OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Challenger Jose Benavidez Jr. has been displaying lots of bravado in advance of his fight with Terence “Bud” Crawford. The WBO welterweight champion expects Benavidez to respect him by the time things are settled in the ring Saturday night.
“I don’t see anything special in him. I don’t know why everyone hypes him up so much,” Benavidez said of one of the world’s top pound-for-pound fighters.
“I’m just going to go out there and shut him up. That’s it. That’s all,” Crawford said.
There has been friction between Benavidez and Crawford since February, when Benavidez accused the champ of ducking him.
Both appeared at a media workout Wednesday, and two heated confrontations erupted between the fighters’ camps, the last one ending with Crawford being pulled away from Benavidez. The bickering continued Thursday at a news conference.
The scheduled 12-round fight will be Crawford’s first defense of his WBO belt. Crawford (33-0, 24 knockouts) last fought June 9, stopping Jeff Horn in the ninth round in Las Vegas. Benavidez (27-0, 18 KOs) fought on the Horn-Crawford undercard and knocked out Venezuelan Frank Rojas in the first round.
Benavidez is only the 10th-ranked 147-pounder by the WBO, and Crawford didn’t have to take this fight. Top Rank Inc. promotes both.
Benavidez will be fighting for the third time since being shot multiple times in August 2016 in his hometown of Phoenix.
“I’ve been wanting this fight for three years,” Benavidez said. “I know I have what it takes to beat him, and I am going to beat him.”
Crawford said Benavidez really doesn’t deserve the opportunity.
“Not at all. But that ain’t the point,” Crawford said. “The point is we’re here now, and we’re fighting on Saturday. Come Saturday, all the talking will be out the window.”
A win Saturday would allow Crawford to continue seeking matchups with fellow champions Errol Spence Jr. (IBF), Keith Thurman (WBA) and Shawn Porter (WBC). The obstacle to making any of those happen, however, is that those three boxers are promoted by Premier Boxing Champions. Top Rank fights are televised by ESPN; PBC fights are on Showtime and Fox.
“I’m just gonna keep doing what I’ve been doing, and that’s winning the fights and looking spectacular each and every fight,” Crawford said. “Everything else will fall into place.”
The undercard features 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist and top featherweight prospect Shakur Stevenson (8-0, 4 KOs) in a 10-rounder against Viorel Simion (21-2, 9 KOs) and Mikaela Mayer (7-0, 4 KOs) against Vanessa Bradford (4-0-2) in a super featherweight bout.