Not long ago, Top Rank stepped away from having a formal prefight press conference before some of its events, opting to go with a question-and-answer forum featuring the boxers.
For the most part, it’s been a wonderful change. The back-and-forth banter with host Crystina Poncher gave boxers an opportunity to speak about the fight in a more conversational format.
But with everyone involved holding microphones, chaos is a possibility. Considering the animosity between the Terence “Bud” Crawford and Jose Benavidez Jr. camps, it was almost inevitable.
The chances of getting through Thursday’s event at the CHI Health Center without disruption would’ve been a bigger longshot than oddmakers have made Benavidez for Saturday’s welterweight title fight.
In fact, the biggest surprise may have been that it went on as long as it did before the turmoil began.
Jose Benavidez Sr., who trains his son, seemed to take exception to Crawford’s claim that he never passed up a chance to fight the challenger in the past, something Top Rank Vice President Carl Moretti backed up on stage. Team Benavidez thinks the champion from Omaha ducked them for years.
The comment from Benavidez Sr. led to a verbal exchange about the hostility at Wednesday’s media event at Crawford’s gym. A shouting match between the sides occurred there.
“We went to your gym to do a media workout, and who did I find?” Benavidez Sr. asked. “Your wife, his wife and the whole family trying to disrupt and disrespect us. … We were there to do our job. And everybody could see it in the videos, you disrespected my whole family. You disrespected my people.”
Crawford’s head trainer and manager, Brian “BoMac” McIntyre, spoke over the top of his counterpart.
“That’s my gym,” he said. “That name on that gym says B&B, not Benavidez.”
Benavidez Jr. then jumped into the discussion.
“You guys do barking,” he said. “You guys don’t do no biting.”
The event derailed for a while at that point, with shouting coming from on stage and from the crowd.
Crawford, the fighter asked the original question, sat quietly through it all then chimed in.
“He said that we all bark but no bite,” he said. “Come Saturday, he’s going to find out how hard I bite.”
Crawford (33-0, 24 knockouts) will make the first defense of the WBO title he won in June at the arena Saturday. The Omahan, who recently turned 31, is 11-0 in world title fights and has claimed belts in three weight classes. He successfully unified the junior welterweight division.
The 26-year-old Benavidez (27-0, 18 KOs) held the interim WBA title at 140 pounds when Crawford moved up to junior welterweight after becoming the lineal lightweight champion. He has been campaigning at welterweight since 2015 and is ranked as the WBA’s No. 1 contender at 147.
“You guys ain’t scaring nobody. You best bring your A game on Saturday because you’re going to get your ass beat,” he said. “You better enjoy that belt because, Saturday, that belt is going to be mine.”
Crawford remained unflappable Thursday during the commotion.
“I ain’t even gotta do too much talking because I know what’s gonna happen come Saturday,” he said.
The two fighters stood face to face, without making physical contact, at the end of Thursday’s event. Top Rank CEO Bob Arum warned all involved that the purses would be held if someone threw a punch.