duBoef. “He wants to take on the biggest. We want to provide the biggest.”
It’s a positive sign, but sitting down and hashing out the fight everyone wants to see – Crawford vs Spence – will likely take some time, which is fine, and some marinating, which isn’t as fine. But it’s a necessary evil to make this major fight as lucrative as possible.
So in the meantime, it’s Crawford against Jeff Horn, Crawford against Jose Benavidez, and Crawford against fighters without belts. Well there is Manny Pacquiao, who has a WBA “regular” title belt that the WBO boss doesn’t really recognize.
“He's not a champion in my eyes,” Crawford said of Pacquiao. “He don’t have the super belt. That's the champion in my eyes. I look at the number one champion in the division. I don’t look at the WBC Silver and the interim belts and all that. I look at the super and the actual champion of the division.”
In the WBA, that would be the currently sidelined Keith Thurman, and while Crawford against PBC standouts Thurman, Porter and Danny Garcia would all be intriguing matchups, Spence is the fight all parties involved seem to want.
“Right now, the biggest name in the welterweight division is Errol Spence,” said Crawford’s trainer / manager Brian McIntyre. “So, what we would do is, and I'm glad Todd is on this call, they just put the pressure on ESPN as a leader in sports. They want to be the leader in boxing. If they want to be a leader in boxing, they're going to go out and make those fights happen. And so that's what Terence wants. They want Terence to be the number one fighter in the world.”
Crawford may already be the number one fighter in the world. But the world outside the boxing bubble won’t know that until he fights and beats the big names in his new weight class. It’s something Team Crawford is well aware of.
“Realistically, we're going after the champions, man,” said McIntyre. “You know, I don’t see any reason to be fighting the number six dude or number seven dude. We want the best fighters out there at 147 so, you know, I'm glad Todd is on this call because we'll put the heat on him. He wants to make those fights happen. He can go to ESPN and make those fights happen. Terence wants those fights to happen. Let’s go.”
So while duBoef and McIntyre take care of the business outside the ring, Crawford will lace up his gloves and take care of his inside it this weekend. He’s heard all the talk of the SuperFights down the line. But nothing happens without a win over Benavidez in his Omaha hometown.
“I don’t pay attention to it,” he said of the chatter about future bouts. “My main focus is on Benavidez. As you can see, he's been doing a lot of talking, but while he's talking, I'm working. So, I'm not worried about nothing that he's saying or that he's trying to hype up. I'm focused and I'm ready to go.”
And when he does step through the ropes, it will be a reminder that no matter the opponent, the same Terence Crawford shows up. There is no taking his foot off the gas against a lesser foe or becoming a lead foot against a fellow champion. It’s why he’s a special fighter. Because he’s never forgotten that anyone can get hurt by an opponent with two fists.
Unless you get them first.
“Like I said, talk is cheap,” he said. “Come next week, all the talking and all the answers that everybody wants to ask about the fight will be answered. I really don’t have nothing to say about the guy. Come fight night, you know I'll be ready.”