Omaha was never a boxing city. In fact, it wasn’t a place for anything sports related besides a AAA baseball team and the College World Series. That all has changed with Terence “Bud” Crawford.
Crawford electrified an already boisterous crowd at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Neb., on Saturday night, garnering a 12th round technical knockout of the undefeated Jose Benavidez.
His fight with Benavidez was one with a lot of hostility before the two even met in the ring. Words from both camps offended the other and when the two met during a media workout earlier this week, they had to be separated after exchanging words and threats.
Things escalated on Friday at the weigh-ins, when Benavidez pushed Crawford, who threw a hook that just missed the chin of Benavidez. Benavidez called it a “bitch punch.” When the two finally met in the ring, things were sure to be interesting.
The first three rounds were slow. Crawford, the WBO champion, was patient and picked his spots, never staying in the range of Benavidez for too long. Benavidez, the challenger, also started slow. Still, after the first three rounds, most of the people thought Crawford was controlling the fight, and thus up on the scorecards.
The nature of the fight changed in the fourth round, when Crawford started working the body of Benavidez. He continuously would feint to the head and attack the body, often with a right hook that dug into the kidney of the challenger. Benavidez made it a point to shake his head after each big punch that Crawford landed, but as the rounds went on, the audience could tell they were slowing him down and getting to his stamina.
Benavidez, after the fourth round, simply didn’t do enough to even compete in the fight. He was barely throwing punches compared to Crawford, who would throw 4-5 punch flurries every thirty seconds. Benavidez also sat flat-footed with his hands up in a high guard for a good part of each round. Crawford used this to his advantage, and would throw a fast combo that concluded with a digging right hook to the body.
It wasn’t a lack of effort that lost Benavidez the fight, though. It was a lack of skill compared to the top pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. Crawford dazzled, perfectly moving into the inside of Benavidez, throwing a flurry that caught him clean, and then instantly getting to the outside—out of the reach of Benavidez’s fists.
There’s levels to boxing, and Terence Crawford is in a league of his own. Vasily Lomachenko is the only fighter that can be argued in the same class of skill as Crawford. Past the fifth round, Crawford barely got touched. It didn’t even look like he had a fight after the 11 and a half rounds. He didn’t have a bruise or ounce of swelling on him.
Finally, in the 12th round, when it looked like Crawford was just going to outclass his opponent and bruise him pretty good in a unanimous decision, Crawford caught Benavidez with an uppercut that made the challenger fold like a table, hitting the canvas.
Benavidez got up, but the killer mentality of Crawford knocked Benavidez down with a flurry of hooks shortly after. The referee came to Benavidez’s aid right as the last punch connected from Crawford, and stopped the fight as Benavidez slumped down the ropes to the canvas for the second and final time.
A 12th round knockout improved Crawford’s record to 34-0 with 26 KO’s. When asked what was next, Crawford said he doesn’t control that, just controls how he fights.
Some were wondering whether Benavidez’s antics were getting into Crawford’s head, but the 32-year-old shook off all doubts.
“He never got in my head,” Crawford said. “He tried all week, but I knew what he was trying to do. I know the kind of fighter I am.”