What: Terence Crawford vs. Jose Benavidez Jr., WelterweightsWhen: Oct. 13
How to Watch: ESPN 10:30 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because there’s nothing Crawford can do to Benavidez that will be worse than he’s already had to deal with. And there’s nothing Benavidez can do to Crawford that will be worse than what he’s already had to deal with.
Being in the ring with Terence “Bud” Crawford is a nightmare. He’s big, strong, and has had a consistent mean streak that has seen him taunt opponents by doing stuff like sticking out his tongue while punishing them with heavy, thudding blows. Even if you’re getting the better of him, he can turn from Southpaw to orthodox or vice versa, and make you fight an entirely new fighter just when you thought you had a good read on his style. Yes, fighting Terence Crawford is a nightmare.
But it’s nothing like what Jose Benavidez Jr. has been through. When Benavidez was walking his dog in 2016, he was the victim of a shooting that left him with bullet wounds in his hand and knee. Doctors told him he would never fight again, yet here he is two years later, 27-0 with 18 knockouts and fighting for the WBO welterweight title. But while every other opponent can’t imagine what Benavidez has gone through, Terence Crawford can. He was shot in the head just short of his 21st birthday party after a dice game, and only survived because the bullet was millimeters away from killing him.
Think about how insane this matchup is. Benavidez is fighting in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Benavidez is a good orthodox fighter, but Crawford can fight Benavidez in either stance. Benavidez is undefeated in 27 fights, but Crawford is undefeated in 33 and has a higher knockout percentage. And craziest of all, even if Benavidez tries to use surviving a murder attempt to motivate himself, Crawford can do the exact same thing. It sure seems like there’s no advantage Benavidez can call upon against Terence Crawford, but the only way to know is to watch the fight. Besides, nothing that happens in that ring will be worse than what these guys have already been through.
What: Shakur Stevenson vs. Viorel Simion, Junior LightweightsWhen: Oct. 13
How to Watch: ESPN 10:30 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because Stevenson is facing the best opponent he’s ever faced as a professional, in a weight class he’s never fought in before.
Shakur Stevenson was supposed to fight Duarn Vue at featherweight this weekend, but when Vue injured his eye in training for the bout, Stevenson’s team needed to find a replacement opponent. With such short notice, Viorel Simion stepped up to the challenge, but would need the fight to be at junior lightweight instead. Stevenson accepted, and has said he’s not worried about facing an opponent he hasn’t been training for, because in the amateurs he faced guys he knew nothing about all the time. But this isn’t the amateurs, and Stevenson should be concerned. Viorel Simion represented Romania in the 2004 Olympics, and is 21-2 as a professional, with his only losses coming to Scott Quigg and Lee Selby, both elite British fighters that Simion faced in the UK. While his power won’t cause Stevenson any problems (he only has nine knockouts) Stevenson has never faced a fighter with this much experience at an elite level. And that should concern him, even if it doesn’t.
What: Carlos Adames vs. Joshua Conley, Junior MiddleweightsWhen: Oct. 13
How to Watch: ESPN+ 7 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Joshua Conley can be more than a “solid opponent” for Carlos Adames.
Carlos Adames is a Dominican former sparring partner of Terence Crawford, who was supposedly 240-22 as an amateur and has transitioned into a 14-0 with 11 knockouts professional. Promoted by Top Rank, he is seen as a legitimate title contender sometime in the future.
Joshua Conley is not. A solid 14-2 with 9 knockouts, Conley has faltered against both of the really good fighters he has faced; he lost a decision to Daquan Arnett and was stopped by Julian “J Rock” Williams. In this fight, Conley is supposed to be enough of an opponent to put up an entertaining fight, but not enough of an opponent that he could beat Adames.
This is Carlos Adame’s fight to lose, let’s see if Joshua Conley can make sure that he does.
What: Zolani Tete vs. Mikhael Aloyan, BantamweightsWhen: Oct. 13
How to Watch: DAZN 1 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if in four fights, Mikhael Aloyan has learned enough as a professional to avoid the man with the fastest knockout in title fight history.
Zolani Tete is a South African boxer fighting out of the UK, who is 27-3 with 21 knockouts, and set the record for fastest title fight knockout in boxing history last year, when he knocked out Siboniso Gonya in just 11 seconds. How did he develop this vicious knockout power? He hits trees with loosely held upside-down hammers, an unorthodox training routine sure to be seen in the next “Rocky” movie.
Mikhael Aloyan is a Russian two-time Olympian, who took bronze in 2012 and had his 2016 silver medal stripped after he tested positive for PEDs, an unfortunately orthodox training routine sure to be used by the actors starring in the next “Rocky” movie. However, while his amateur career is impressive, he is only 4-0 as a professional after opting to fast-track a pro career to make up for his advanced age as a result of the years he fought as an amateur. Strangely, every opponent he has faced as a professional so far has been from Nicaragua.
Fast tracking a professional career and taking a title shot in so little time has not worked for many fighters, but Aloyan has the advantage of fighting in his home nation. While he’s undoubtedly thinking about a victory, as long as he makes it past 11 seconds he will have outperformed some of Tete’s more seasoned professional opponents.
What: Ruslan Fayfer vs. Andrew Tabiti, CruiserweightsWhen: Oct. 13
How to Watch: DAZN 1 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Andre Tabiti can combine the Mayweather slickness with his own special brand of power.
Ruslan Fayfer is 23-0 with 16 knockouts, including five stoppages in his last six fights. More importantly, he hails from Russia, where the fight will be taking place, and will undoubtedly be the fan favorite in this matchup. His footwork is good, and he likes to switch between orthodox and southpaw when he feels comfortable against an opponent.
Andrew Tabiti is 16-0 with 13 knockouts. Fighting under Mayweather Promotions, and trained off-and-on by Floyd Mayweather Sr., Tabiti mixes fast hands with a decent slickness and good power. He has a few good wins under his belt, including decision wins over Steve Cunningham and Keith Tapia. And if you ever question his toughness, you should know he grew up in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project, which MMA fighter Brett Rogers once called “the worst 12 blocks in America” while noting that Kimbo Slice’s thug act wouldn’t work on him because compared to Cabrini-Green “Your street is Sesame Street.”
Combining Chicago toughness, Mayweather slickness and KO power sounds like a perfect fighter. But boxing is not a “create a character” video game, so we’ll have to see if Tabiti is as good in the ring as he sounds outside of it. If he is, he’ll win easily. If not, he’ll be in trouble.