By John J. Raspanti
WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford had heard enough from Jose Benavidez Jr.
Saturday night at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Neb., Crawford let his fists do the talking, stopping the lanky Benavidez in the 12th round.
Benavidez’s advantages in height and reach were a problem for Crawford in the opening rounds. Benavidez probed and popped his long stick, interrupting Crawford’s timing.
Crawford, a boxer-puncher, moved slightly to his left. He switched to southpaw as Benavidez stalked and fired his jab. Crawford caught Benavidez with a lounging left to the body. Crawford, a thinking man’s fighter, bobbed and weaved in round two. He tagged Benavidez with a few body shots.
Benavidez crouched and waited, looking to counter. Crawford connected with a right in round three, while Benavidez fired back. Crawford whipped a hard body shot around the guard. He unloaded a swift combination—forcing Benavidez, who shook his head, to back up.
In round four, Benavidez connected with right to the chin. Crawford stuck out his tongue. Seconds later, he went back to the body. Crawford, switching from orthodox and southpaw, jabbed and followed with a left. Benavidez connected with a wicked body shot.
Benavidez unloaded more shots to the body in round five. Crawford, responding like he was insulted, came back with a crisp combo to the head. Benavidez landed a short right. Crawford, bouncing, let his hands go. Most of the shots missed, but a couple landed.
Through five rounds the bout was close--with a slight edge to Crawford.
Benavidez was showing he belonged. Crawford, though, was just getting started. He fired combinations to the head and body. Benavidez caught Crawford with a lead right. Crawford cracked Benavidez with more shots as the bell rang. His quicker feet were paying dividends.
In rounds seven and eight, Crawford worked his jab. His range finder was now in rhythm. He stepped inside and fired. He was getting off first. Benavidez probed, but needed to punch more. Crawford moved and boxed. The defending champion landed a short left.
Crawford popped Benavidez in the nose. A super-fast uppercut snapped Benavidez’s head back. The challenger looked gassed. Crawford connected with a three-punch combination. Benavidez pushed Crawford into the ropes, but Crawford smothered whatever he tried to do.
Benavidez was being outboxed. He was frustrated. Crawford tattooed Benavidez in the opening seconds of round nine as his hometown crowd roared their approval. Benavidez was trying to time Crawford. Instead, it was Crawford who connected with a right hook.
With three rounds to go in the bout, Crawford had taken control.
Benavidez had been reduced to looking to land a home run shot. Crawford continued to box smartly in round 10. He stepped in and fired. Benavidez missed, Crawford caught him. Benavidez clipped Crawford with a shot, but Crawford absorbed it and fought back.
Crawford cracked Benavidez in round 11. The champion appeared to be searching for a knockout. Benavidez let a clubbing right go. It missed. Crawford landed a check hook and sweeping left.
Benavidez tried to a land a Hail Mary blow in the 12th and final round. He fired long right hands. Crawford moved and dodged—connecting with a wicked right uppercut that collapsed Benavidez on his side. The challenger got up, but there was no way Crawford was going to let him go the distance. He backed the stricken Benavidez into the ropes and let his combinations go. A right hook crashed off the head of Benavidez-forcing the referee to wave off the fight as Benavidez sagged on the ropes.
The time 2:42 of round 12.
“We just took our time today,” said Crawford. “He made me work in the early rounds, but once I found my distance, the rout was on.”