It took a brash and unyielding effort from Jose Benavidez Jr. on Saturday to push Terence Crawford into the 12th and final round. It then took a spectacular finish from the unbeaten WBO welterweight champion to remind us he just might be the best in the world. Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) showcased his insatiable hunger to finish his opponents, particularly those who get under his skin like Benavidez made it a point to do throughout the fight’s build. Yet it was Crawford’s sublime combination of speed, power and technique that combined to help him finish the job with just seconds remaining in the bout.Fighting in front of his hometown fans in Omaha, the 31-year-old Crawford sent the rabid, partisan crowd of 13,000 home happy with a textbook counter right uppercut that floored Benavidez (27-1, 18 KOs) in sections late in Round 12. Shortly after, Crawford finished the job along the ropes as referee Celestino Ruiz jumped in to end the fight at 19 seconds.Crawford, in the first bout of his new multi-fight deal with promoter Top Rank, provided a strong case for consideration as the sport’s pound-for-pound king by patiently outlanding Benavidez, 131 to 64, according to CompuBox, while connecting on 43 percent of his punches overall. “We just took our time out there,” Crawford said. “Everything that went on this week, he was just trying to get in my head and wanted me to have a firefight with him. He made me work early on and was trying to counter me. I was working on my distance and I couldn’t figure it out at first but once I got my distance it was a rough ride for him from there.”

Benavidez, 26, talked a big game from the moment he called Crawford out to his face in February at a Top Rank card in Corpus Christi, Texas, to the verbal war the two fighters had at Wednesday’s media day. Two days later at the weigh-in, Benavidez shoved Crawford during their face-off before barely stepping out of the way of Crawford’s right hand. Considering Crawford’s history of making trash talkers pay by systematically dismantling them, there was plenty of questions as to whether Benavidez had enough class to back up his words. Despite a distinct disadvantage in experience, Benavidez more than made up for it with stubbornness and a smart game plan that gave Crawford enough reason not to let his hands go at will in the early rounds. Benavidez used his length and speed to stand in front of Crawford and briefly disarm him due to the threat of clean counter shots. He also showed a good chin once Crawford, who spent most of the fight as a southpaw, began to figure out his opponent’s timing and distance. “I gave him a hell of a fight. I was putting pressure and it was a good fight,” Benavidez said. “He is a great fighter and I just wanted to give the fans a fight they paid to see. We just have to go back to the drawing board and work harder.”

While Benavidez was successful at times with counter right hands and forcing Crawford to work hard for his offense, he rarely threw enough punches to become a legitimate threat of winning a decision. Part of that had to do with an aggravated right leg injury that traces back to a gun shot wound in his calf two years ago. “My legs started hurting and I hurt my legs but there is no excuses,” Benavidez said. “He adapted and he’s a good fighter but I’m a good fighter too. I think I gave the fans a hell of a fight and I kept the fight close. My leg gave out pretty bad in the ninth round but I tried not to think about it. I take nothing away from him, he’s the best of the best.” Benavidez, the younger brother of super middleweight titleholder David Benavidez, talked trash throughout and defiantly shook his head each time Crawford landed clean. But with the crowd on its feet in the final round, Crawford waited for the perfect time to uncork a right uppercut that led to the fight’s finish.”I’ve been seeing it rounds and rounds ahead of time but I saw him pulling back,” Crawford said. “He started getting tired and I was touching him to the body and there it was.” 

With the majority of top welterweights affiliated with Premier Boxing Champions and Showtime, Crawford continues to have difficulty finding top opponents. But he remained unchanged after the fight by his mission statement to handle his own business in the ring while leaving his matchmaking to his promoters. “I want them all, I’ve been saying it all along,” Crawford said. “It ain’t my job to get the fights done, it’s my job to want the fights that the fans want to see. I’ve wanted to fight all the names in the division and it’s up to Bob [Arum] and Top Rank.”

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