OMAHA, Neb. -- As welterweight world titleholder Terence Crawford continued to take the trash talk, disdain and knockout threats from Jose Benavidez Jr., he had one constant response: Wait for the fight, and he would shut him up.
That's just what Crawford did -- and in style -- as he outclassed Benavidez before scoring a violent, 12th-round knockout to retain his 147-pound title for the first time before a raucous crowd of 13,323 on Saturday at the CHI Health Center in Crawford's hometown.
The crowd was the largest Crawford has drawn to date, and he gave the hometown fans a show.
After dominating virtually the entire fight against an opponent who simply would not -- or could not -- throw many punches, Crawford knocked Benavidez down with a thunderous right uppercut with about 45 seconds left in the fight. He battered him until referee Celestino Ruiz stepped in to wave off the fight at 2 minutes, 42 seconds as the crowd went wild.
"I did what I said I was going to do. That's all that needs to be said," said Crawford, who stuck to his pre-fight promise to not shake Benavidez's hand after the fight. "[The knockout] was coming. It was just a matter of time. He slowed down tremendously. He was tired, and once he slowed down, I seen I can catch him with [the uppercut]. It feels so good to shut somebody up who's been talking for so long. I'm at ease."
The knockout capped an outstanding performance from Crawford, regarded as one of boxing's pound-for-pound best fighters in the world.
"I told Benavidez he was going to get his ass kicked. And that's what 'Bud' did," said Brian McIntyre, Crawford's trainer and manager.
The bad blood between Crawford, who was making the first defense of the welterweight title he won on June 9 by one-sided, ninth-round beatdown of Jeff Horn, and Benavidez was deep heading into the fight. Benavidez relentlessly called Crawford out, including during a run-in at a weigh-in in February in Corpus Christi, Texas, until he finally got the fight, and they traded harsh words throughout the promotion. It spilled over at Friday's weigh-in, with Benavidez shoving Crawford, who took a swing at Benavidez but missed.
When it came time for the real fight, however, he landed plenty of clean, hard punches and finished Benavidez impressively.
"Most fighters today in that position, having clearly won the fight, would back off in the 12th round and not take any chances and run out the clock. Not him," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said. "He's a performer. He wanted to close the show, and that's what he did, and that makes him special. Look at what we have with other fighters today. That is not the mindset most of them have. But Terence is a showman. He wants to make a statement.
"We know he's a brilliant fighter, but to be so crowd-pleasing makes him special. Next year when he moves into the pay-per-view arena, people will remember that and want to see him fight because he's so entertaining."
Two-time fighter of the year Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs), 31, has also been a champion at lightweight and junior welterweight. He began the fight working his jab and going to the body with it before switching to a southpaw stance about halfway through the round, as he often does, and he stayed that way for most of the rest of the fight. Benavidez, meanwhile, barely threw any punches. He looked like he wanted to set up a right hand, but he could never find a clean home for it.
Crawford landed to the body in the second round and made Benavidez take a step back and shake his head. He did that several times in the fight. Crawford picked up the pace in the third round, repeatedly landing combinations to the head and body and again forcing Benavidez to take a step back.
The body shots were key, said Crawford, who earned $3.625 million to Benavidez's $500,000.
"That takes something out of you every time," he said. "That's what slowed him down. You could tell every time he was shaking his head. I knew it would take its toll in the later rounds."
Benavidez had a strong fourth round, his best of the fight, and landed several clean blows. A strong left hand to the head caught Crawford, and he stuck his tongue out. But Benavidez (27-1, 18 KOs), 26, of Phoenix, fought only in spurts. In the fifth round, for example, he spent a long stretch planted in the middle of the ring as Crawford went after him and landed a chopping right hand to the head before forcing him back as the round came to an end.
After Crawford stung Benavidez with a flurry of punches early in the ninth round, a seemingly dejected Benavidez went back to the ropes and motioned for Crawford to come at him. He did and landed some more punches. He continued to land combinations to the head and body, while Benavidez rarely got off more than one punch at a time.
With Benavidez fading in the final round, Crawford tagged him with the hellacious uppercut that knocked him down. He surprisingly made it to his feet and continued, but Crawford went right to him and blasted him with a pair of right hands, and Ruiz stopped it as Benavidez was falling to the canvas again.
Crawford led 110-99, 108-101 and 107-102 going into the 12th round.
"I gave a helluva fight to the best fighter in the world. He got me," 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. He beat me. I don't have anything bad to say.
"I don't want to make any excuses, but my [right] leg [where he was shot in 2016] started hurting after the seventh round. The doctors said I was never going to walk again, but I just gave a helluva fight to the best fighter in the world. Now I'm going to train even harder and come back stronger."
According to CompuBox, Crawford landed 186 of 579 punches (32 percent), while Benavidez connected with only 92 of 501 (18 percent). Benavidez landed double-digit punches in only three rounds.
"A lot of people, they say, 'Oh, I'm little, I don't punch hard.' It's like he was saying all the week, but once you get in there and feel my power, he wasn't itching to come inside," Crawford said. "When you look at it, Jeff Horn was supposed to be the bigger guy, [Julius] Indongo was supposed be the bigger guy. When we get in the ring, it's different. I'm strong for the division."
The division has other top fighters, namely titleholders Errol Spence Jr., Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman, not to mention former titlist Danny Garcia. But they all fight for Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions, which is aligned with Showtime and Fox, while Crawford and Top Rank are exclusive to ESPN.
Making those fights will prove complicated if they ever happen, but Crawford continued to say he wants them, and Arum, dismissing all others but Spence, said he is ready to sit down with Haymon and make that fight as soon as possible.
"That's up to Bob," Crawford said of what's next. "He said I'll fight three times next year. Bob and Al Haymon have to sit down and talk to each other. I want all of [those fights]. I've been saying it. I said what I said. I'm willing to fight anyone. I'm not ducking no one. I don't make the fights. I fight them.
"It gets frustrating at times because I feel I don't get the credit I deserve. But it's out of my hands. Nothing I can do about it. Just keep doing what I do in the ring."
Arum said he was willing to make a fair deal to match Crawford with Spence (24-0, 21 KOs).
"He's going to fight whoever is available, and if somebody doesn't want to fight him, then we'll make the best possible fight," Arum said. "People will realize who is the outstanding welterweight in the world. These guys will get paid very well to fight him.
"Spence may be in the same league. I would love to make the Spence fight. I'm ready to make that fight next. I'm ready to make it on very fair terms where no network or fighter has an advantage. We're prepared to sit down and get that fight done."