Terence Crawford signs extension with Top Rank, to defend title vs. Jose Benavidez Jr.

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Welterweight world titlist Terence Crawford, one of boxing’s pound-for-pound elite fighters, signed a contract extension with promoter Top Rank on Thursday, the same day the company announced details of his first defense.

The first fight of Crawford’s new promotional deal will take place against unbeaten contender Jose Benavidez Jr. in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, at the CHI Health Center on Oct. 13 (ESPN and ESPN Deportes, 10:30 p.m. ET with the full card streaming on ESPN+ beginning at 7 p.m. ET).

The 30-year-old Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs), who has been with Top Rank since 2011, still had about two years remaining on his deal with Top Rank but both sides were happy to do a new one.

Crawford’s new contract comes a month after the announcement of the agreement between Top Rank and ESPN on a new seven-year rights deal that runs until August 2025.

Crawford said the alliance between the promotional company and network was a key reason for his decision to re-sign well before he would have become a free agent.

“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 super fights 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.”

That is likely complicated given that those fighters, such as titleholders Errol Spence Jr. and Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter, who fight for a vacant belt on Saturday night, are aligned with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, which has deals with Showtime and Fox.

“Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford is the world’s best boxer,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said. “We will continue our ongoing campaign to establish him as one of the world’s most recognizable athletes.”

Terms were not announced, but Crawford’s minimum purses are more than the $3 million he earned for his last fight, a source with knowledge of the deal told ESPN.

“Without a doubt, this is one of the most lucrative deals for an individual fighter in the history of boxing,” said Brian McIntyre, Crawford’s trainer and manager. “The deal that I helped put together with Top Rank and ESPN is unprecedented in the modern boxing landscape. If you think you’ve seen the best of Terence Crawford, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

“To all the pretenders out there who want a piece of him, you’ll get what is coming. With Top Rank and ESPN in our corner, we are going to make some of the biggest fights in the history of boxing. We will continue to show the world that Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford is one of the greatest fighters to ever lace up a pair of gloves.”

Crawford, a former lightweight world champion and the former undisputed junior welterweight world champion, moved up to the welterweight division in his last fight and stopped Australia’s Jeff Horn in the ninth round of a one-sided fight to win a title in a third division on June 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

It was Crawford’s first bout since he blew away Julius Indongo in a third-round knockout victory in August 2017 to become the undisputed junior welterweight world champion — the first fighter to unify all the major 140-pound titles in the four-belt era.

But Crawford will need top opponents to prove McIntyre’s words true. And though Benavidez is undefeated, he will be a heavy underdog. Benavidez, however, is nothing if not game. He did what few fighters will do — he called Crawford out in February when they both were at a boxing event in Corpus Christi, Texas. He accused Crawford of ducking him and Crawford invited him to “step outside” before cooler heads prevailed.

“The Crawford-Benavidez fight is an old-time grudge match,” Arum said. “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.”

Said Crawford: “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. I’ll happily give him his first L.”

Benavidez (27-0, 18 KOs), 26, of Phoenix, who used to hold an interim junior welterweight belt before giving it up to go up in weight, nearly saw his career end when he was shot in the leg in August 2016 while out for a walk in his neighborhood.

Benavidez, the older brother of super middleweight world titlist David Benavidez, returned from a 17-month layoff in February and has won two fights, including a first-round knockout of then-unbeaten Frank Rojas on the Crawford-Horn undercard.

“I’ve been wanting this fight for three years. I know I have what it takes to beat him, and I am going to beat him,” Benavidez said. “Crawford has been running his mouth and saying I’m a nobody. I’m going to take full advantage of this opportunity.”

Besides the fight card, ESPN will also air live coverage of the weigh-in on Oct. 12 (ESPN2, 5:30 p.m. ET with replays at 9 p.m. ET and 1:30 a.m. ET on ESPNEWS).

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