THE crowd roared in anticipation and the native son, Terence Crawford delivered. Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs), following a contentious pre-fight buildup, defeated Jose Benavidez Jr. by 12th-round TKO to defend his WBO welterweight world title in front of 13,323 fans at the CHI Health Center Omaha.
Crawford improved to 12-0 in world title fights with one of his most emphatic knockouts. An uppercut knocked Benavidez down and a vicious follow-up combination ended things for good.
“We knew that he wanted to get in my head and make it a firefight,” Crawford said. “I saw him in his corner taking deep breaths and knew he was done.”
Said Crawford’s trainer/manager Brian McIntyre: “I told Benavidez he was going to get his ass kicked. And that’s what Bud did.”
The opening rounds were closely contested, but as the fight entered the second half, Crawford’s combination punching told the story. Benavidez (27-1, 18 KOs) gave Crawford one of the toughest tests of his career, but it was not enough to unseat the pound-for-pound king.
“I gave a hell of a fight to the best fighter in the world,” Benavidez said. “This is boxing. It happens. He is a great fighter, but I’m a great fighter, too. We gave the fans a great show.”
Crawford, meanwhile, improved to 5-0 as a pro in Omaha. And once again, he sent the hometown faithful home happy.
Viorel Simion had never been knocked down as a professional. Featherweight sensation Shakur Stevenson changed all of that in a hurry, knocking Simion down three times en route to a first-round TKO in the scheduled 10-round co-feature. Stevenson (9-0, 5 KOs), a 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist, finished off Simion (21-3, 9 KOs) with a trio of devastating right hooks.
“My granddad told me the right hook was open, and I capitalised on it,” Stevenson said. “I want [former world champion] Lee Selby next. I feel like I’ve been calling him out forever.”
In other action:
Vacant NABF Super Welterweight Title: Carlos Adames (15-0, 12 KOs), TKO2, 2:17, Joshua Conley (14-3-1, 9 KOs).
* Adames scored three knockdowns in the second round
Adames said: “I feel very good in the 154-pound division. I trained hard for this fight, and I did what I had to do. I took out a good opponent in two rounds. I know I’m ready for bigger fights. I want to give a world title to my country. I want to face the best and represent the Dominican Republic with great pride.”
Vacant NABF Super Featherweight Title: Mikaela Mayer (8-0, 4 KOs), unanimous decision, eight rounds, Vanessa Bradford (4-1-2, 0 KOs). Scores: 80-71 3X.
Mayer said: “It was great going eight rounds for the first time. I felt like I could go 15 in there tonight. Ten rounds will be no problem.”
Light Heavyweights: Steve Nelson (12-0 10 KOs), TKO4, Oscar Riojas (17-11-1, 6 KOs).
Nelson said: “I felt good showing up for the hometown fans. My coach and I were talking. I had to stop fooling around and get him out of there.”
Welterweights: Mike Alvarado (40-4, 28 KOs), KO2, Robbie Cannon (16-14-3, 7 KOs).
Alvarado said: “It was great to be on this stage again. I felt really comfortable in there with my reconstructed team. I did it again. I’m back. I’m ready for the top level again. It took me some time to get here, but I’m back.”
Lightweights: Ismail Muwendo (20-1, 12 KOs), unanimous decision, 6 rounds, Andrew Wilson (15-12-1, 12 KOs). Scores: 59-55 3X.
Super Featherweights: Jose Valenzuela (2-0, 0 KOs), unanimous decision, 4 rounds, Hugo Rodriguez (1-1, 1 KO). Scores: 40-33 2X, 40-35.
Welterweights: Keeshawn Williams (4-0-1, 1 KO), unanimous decision, 4 rounds, Ramel Snegur (2-3-1, 1 KO). Scores: 40-36 2X, 39-37.