WBO welterweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford reiterated his desire for superfights with other beltholders at 147 pounds Thursday in the announcement of his new multiyear deal with Top Rank.
To get those bouts, the three-division world titlist from Omaha must first get through an unbeaten challenger from Phoenix who has been clamoring to square off with the undefeated Crawford for years.
Jose Benavidez Jr. (27-0, 18 knockouts) will finally get his chance to face Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs) on Oct. 13 at the CHI Health Center in Omaha in a title fight to be televised on ESPN. Tickets for the championship bout, priced from $38-$178, are set to go on sale Tuesday at 10 a.m.
“The Crawford-Benavidez fight is an old-time grudge match,” said Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum, who promotes both combatants. “These are two elite fighters who don’t care for each other, to put it mildly. They will battle each other at a fever pitch. I can’t wait to watch the action.”
Arum suggested that this matchup could be coming to Las Vegas in June after Benavidez annihilated unbeaten Frank Rojas in just 84 seconds on the undercard of Crawford’s welterweight title bout with former champion Jeff Horn. It appeared to be the fight he was targeting to bring to Omaha all along.
“The kid wants Terence,” Arum said then. “And I don’t think it’ll be a difficult match to make.”
Benavidez made it known in Vegas that he wanted a shot at Crawford’s WBO belt. His one-round demolition of Rojas came in a WBA eliminator, putting him in line for a welterweight title opportunity.
“Of course, I want to fight Crawford,” Benavidez said then. “I’ve been wanting to fight him for years now. I don’t duck and dodge anyone. And I’ll fight anyone at 147. You name it, I’ll fight him. I don’t care.”
Benavidez claimed that Crawford’s team passed on fighting him when both were competing at 140 pounds. Crawford dominated at junior welterweight, unifying the four titles before moving up to 147.
“I was supposed to fight Crawford twice, and it didn’t happen,” Benavidez said. “I said yes on my part. Our team said yes. We don’t dodge anyone. We want to fight the best. That’s what we’re here to do.”
Earlier this year, Crawford and Benavidez exchanged words in Corpus Christi, Texas, before the latter was scheduled to fight there. Crawford told his next foe to focus on his fight or he wouldn’t make it to it.
“When you’re weighing in, you’re kind of cranky, and he was right there smiling,” Benavidez said of the incident that was captured on video. “I don’t like taking (expletive) from anyone. And I told him, ‘They offered you the fight twice, and you didn’t accept it. If I’m that easy, why not fight me to shut me up?’ ”
Crawford, who then told Benavidez they could take the heated exchange outside, now intends to do that. He posted on social media Thursday that it is “smash time” because this fight is personal to him.
“This fight is the fight he has been calling for, and now he will get the chance to see what it’s like to be in the ring with a real champion,” Crawford said. “I’ll happily give him his first (loss).”
The official announcement of the bout, which will be Crawford’s fifth at the downtown arena, came hours after Top Rank revealed that it has reached a multiyear agreement to keep promoting the champ.
Specific terms were not disclosed, but the new deal will reportedly be financially substantial.
“Without a doubt, this is one of the most lucrative deals for an individual fighter in the history of boxing,” Crawford’s trainer and manger Brian “BoMac” McIntyre said. “The deal that I helped put together with Top Rank and ESPN is unprecedented in the modern boxing landscape.”
Crawford is considered by most to be one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. The new deal with Top Rank will allow him to continue to perform on ESPN, a network that will maximize his exposure to the boxing world and beyond. The October bout will be his third on an ESPN platform.
“I am the best fighter in the world, hands down. ESPN is the biggest brand in sports. And Top Rank is the biggest promotional company in boxing,” Crawford said. “This was a no-brainer for me and my team. All of the superfights that the world wants to see will happen. Mark my words. Like I’ve said before, I want all of the champions in the welterweight division.”
The 147-pound weight class is the most talent-rich division in boxing, but nearly all of the other welterweight champions belong to manager Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions stable. The PBC recently entered a long-term deal to televise its fights on Showtime and Fox. Top Rank, meanwhile, inked a new seven-year contract with ESPN to have its fighters compete exclusively on the network.
Potential showdowns against WBA super champion Keith Thurman, WBA regular titlist Manny Pacquiao, IBF beltholder Errol Spence Jr. or the winner of Saturday’s WBC title fight between Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter will wait until after Benavidez. Deals between rival promoters and networks will face obstacles. Top Rank, however, is committed to keep Crawford busy and at the top of the sport.
“Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford is the world’s best boxer,” Arum said. “We will continue our ongoing campaign to establish him as one of the world’s most recognizable athletes.”
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Photos: Terence 'Bud' Crawford's path to world champion
Over the last decade, Omaha native Terence "Bud" Crawford has developed into one of the best pound-for-pound boxers on the planet. Check out these pictures following Crawford from his time as an amateur to his current position as world champion.