Crawford-Benavidez Jr. WBO battle first step to unified belt

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The goal is for boxing’s welterweight division to have an undisputed champion sometime in the not-so-distant future. But there are plenty of stepping stones that must be reached before an ultimate showdown arrives.

One such step takes place Saturday night in Omaha, Neb., where Terence Crawford defends his WBO welterweight championship for the first time against worthy challenger Jose Benavidez Jr. The ESPN broadcast will also include Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson of Newark (8-0, 4 KOs) in a 10-round featherweight fight against veteran Viorel Simion (21-2, 9 KOs). The other undercard bouts can be seen on ESPN Plus.

Crawford, who unified belts at 140 pounds, won his 147-pound title by stopping Jeff Horn of Australia in the ninth round of their bout last June in Las Vegas. At 33-0 with 24 knockouts, Crawford is rated as one of the top pound-for-pound boxers in the sport. But so are IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence; WBC champion Shawn Porter; and WBA champion Keith Thurman. The hope is by the end of 2019, two of them will be meeting for the undisputed title.

“We’re going to go after all those guys,” said Crawford’s promoter, Todd duBoef, president of Top Rank. “We’re not allowing anything, no politics, no nothing to get in the way. The fighters want to do it. We want to do it. Let’s get it done. We’ll figure out a solution.”

For Crawford to be a part of that, he has to get past Benavidez, who is 27-0 with 18 KOs. A former super lightweight champion, Benavidez was projected for stardom before he was shot in his leg and hand in August 2016. This will be his third fight since the incident. He faces the obstacle of fighting Crawford in his hometown.

“It’s time to show the world what I can do,” Benavidez said. “I’ve been waiting for this my whole life. I’m going to take his belt. I’m not scared.”

There is bad blood between the two camps with Benavidez accusing Crawford of ducking him in the past and proclaiming he’s a better boxer than the champion.

Fedor Emelianenko
Fedor EmelianenkoAP

“He’s confident in himself and his abilities,” Crawford said. “On top of that, I feel as if he’s trying to boost his confidence up even more by telling himself these thoughts in his head that he’s one of the best. But come fight night, all that is going to be out the window and we’re going to have to fight. And then it’s going to be put up or shut up.”


When last seen in this area, the great Fedor Emelianenko was losing to former Giant Matt Mitrione in the Russian’s first appearance at Madison Square Garden. He hopes to write a better ending when he meets Chael Sonnen at Bellator 208 at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale.

Emelianenko is considered by many the best MMA fighter of all time, a status his opponent agrees with.

“I think Fedor is great,” Sonnen said. “A lot of people say he’s the best all time, and I’m one of those people. But the best heavyweight of all time is about take on the best fighter of all time.”

Emelianenko and Sonnen meet in the semifinals of the Heavyweight World Grand Prix. Tickets remain available. The bout will be seen on the DAZN app.

“I’m looking forward to this fight,” Emelianenko said. “I’m preparing very seriously. He’s a very serious opponent. He’s fought the best fighters. I’ve approached my camp in training in a very serious way.”

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