On Saturday night, over 14,000 fans were in attendance at Madison Square Garden to watch Terence “Bud” Crawford defend his WBO welterweight title against former 140-lb champion, Amir “King” Khan. Khan might not have been the most worthy challenger, but he did bring forth one of the biggest names Crawford has taken on to date, a name that had many ecstatic British boxing fans filling the “Mecca of Boxing” to support their local hero. Unfortunately, the main event featured some great action followed by an absolutely miserable ending.
“Bud” Crawford got off to a surprisingly quick start, scoring a knockdown at the end of round one with a hard right hand followed by a vicious left hook. Effective from both stances, the champion won the first five rounds of the fight, rocking Khan on several occasions as he appeared on the verge of getting the British former champion out of there in the middle rounds. Instead, a left below the belt in the sixth left Khan stricken and referee David Fields correctly gave him up to five minutes to recover. However, Khan elected to not take all five minutes and appeared to call it quits, forcing Fields to award Crawford the very anti-climatic TKO victory in the sixth. In the post-fight press conference, however, Khan insisted that he would never quit and his chief second, Virgil Hunter, called an end to the fight.
While unusual, the result isn’t unprecedented. On June 26th, 1972, Ken Buchanan (also of the UK) ultimately lost to Roberto Duran after a low blow capped off rounds of abuse, although in that case the referee claimed to have seen the punch land legally. Similarly, Freddie Norwood lost his title to Derrick Gainer following a hard shot below the belt, a fight he was also losing up to the point of the foul. If Khan is a student of the game, precedent should serve him well that titles aren’t often won on a foul, especially if you’re behind up until it. In the post-fight press conference, however, Khan gave his due respect to the champion. Meanwhile, “Bud” Crawford and Bob Arum were emphatic in calling out Errol Spence Jr., each insisting that Al Haymon was the key obstacle in getting the mega-fight made.
“The fight I want next is Errol Spence,” Crawford said. “Whenever he is ready, he can come and get it.”
Bob Arum stated after, “We want to fight Errol Spence. Everyone wants the fight. There is one guy stopping it, and that is Al Haymon.”
But in the end, finger pointing doesn’t get us any closer to a Crawford vs Spence superfight that the sport so richly desires. What it will take is the two rival entities negotiating a deal that involves network cooperation, as Crawford is signed with ESPN until 2025 and Spence is tied to PBC. Unfortunately for Crawford and Arum, Spence and Haymon have all the options that they don’t due to their association with PBC, as bouts against Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman, and Manny Pacquiao are significantly easier to make, and also much lower risk match-ups.
For the co-feature bout of the evening, Teofimo Lopez shined once again in knocking out former lightweight title challenger Edis Tatli in five rounds with a body shot. Lopez was in control throughout, although he did struggle to find Tatli in the early rounds as the rangy veteran used his jab and footwork to stay out of harms way. Lopez began to find the target in the fourth round as he stunned Tatli with a series of punches, and in the fifth he landed a straight right to the body that put the Finnish veteran down for the count. Tatli didn’t bother to beat the count, and lost his first ever fight inside the distance. With the win, Lopez improved to 13-0, 11 KOs and looks forward to a potential main event in Madison Square Garden later this year.
After the fight, Lopez had the following message: “I want a world title shot next. That’s what I want. We promised to take over the show, and once again, I took it over. I’m ready for Richard Commey or the WBC title [Luke Campbell]. As long as it’s for a title, I am ready to go. No one can take my power.”
In his second outing in the big arena at Madison Square Garden, unbeaten featherweight standout Shakur Stevenson dominated former 130-lb title challenger Christopher Diaz en route to a clear cut unanimous decision. Stevenson controlled the fight from long range throughout, working his left hand through every angle, body and head. Stevenson appeared to have Diaz in a bit of trouble in the 6th, but wasn’t able to finish his man as Diaz became increasingly hesitant to engage in the latter rounds. The Fight City scored the fight 100-90 for the 2016 Olympic Silver Medalist, as did Julie Lederman. Judges Kevin Morgan and Joseph Pasquale had it 99-91 and 98-92, respectively.
“Listen, I want all the champions at 126 pounds. Josh Warrington is someone I want to fight. I am ready.” Stevenson, who is currently ranked eight by the IBF, will have to wait for Warrington-Kid Galahad to unfold in June, but with his performance Shakur certainly appears ready to take on the best at 126.
In the first fight of the PPV card, Felix Verdejo won a hard-fought 10-round decision over savvy veteran Bryan Vasquez. Verdejo and Vasquez fought on close terms early on, with Vasquez’s slippery style appearing to give Verdejo fits early on. However, Verdejo remained poised and began to take over the fight with his long jab, work rate, and straight right hand, which kept Vasquez largely on the defensive. Vasquez came on late, and appeared to have Verdejo shaken up a bit in the 10th, but the Puerto Rican lightweight contender cruised to a clear unanimous decision by scores of 97-93 (twice) and 98-92. The Fight City saw it 97-93 for Verdejo as well. With the win, Felix Verdejo improves to 25-1, 16 KOs.
“I’m going to keep working harder and harder to get even better. I am looking for a world title opportunity soon.” While his victory over Vasquez served as perhaps his most impressive showing since his 2016 motorcycle accident, it didn’t appear as though Verdejo is ready for elite level opposition at this time.
Unbeaten welterweight Carlos Adames scored an impressive fourth round TKO of Brooklyn’s Frank Galarza, improving his record to 17-0, 14 KOs. After a competitive first three rounds, Adames put Galarza down with a left hook early in round four. Galarza got up, but Adames was all over him, pinning his man against the ropes and forcing referee Benji Esteves to step in at 1:07 of round four. Adames annexed both the NABF and NABO 154-lb titles in the process.
This would be Adames’s first fight with Robert Garcia, who appeared to bring the best out of the welterweight prospect from the Dominican Republic. “I believe Robert Garcia will get the most out of me. I felt great with him. He told me I was winning the fight, and he told me to pressure him because he was ready to go. We had a tremendous training camp.”
Brooklyn super-middleweight prospect Edgar Berlanga improved to 10-0, 10 KOs with a quick blowout of Samir Barbosa (37-16-3, 26 KOs), stopping him at 46 seconds of the opening round. Berlanga wasted little time trapping Barbosa against the ropes and making quick work of his overmatched foe, unleashing a vicious series of punches that forced a merciful stoppage by the referee.
In the first fight of the night, unbeaten bantamweight prospect Lawrence “BT” Newton cruised to a unanimous decision over Jonathan Garza (7-3, 2 KOs) after six lively rounds. With a 3” height and 5.5” reach advantage, Newton controlled the distance early, but gradually got closer and targeted the body. Garza was competitive throughout, but “BT” was in control throughout and improved to 12-0 with 7 KOs. — Alden Chodash