Sweet payback for Crawford
OMAHA, Nebraska - Terence Crawford used his right hand to deliver one last retort to all the pre-fight insults Jose Benavidez hurled his way.
Crawford dropped Benavidez with a huge right uppercut with a minute left in the 12th and final round of their WBO world welterweight title bout on Saturday, and four unanswered rights seconds later caused referee Celestino Ruiz to stop the fight with 18 seconds left.
"It feels so good to shut somebody up who has been talking for so long," Crawford said. "I'm at ease."
Crawford, a three-division champion who was making his first defense of the welterweight belt, stuck out his tongue at his fallen opponent at the conclusion of what amounted to a personal grudge match.
"I gave him a good fight," Benavidez said. "I don't think he thought I was going to give him such a good fight. But he's the best of the best. We gave the fans a good show."
Next up for Crawford could be a unification bout with IBF champ Errol Spence, something promoter Bob Arum has said he would like to make happen sometime in 2019.
"Hear me now: I'm ready to make that fight next," Arum said. "We're prepared to sit down and get that fight done, but I can't force the other people into doing it."
The 31-year-old Crawford (34-0, 25 knockouts), ranked first or second on the world's top pound-for-pound lists, put on a workmanlike performance for the first half of the fight in front of a hometown crowd of 13,000 that included the champion's friend, billionaire Warren Buffett.
Benavidez (27-1, 18 KOs) began tiring in the seventh after taking body shot after body shot.
"I take nothing from him," Benavidez said. "He's the best of the best. I feel like I did a good job."
Benavidez, 26, was plenty frisky, motioning for Crawford to keep coming toward him even as it became apparent Crawford had taken control of the fight, and he showed renewed life in the 10th when he landed a couple shots.
The crowd was on its feet for the 12th round, and chants of "Craw-ford!" "Craw-ford!" echoed through the arena. He kept coming in the 12th, and Benavidez could take no more of the steady punishment.
"Oh man, it was coming," Crawford said of his finishing flurry. "It was just a matter of time. He slowed down tremendously. He was tired. That's when I saw my opportunity to take my best shot."
This was more of a stay-busy fight for Crawford but he was eager to take the bout after being called out by Benavidez, who is only the 10th-ranked 147-pounder by the WBO.
Benavidez confronted the champion at a boxing event in Corpus Christi, Texas, in February, accusing the champ of ducking him repeatedly.
The fighters' camps traded barbs at a media workout last Wednesday and the bickering continued on Thursday at a news conference. Insults were lobbed both ways during the weigh-in on Friday, with Benavidez shoving Crawford and Crawford taking a swing that narrowly missed.
In the co-main event, 2016 US Olympic silver medalist and top featherweight prospect Shakur Stevenson stopped Viorel Simion of Romania just before the bell ending the first round. Stevenson (9-0, 5 KOs) delivered a powerful left-right combination to the head to send Simion (21-3, 9 KOs) to his knees for his third knockdown.
On the undercard, 2016 Olympian Mikaela Mayer of Los Angeles won a regional super featherweight belt with a unanimous decision over Canada's Vanessa Bradford.
Mayer (8-0, 4 KOs) was the aggressor throughout the eight-round bout and decked Bradford (4-1-2) in the seventh.
Also, former WBO welterweight champ Mike Alvarado (40-4, 28 KOs) knocked out Robbie Cannon (16-14-3, 7 KOs) in the second round.
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