Opening Bell: Here we go again
We've been through it all before -- the agony and misery as fans of watching big fights get made (or not made in some cases) wait and hope for something to happen.
The seemingly never-ending talks for Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao were horrendous to follow and cover. More recently, Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin, ahead of both fights, was maddening.
And here we are again, going through the trauma of it all with the agony of an Anthony Joshua-Deontay Wilder undisputed heavyweight title fight that just can't seem to happen. Another such journey is just getting started, with the prospect of a welterweight title unification fight between Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. Nobody knows if either of those fights will happen.
As it relates to Crawford and Spence, they are the two best active American boxers, they are both undefeated, both hold welterweight world titles, both have crowd-pleasing styles and both have legit fan bases in their home regions (Crawford in Omaha, Nebraska, and Spence in Dallas). Both fighters have also said they want to fight each other, and I believe them. Fans are also outspoken about their lust for the fight.
Crawford knocks down Benavidez, closes door
Terence Crawford sends José Benavidez Jr. to the canvas in the 12th, and Benavidez has no answer when he gets up, ending the fight in a TKO victory for Crawford.
But they are, as we say in the business, on opposite sides of the street. Fighters saying they want to fight and their handlers actually making the match are entirely different conversations. Three-division titlist Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs), 31, fights for Top Rank on ESPN. Spence (24-0, 21 KOs), 28, fights for Premier Boxing Champions, which has deals with Showtime and Fox.
As each man continues to win, the push from fans and media for the fight grows. It's a spot we find ourselves in once again, after Crawford polished off trash-talking antagonist Jose Benavidez Jr. (27-1, 18 KOs), 26, of Phoenix. Crawford ended a dominating performance on Saturday night before his biggest crowd yet -- 13,323 at the CHI Health Center in Omaha -- with a massive knockdown on a right uppercut late in the 12th round. The fight ended soon thereafter, as Crawford finished off Benavidez with a punishing follow-up assault until referee Celestino Ruiz stopped it with 18 seconds left in the fight as Benavidez was going down again.
Within minutes after Crawford's latest impressive triumph, he was asked yet again about the prospect of the other major names: Spence, other titleholders Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman, as well as former titlist Danny Garcia. Crawford is down for any of them, but we as fans are primarily focused on Spence. That's what we want to see most.
Top Rank's Bob Arum, in fact, discarded the notion of all of them but Spence, saying he believes Spence is the only one on Crawford's level. When Crawford signed a new contract with Top Rank leading up to the Benavidez fight, he told the company he wanted the big names and other titleholders, and Arum and company president Todd duBoef promised they would try to deliver those fights.
"I just want to make this crystal clear," duBoef said a few days before the fight, with Crawford also on the line. "We have said this following our recent announcement of re-signing Terence. Regardless of your affiliation, we will take on all comers. That's it. We don't care where you are, what you do. We will go and take on all comers, right? Terence is an elite fighter. He is at that class. We've done the biggest fights with the biggest complications of all time. He wants to take on the biggest. We want to provide the biggest."
Crawford then chimed in, "Well, you took everything out of my mouth. So there's nothing more for me to say. There you have it."
After stopping Benavidez, Crawford said he hoped Arum and Al Haymon, the PBC boss, would enter talks. DuBoef was also clear that they would try.
"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," Crawford said.
The Spence fight is a virtual guarantee not to be next, however, for a variety of reasons. Spence has no fight scheduled, though he could wind up facing Porter in a unification fight that is big, though not a Crawford-level fight. Crawford will likely end up facing a Top Rank-promoted welterweight who is not all that known, either Egidijus Kavaliauskas (20-0, 16 KOs), who will become Crawford's mandatory challenger if he wins a Nov. 16 eliminator, or the even less-known Alexander Besputin (11-0, 9 KOs).
The agony is only beginning.
World Boxing Super Series rolls on
The quarterfinals of the second season of the World Boxing Super Series continued with a pair of tournament bouts in Ekaterinburg, Russia, on Saturday -- neither of which will go into a time capsule of memorable fights.
In the bantamweight tournament, world titleholder Zolani Tete (28-3, 21 KOs), 30, of South Africa, outpointed fellow southpaw Mikhail Aloyan (4-1, 0 KOs), 30, of Russia, by scores of 114-111, 114-111 and 114-110.
Aloyan, who was picked for the field largely based on his fantastic amateur credentials (which include two world amateur titles, a European amateur title and a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics), showed why no matter how good a fighter is as an amateur, pro seasoning is important. He wasn't outclassed, but Tete retained his belt for the third time; he dropped Aloyan in the first round, before the fight devolved into a hard-to-watch tactical bout filled with holding. Referee Kenny Chevalier docked a point from Tete for holding in the 10th round, and one from Aloyan in the 11th round.
"Aloyan proved he is one of the best by going 12 rounds with me. He is a clever fighter who will become a world champion one day," Tete said.
In the cruiserweight tournament, Floyd Mayweather-promoted Andrew Tabiti (17-0, 13 KOs), 29, a Chicago native fighting out of Las Vegas, outpointed Ruslan Fayfer (23-1, 16 KOs), 27, of Russia, in a snoozer. Scores were 116-111, 115-112 and 114-113. Referee Roberto Ramirez docked a point from Fayfer for pushing in the 12th round.
"The guy was really awkward; he wanted to make it dirty," said Tabiti. "My game plan was to be relaxed at the beginning and then getting off towards the end of the fight."
The next step: Tete will face the winner of the quarterfinal between world titlist Ryan Burnett and former titlist Nonito Donaire that takes place Nov. 3 in Glasgow, Scotland. Tete has been calling out Burnett for ages, so he is rooting for him. Tabiti will square off with the winner of the quarterfinal between former world titlist Yunier Dorticos and Mateusz Masternak, who meet on Saturday in Orlando, Florida.
Fights you might have missed
Saturday at Las Vegas
Junior flyweight Angel "Tito" Acosta (19-1, 19 KOs) KO2 Abraham Rodriguez (23-2, 11 KOs), retains a world title.
Acosta, 28, of Puerto Rico, continued to show his destructive power, as he made his second title defense -- and Las Vegas debut -- in impressive fashion against Mexico's Rodriguez, 23, who was fighting outside of his home country for the first time. Fighting in the main event of Golden Boy Fight Night on Facebook Watch, Acosta ended it with a massive left hook to the chin that landed before the left hook Rodriguez was throwing hit at the same time. Acosta's connected flush and flattened Rodriguez, causing referee Russell Mora to wave off the fight without a count at 1 minute, 2 seconds. Acosta might be the hardest-punching little guy in the business.
Saturday at Newcastle, England
Lightweight Francesco Patera (20-3, 7 KOs) W12 Lewis Ritson (17-1, 11 KOs), wins vacant European title, scores: 116-112 (twice) Patera, 116-112 Ritson.
Ritson, 25, of England, was the rising contender. He was coming off four early knockouts in a row against mostly decent opponents, and Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn was positioning Ritson for big things. But then along came the unheralded Patera, 25, of Belgium, and he made those plans crash and burn, taking a well-deserved split decision that should have been unanimous.
Patera reclaimed the European title he had lost 10 months ago to Edis Tatli. Ritson was aggressive early, but the fight changed in the fifth round when Patera hurt him with a body shot. Ritson slowed down over the second half of the bout, but Patera did not.
Also on that card, light heavyweight prospect Joshua Buatsi (8-0, 6 KOs), 25, who claimed a 2016 Olympic bronze medal for Great Britain, twice dropped the experienced Tony Averlant (26-11-2, 5 KOs), 34, of France -- both with left hooks to the body, including the fight finisher at 2 minutes, 53 seconds of the first round.