Terence Crawford knocks out Jose Benavidez Jr. with 18 seconds left to retain title

OMAHA, Nebraska – Terence Crawford faced a more difficult world title defense than expected against contender Jose Benavidez Jr.

But Crawford took full control in the fifth round and battered Benavidez's body and picked him apart with hard jabs and counter shots, before a vicious right uppercut sent the previously unbeaten Benavidez crashing face-first to the canvas with less than a minute to go in the fight.

A clearly wobbly Benavidez got up, but Crawford went back out and finished what he started against an opponent who talked the most trash pre-fight, and even shoved him at Friday afternoon's weigh-in. Referee Celestino Ruiz stepped in with a mere 19 seconds remaining in the fight, and Benavidez hit the deck again shortly after.

Crawford (34-0, 25 KO's), 31, who trains out of Colorado Springs, Colorado, won the WBO welterweight world title in June with a one-sided ninth-round stoppage over Australia's Jeff Horn at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Saturday's main event on Top Rank on ESPN, which took place at CHI Health Center in Crawford's hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, held a crowd of 13,323.

Benavidez (27-1, 18 KO's), 26, of Phoenix, Arizona, fought for the first time in 18 months in February after recovering from a gunshot wound, tagged Crawford early with hard jabs and solid combinations down the middle, but once Crawford made the necessary adjustments, Benavidez was getting outclassed.

Crawford hit Benavidez with a flush left uppercut in the fifth round and also landed with a right hook to the top of Benavidez's head on the inside.

Benavidez had a better round in the sixth, connecting with a straight right hand to the head and a body shot. However, Crawford backed up Benavidez with a hard straight left hand, and went to the body with a hard combination near the conclusion of the round.

Crawford went to the body again in the seventh round in another one-sided round. Benavidez shook his head no throughout the fight, although he was getting damaged.

In the eighth, Benavidez continued with the head shaking, but it was Crawford doing the punching during the three minutes.

Crawford had his way in the ninth round with hard combinations to the head and the body, as Benavidez stood there and shook his head.

Benavidez tried to dog Crawford to brawl, but was unsuccessful. Crawford teed off on Benavidez as he stayed against the ropes.

Benavidez showed up for the 11th round and tagged Crawford with a series of hard right hands, but Crawford tagged him with a right hook later in the round.

According to Compubox, Crawford landed 186 of 579 total punches (32 percent), while Benavidez connected on 92 of 501 punches (18 percent).

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