Crawford vs Benavidez

Crawford vs Benavidez: Terence Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs) is new to the welterweight division but he already has his sights set on accomplishing the same thing he did at junior welterweight: unifying the world titles.

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The man they call “Bud” already has one of his own, a WBO world title he earned by picking apart Jeff Horn in June in his first bout at 147 pounds. He will defend it on Saturday night against Jose Benavidez Jr. (27-0, 18 KOs), an undefeated 26-year-old just two years removed from a shooting that nearly ended his career.

As tough as Benavidez may be, he’s not what Crawford wants. Crawford is 31 years old and just now entering boxing’s most talented division. He’s one of the sports best talents but is far from a household name. He’s looking for greater glory, quickly. That might even mean passing up Manny Pacquiao, the WBA “regular” champion.

“He’s not a champion in my eyes,” Crawford said, per BoxingScene.com’s Keith Idec. “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 [champion] and the actual champion of the division.”

That would mean the likes of Keith Thurman, the WBA “super” champion who has been inactive due to injury. Or better yet, Errol Spence Jr. (IBF), with whom Crawford has been trading insults with for months. Perhaps even Shawn Porter (WBC) could be in the mix.

Crawford needs one of those fights to happen—the sooner the better for his career and legacy. But first up is yet another test fight, which Crawford always seems to ace.

Crawford vs. Benavidez Jr. Fight Info

When: Saturday, Oct. 13 at 10:30 p.m. ET

Where: CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska

TV: ESPN and ESPN Deportes

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Odds: Crawford -3500 (bet $3,500 to win $100), Benavidez Jr. +1200 (bet $100 to win $1,200)

Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com and updated as of Thursday, Oct. 11 at 7 a.m. ET.

As hungry as Benavidez may be, he’s going to be hard pressed to beat Crawford, who is an overwhelming favorite going into Saturday’s bout. Crawford can switch stances. He hits with power, precision and speed. Most opponents find him difficult to hit, even as Crawford openly taunts them in the ring.

Crawford can be a slow starter, as the pugilism processor inside his head calculates what his opponent is bringing and figures out the perfect way to neutralize it. Benavidez will have to be careful attacking like he does in the above video, with his hands down. Crawford is an expert counter-puncher, and his last four wins have come by stoppage.

But maybe Benavidez can survive Crawford’s assaults. He’s been through more than most.

As ESPN.com’s Mark Kriegel reported, Benavidez worked extremely hard with strength coach Alex Ariza to come back from a 2016 shooting that saw a bullet rip through his femoral artery:

“‘How can he fight?’ Ariza thought to himself. He’s barely walking. The femur had been shattered. Muscle and scar tissue had braided together, like a root. Now, to ensure that the quadriceps fired properly, they had to be separated by needling, cupping and deep tissue work.

“The trainer had worked with some brave champions: Diego Corrales, Erik Morales, Marcos Maidana and Manny Pacquiao. But he had never seen an athlete endure that sustained level of pain. ‘It’s like pulling the skin from your body,’ Ariza said. ‘He’d just bite down, not to cry, not to show weakness. The doctor would ask if he wanted to take a break. He’d say no. He’d get this blank stare, like he was going somewhere far away.'”

Then again—and not to diminish what Benavidez has gone through—Crawford has survived a shooting of his own. These are two tough people who will be in the ring Saturday night. But so far, only one of them has proved he has the skill set of a world champion.

For all Crawford’s accomplishments, he lacks a career-defining bout.

Sure, he unified four world belts at junior lightweight against Julius Indongo, but that mismatch only lasted three rounds.

The way he weathered the storm against Yuriorkis Gamboa before knocking out the whirling dervish was a sight to behold, but that was in 2014 and just one fight into Crawford’s reign as a lightweight world champ.

The way he picked apart the then-undefeated Viktor Postol in 2016 might be his most accomplished showing so far considering the stakes, but its still lacking in glamour.

Crawford has made it look all too easy at times, but he’s finally in the deep end of the boxing talent pool now, right where he belongs.

As long as nothing crazy happens against Benavidez on Saturday night, Crawford should be on his way to taking on the biggest names in the division.

The business of boxing might get in the way, with Crawford fighting for Top Rank on ESPN and many of the others signed with PBC, but if the other key players do their part (read: keep winning), the growing demand for these fights should force the issue.

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