By Chris Williams: Terence Crawford defeated Jose Benavidez by a 12th round knockout last Saturday night in a fight that showed that the WBO welterweight champion isn’t going to be the same dominant force at 147 as he was at 135 and 140. For the first time in a long time, Crawford looked vulnerable.
Crawford’s performance revealed that he’s starting to show cracks in his facade of invincibility. Crawford looked very beatable against Benavidez.
Although Crawford stopped Benavidez in the 12th, he appeared to lose three rounds in the fight. That might not sound like a significant number, given that Crawford had a wide lead at the time of the stoppage in the 12th. However, when you realize that Benavidez isn’t as talented as the much better fighters in the welterweight division like Errol Spence Jr., Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia, you begin to understand the problems Crawford is going to have when he faces those guys. If a limited fighter like Benavidez, with a bad knee, was able to win three rounds against Crawford, then what will Spence, Garcia, Thurman and Porter be able to do to him?
Crawford knocked Benavidez to the canvas with an uppercut in the 12th round with 45 seconds left. Benavidez was nearly helpless when Crawford unloaded on him with a storm of shots after he got up, forcing the referee Celestino Ruiz to step in and waive off the fight.
Facing the best opponent of his career in 6’2” Benavidez (27-1, 18 KOs), Crawford was hurt multiple times in the fight before the knee injury that Benavidez appeared to have come into the fight with became too much for him. Crawford then took command of the fight halfway through and cruised the remainder of the way until stopping the 26-year-old Benavidez in round 12.
Crawford vs. Benavidez was seen by a lot of boxing fans on ESPN and ESPN Deportes last Saturday. The fight brought in big ratings. Crawford-Benavidez was the highest rated boxing telecast on cable television in 2018. The fight took place at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
The fight brought in a large crowd of 13,323 boxing fans. Although some fans believe that Crawford totally outclassed Benavidez, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. This wasn’t a fight in which Crawford totally outclassed an opponent.
This was a fight in which the 31-year-old Crawford showed vulnerability due to his age, lack of power and size for the weight class. Crawford is getting older, and he’s no longer fighting in the 135 and 140 lb weight classes that he had been competing at and doing well against smaller opposition from 2008 to 2017.
Fighting at welterweight, Crawford isn’t going to be able to dominate with his size any longer. The Benavidez fight showed that Crawford is going to need to find a different way for him to win, because he’s not going to be able to dominate with his size any longer.
Whether Crawford is able to beat the likes of Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia at welterweight is going to depend on whether his boxing skills can overcome the superior size and power of those fighters.
At some point, skills are no match for superior size and strength. The size, youth and power overcomes boxing skills at a certain point. We saw that last Saturday where Crawford’s skills were negated by the youth and size of the 26-year-old Benavidez. It was just extremely fortunate for Crawford that Benavidez had a leg injury that limited his ability to fight hard for most of the fight. If not for the leg injury, Benavidez might have won the fight going away.
Crawford seemed to be the last one to know that he had failed to shine in the fight, as he gloated about his victory afterward, talking about his performance as if he’d done a bang up job instead of having been hurt badly by the brave Benavidez. Crawford sounded like he was in denial in talking about his performance afterwards, not realizing how bad he had looked. It was sad but typical of a fighter that isn’t capable of gauging his own performance in an accurate manner.
“I did what I said I was going to do. That’s all that needs to be said,”said Crawford via espn.com. “[The knockout] was coming. It was just a matter of time. He slowed down tremendously. He was tired, and once he slowed down, I seen I can catch him with [the uppercut]. It feels so good to shut somebody up who’s been talking for so long. I’m at ease.”
Benavidez slowed down alright, but only because he had a guy with a knee injury inside the ring with him. How Benavidez was able to pass a physical with his right knee being in the shape it was in last night is anyone’s guess. With the way that Benavidez was favoring his bad knee last night, he looked like someone who didn’t belong inside the ring for a professional boxing match.
Benavidez looked like he should have been on the operating table having knee surgery, considering how weak and unstable his injured knee looked. Crawford has it all wrong in thinking that Benavidez got tired. It wasn’t fatigue that caused Benavidez to start to struggle in the second half. It was a knee injury that he had from the early rounds, which steadily got worse as the fight progressed. Fighters can’t fight with only one good knee when they’re facing world class opposition. That’s just the reality of it. Benavidez would have beaten a fringe contender or a 2nd tier fighter last Saturday night, but he wasn’t going to beat a world champion like Crawford.
The fight looked knotted up at 3-3 going into the second half of the fight. Benavidez had fought Crawford to a standstill in the first six rounds. Benavidez’s size and punching power was giving Crawford fits.
The reason Crawford failed to dominate
In just his second fight in the welterweight division, what was clear last Saturday was Crawford isn’t the same animal at 147 as he was at lightweight and light welterweight. Matched against a guy with size, respectable power and heart, Crawford wasn’t able to dominate the 6’2″ Benavidez like he’d been doing at the lower weights. The fans that have jumped aboard the Crawford hype machine before last Saturday had seen a guy fighting less than the best at 135 and 140 and saw him as a guy that can walk on water. The smart analysts withheld judgement, as they looked at the fodder opposition that Crawford was fighting at lightweight and light welterweight and wondered why he wasn’t being matched by his promoters at Top Rank against the cream of those divisions. When you see a fighter being matched against the likes of Dierry Jean, John Molina and Rocky Burns instead of the likes of Regis Prograis, Josh Taylor, Miguel Berchelt, Vasyl Lomachenko, Mikey Garcia, Gervonta Davis, Jorge Linares, Adrien Broner and Kiryl Relikh, it makes you wonder what’s going on. The guys that Crawford fought at 140 to unify the division were less than the best.
A quick look at the fighters that Crawford fought to win his world titles during career:
– Ricky Burns
– Thomas Dulorme – WBO 140 lb title
– Viktor Postol – WBC
– Julius Indongo – IBF & WBA
– Jeff Horn – WBO 147 lb title
Crawford never fought good enough fighters during his time at 135 to 140 to be given the kind of claim that he received. It would have been a lot more of an accomplishment if Crawford had picked up his lightweight title beating Lomachenko or Mikey Garcia, as those guys are the world champions at 135 today. At 140, Crawford would be given a lot more credit if he’d beaten Jose Ramirez, Regis Prograis, Josh Taylor, Maurice Hooker or Kiryl Relikh. at 147, Crawford should have fought Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia or Errol Spence Jr. to win his title rather than Jeff Horn. You hate to discredit Crawford’s accomplishments during his career, because he’s got so many believers in him, but the fact is he’s never beaten anyone good to win any of his world titles, and his best win in his career was against an undersized Yuriorkis Gamboa. It’s nice that Crawford was able to beat Gamboa, but he was fighting a guy much smaller than him, and he didn’t fight him when he was at his best. By 2014, Gamboa was no longer at his best. Gamboa looked unbeatable four years earlier in 2010 when he schooled the likes of Orlando Salido. Crawford had huge problems against the depleted Gamboa in 2014 despite having a huge size advantage over the former featherweight world champion.
Crawford’s performance against Benavidez leaves a lot of questions that need to be answered about his longevity as the WBO welterweight champion. Crawford doesn’t look like someone who will hold up against a true welterweight with power and size like Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman or Shawn Porter. Crawford will probably be alright as long as his promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank continues to match him against Benavidez type fighters, but if he makes the mistake of putting him in against the lion’s in the 147 lb division, it could be all over for him as the World Boxing Organization welterweight champion. The good news is Arum is already showing his reluctance to put Crawford in with the top level guys at welterweight.
Last Saturday night, Arum already ruled out matching Crawford against Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter, deeming them not good enough. Arum only wants Spence for Crawford. When you hear a promoter who is already eliminating the possibility of his fighter facing two of the best fighters in a weight class, you can bet that he’s protecting his investment from harm by steering him away from the tough fighters. Arum saying that he doesn’t want to match Crawford against Garcia and Porter because they’re not good enough would make sense if the guys that he’s going to be matching him against were better, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case. We’re probably looking at arum matching Crawford against these fighters in 2019:
– Egidijus Kavaliauskas
– Custio Calyton
– Jessie Vargas
Crawford wasn’t supposed to have had problems against Benavidez, as most boxing fans saw him as a step down from his last opponent Jeff Horn, who he annihilated in nine rounds last June. Benavidez was Crawford’s first defense of his WBO title, and someone supposedly not nearly in the same league as him. Benavidez is a fighter who’d already arguably been beaten four years ago in his fight against Golden Boy fighter at the time Mauricio Herrera. Benavidez was given a controversial 12 round decision that he appeared not to deserve.
Benavidez wanted the fight with Crawford, and he’s been asking for it literally by trash talking him. Benavidez found it easy to get under the thin-skinned Crawford, who couldn’t handle his criticism of him. Unlike a lot of people, Benavidez wasn’t impressed with what he saw of Crawford. He saw a flawed fighter that he felt he could outsmart and beat. Crawford wasn’t used to being told by his future opponents how flawed he is, so he reacted badly when insulted by Benavidez. Instead of realizing that Benavidez was just doing what he had to in order to get the fight, Crawford took the criticism personally and got hot under the collar about it, promising to take it out on him when he got him in the ring. At the weigh-in last Friday, Benavidez gave Crawford a simple shove. To the surprise of many, Crawford lost his head completely, and swung for the fences with a right hand aimed at Benavidez’s jaw. The shot just barely missed landing, luckily for Crawford. If he’ landed the shot, he might have cut or badly hurt Benavidez. This incident showed how out of control Crawford was when heated. He couldn’t think straight due to his blind rage, and he almost ruined the fight by trying to hit Benavidez with a closed fist, which is a no-non in the boxing world.
“He’s a performer. He wanted to close the show, and that’s what he did, and that makes him special,” Crawford’s promoter Bob Arum beamed to ESPN.com in talking about his fighter’s knockout of Benavidez in the 12th. “Look at what we have with other fighters today. That is not the mindset most of them have. But Terence is a showman. He wants to make a statement.”
I think Arum is wrong about thinking that it’s a rare breed of fighter that shoots for knockouts in the 12th. Most fighters are trying to score knockouts in the 12th rounds of their fights. It’s quite common. The fighters that don’t look to KO their opponent in the 12th round are guys that are following the instructions of their trainers to milk their lead and not put themselves in jeopardy by trading with their desperate opponents.