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Terence Crawford stops Jose Benavidez late in last round to keep WBO belt

Considered arguably the top pound for pound boxer in the game Terence Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs) made the first defense of his WBO welterweight crown in front of a hometown crowd in Omaha, Nebraska. This was not the defense or unification bout that most were clamoring for including Crawford himself. But due to the current political nature of the sport, this was certainly a bout that many were excited for considering the long-stemming beef between Crawford and his undefeated opponent Jose Benavidez Jr (27-0, 18 KOs). The anticipation for the fight certainly grew over the past few days as the two had a few intense encounters during media events for their main event this past week. Crawford showed up during Benavidez’s media workout on Wednesday and the two engaged in a bit of trash talk that led to them having to be separated from each other as Crawford tried to enter the ring. Thursday’s final media presser was also intense as they two continued to trash talk each other. Culminating in Friday’s weigh-in that almost turned into a huge melee as the two had to be separated by law enforcement after Benavidez shoved the champion and Crawford responded by taking a swing at his challenger.

We could only expect fireworks the way things had been brewing including the two refusing the shake gloves at the center of the ring prior the opening bell. Benavidez started out round 1 snapping his jab as Crawford circled around the ring. Crawford attempted to establish his jab as well to the body of Benavidez. It was definitely a feeling out round as no real power punches were thrown. Crawford known as a switch-hitter began the fight in the south paw stance. Crawford was able to land a combination in the final minute of the round but Benavidez also landed a left hook that caught Crawford’s attention as he stuck his tongue out. Round 2 had the making of another feel out round with both fighters still jabbing each other. Crawford was definitely a bit tentative in dealing with the height of Benavidez. But then landed a combination ending with a right hook to the body. Crawford looked for the body with most of his power shots in the round. Crawford began round 3 fast, unleashing combinations to his challenger. He also established a more aggressive jab which opened up opportunities to the body for him as Benavidez stood still. Crawford landed an uppercut to cement the round.

Benavidez landed a sharp straight right hand to start round 4 followed up by a left hook. Crawford attempted to get Benavidez to come forward more aggressively by taunting him. It was the best round for Benavidez in the fight as he landed a right hook to Crawford's body that sent him backwards for a moment. Round 5 began with Benavidez continuing to attack the body of Crawford. Crawford responded with a body attack of his own and landed a right hook to the head of Benavidez. It was a very even round. Benavidez was able to land a few short right hands as Crawford tried to exit. Crawford landed a combination to end the round. Benavidez looked to counter in round 6 as Crawford opened up with combinations to the body of Benavidez. Crawford was definitely the busier fighter in the round. Benavidez landed a straight right hand that caught Crawford flush and stymied his offense for a second. However, Crawford came back with another combination that started with a right hook to the body of Benavidez. Crawford’s most effective work was to the body of the challenger.

It was still a close fight through the midway point of the bout. Crawfords output continued to pick up as Benavidez continued to wait on counter shots. Crawford’s movement definitely had Benavidez flustered throughout the round as Benavidez slowed down tremendously. Crawford landed a left-right hook combination to the head of Benavidez. The momentum of the fight was definitely in the favor of the champion at this stage. Crawford continued to bang at the body of Benavidez to start round 8. Crawford was still making good use of the ring as Benavidez did very little in terms of movement. He appeared frustrated in the round. Benavidez’s hands were completely at his waist at tikes during the round, which appeared to be a sign of fatigue from the earlier body work from Crawford. Crawford’s jab was now dictating a lot in the fight as round 9 begun. He was controlling the fight from the center of the ring and toying with Benavidez. Benavidez did very little offensively in the round as Crawford was able to use his athleticism to keep the stiff challenger from mounting any offense.

To start the championship rounds, Crawford landed a powerful left hook that sent Benavidez retreating to the ropes. He tried to keep Crawford there, but the champion wisely took the fight back to the center of the ring where he was having success. The two engaged in a slug fest and Crawford landed combinations at will. Benavidez was able to counter him through a few shots but there was little steam on the punches of Benavidez. It was the most exciting round of the fight. Benavidez had a little more sense of urgency in round 11, but Crawford was landing at will with very little defense from Benavidez. Benavidez attempted to pressure Crawford for part of the round but then again tried to lure the champion back into the ropes to no avail. Crawford was executing an excellent strategy as he was now keeping the challenger off balance at the end of his combinations. Crawford knew he had the fight in hand and smiled at Benavidez as the round came to an end. Benavidez needed a knockout heading into the final round. Crawford landed a thunderous left hook as Benavidez tried to pressure forward on the champion. Benavidez landed a nice right hook, his most powerful punch in some time but he did nothing to follow it up. Crawford caught Benavidez with a right uppercut that sent him to the canvas for the first time in his career. Benavidez could not recover as Crawford jumped back on him. Crawford landed two right hooks that caused the referee to call a halt to the bout with under 30 seconds remaining in the final round.

In the post-fight interview Crawford was asked about who he wanted to fight next. He responded with; “I want them all, its up to Bob and Top Rank”. With the victory, Crawford recorded his 5th straight win via knockout and improves his record to 34-0 with 25 KOs. We can only hope the network politics sort themselves out sooner than later so we can see Crawford in against one of the other elite welterweight champions that fight under the PBC banner.

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