Terence Crawford demonstrated again what a superb talent he is as, with power, strength and skill, he methodically broke down and dispatched Jeff Horn in the ninth round of a fight that evolved into a mismatch. It ended via TKO, but very soon would have gone into the books as a clean knockout but for the merciful intervention of referee Robert Byrd. Horn’s corner was indignant, but the stoppage was emblematic of Byrd’s presence of mind to prevent serious damage to the brave Australian. In fact, as the new WBO champ was being interviewed in the ring, Byrd went to Horn and his corner and declared: “Hey, I’m looking out for you!”
The pre-fight concern of all the pundits was whether a “bigger” Horn could assert his physicality and thereby have a chance at winning. Clearly, much depended on whether Byrd would allow Horn to use his head and body to rough up Crawford the way he did against Manny Pacquiao. That didn’t happen, as the veteran ref repeatedly warned Horn about holding and leading with his head, while Crawford brilliantly used the clinch in an offensive manner over and over again, strategically smothering Horn’s limited offense in the process and often tagging Horn hard on the break.
Andre Ward had accurately predicted, just prior to the bell for round one, that Crawford would make adjustments, be aggressive, and once he got dialed in, he would go for the knockout, which would come in either the ninth or tenth round. Hard to be more accurate than that. In fact, Crawford used a methodology almost identical to Ward’s, one which Ward broke down for everyone after the fight and goes something like this: use the opponent’s strengths against him and his weaknesses to beat him.
That’s exactly what Crawford did. He masterfully used Horn’s physical strength against him, timing his bull rushes, clinching when necessary, and hitting Horn with vicious body shots, left hooks and straight rights. By round eight many were voicing concern for Horn and speculating that it was time for his corner to consider stopping the match. During that round, Crawford battered his man in round eight with a huge left hook to the jaw, some big body shots and four flush punches upstairs followed by a straight left that almost put Horn down. The two vicious body blows must have been, at the least, numbers 99 and 100, as Crawford was getting home hard body shots the entire fight. You heard the old saw from the commentators on how body work adds up and pays dividends later in the fight and that’s exactly what happened.
At the bell starting round nine it was obvious Horn was hurting. Crawford hit Horn with a left and then a right uppercut that resulted in a knockdown. Horn got up and Crawford went for the kill but Byrd in his infinite mercy and wisdom jumped in front of Horn to protect him, stopping the fight with 40 seconds left on the clock. Crawford, master tactician that he is, said after the fight that his corner had told him to change up and finish off Horn with the right hand, a proposal which “Bud” vetoed. “I told [my trainer] we were going to stick with the left.”
The bout reminded this pundit of the methodical and vicious beating Muhammad Ali put on Floyd Patterson when the latter insisted on calling Ali “Clay” and “The Greatest” served up a vicious battering. If Ali was angry that night, so was Crawford, clearly pissed for being underestimated by some. “Y’all tried to compare me to Pacquiao,” he stated with vehemence after the match, “[but] you saw what I did.” Interestingly, the commentators had noted that Crawford in the recent pre-fight interviews seemed angry, that there was a feeling that he was somehow slighted. He had a totally pissed off look on his face in the ring and it was pretty clear that Horn was going to get Crawford’s best, which he did, and the result wasn’t pretty, but at the same time quite awesome to behold.
Tim Bradley hailed the new WBO welterweight champ by saying: “The welterweight division has a new monster … and he is tough enough for anybody in the division.” When asked what he wanted to do next, Crawford said, “I want the other champs!” He then looked directly at Bob Arum and gave him his marching orders: “I want the other champs, Bob. Make the fights.” If you are Keith Thurman or Erroll Spence — the latter selling wolf tickets at Crawford this week, writing checks with his mouth that his ass will have to cash — you better look out, because if, as Bradley says, Crawford is a monster, well, this monster is comin’ for ya’! Here’s hoping those fights can be made.
As for Arum, he could hardly contain his glee over Crawford’s dominant performance. “He reminds me of Sugar Ray Leonard and that is a great compliment because I always thought Leonard was the best,” gushed The Bobfather. “And I think he is as good or better than Leonard was.”
I want to give a quick shout to the Top Rank undercard which started out slow but unveiled some really good prospects on their way up. Remember the name Gabriel Flores Jr. He’s an 18-year-old featherweight from the mean streets of Stockton, California, whose fights are dedicated to his mother who was tragically killed by gunfire. This kid is going to be a champion. He has considerable Golden Gloves experience and the skills and punch of a guy much bigger and older. Also, look out for impressive featherweight prospect Shakur Stevenson (7-0), who easily knocked out an opponent who was 16-1 with 14 KO’s. Then there was an entertaining slugfest between Jose “Sniper” Pedraza who defeated Antonio Moran via unanimous decision. Pedraza is closing in on world title shot. Also, Maxim “Mad Max” Dadshev scored the most significant win of his young career, knocking out former lightweight champion Darleys Perez in the 10th round to win the vacant NABF super lightweight title. Dadashev hails from St. Petersburg, Russia and now trains in Oxnard, which is becoming something of a boxing mecca for hot prospects.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Leo Santa Cruz successfully defended his WBA featherweight title by decision against four-division world champion Abner Mares in their long-awaited rematch. Both fighters are from LA and the Staples Center crowd was on its feet chanting for more as the two warriors gave it their all. As in their first meeting, it was greater activity and precision on the part of Santa Cruz making the difference, Leo winning on all three of the judges’ scorecards by scores of 115-113, 116-112, and 117-111. With the win, Santa Cruz (34-1-1) takes one more step towards a possible unification fight in the competitive 126-pound division. Mares let it be known he wants a third fight with Leo in December, but Santa Cruz may opt for either a unification bout with WBC champion Gary Russell Jr. or a trilogy match with Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton.
Just as Rafa predicted in his astute pre-fight analysis, Santa Cruz’s lack of serious punching power allowed Mares to stay in this fight all the way. Similar to the first meeting between these Mexican-American warriors, a total of 1,992 punches were thrown, with Santa Cruz churning out 1,061 to Mares’ 931. Santa Cruz landed 357 punches compared to 208 for Mares. Abner started fast, winning the first two rounds before Leo kicked it to another gear and went to work. Santa Cruz suffered a cut above his left eye in the eighth round, but “it wasn’t bothering me much,” he said afterwards. “I didn’t let that distract me. I had cuts before. You keep on fighting.”
When asked if he’s the number one featherweight in the division, Santa Cruz replied: “Hopefully I am. I’ll leave it to the fans to decide. I want Gary Russell Jr. next. I want to unify. I’m ready for everyone, whoever and whenever.
One can’t fault Mares for puffing the fight, as his star is now on the descent from age and some really tough fights against back-to-back champion opponents. A former three-division world champion and a veteran of 10 world title fights, the 32-year-old Mares needs to keep himself marketable. “It was a ‘Fight of the Year’ like I told you,” declared Abner. “I hope you like the fight because we fought for you, Los Angeles. Win or lose, we did it for the fans. It was a great fight.”
In the co-main event of the doubleheader, Jermell Charlo (31-0) recorded a majority decision victory over former world champion Austin Trout (31-5) to defend his WBC 154 title. This was a truly odd majority decision: two cards had it wide at 118-108 and 115-111 in favor of Charlo, but the third scored it 113-113. The vast disparity could perhaps be attributable to Trout’s unorthodox style, falling away while punching and the like and Showtime commentator Paulie Malinaggi stated that Trout won between four and six rounds, which is consistent with the 113-113 score, but to this observer it seemed more that Trout was desperately trying not to be knocked out, as opposed to fighting to win.
Charlo applied heavy pressure and sent Trout to the canvas in the last minute of the third round, connecting on a big right, then knocking Trout off balance with a counter left hook. That Charlo left hook struck again in the ninth, connecting to the side of Trout’s head and dropping him to one knee. Jermell continued to exert punishment on a game Trout, who showed his age as he was clearly tiring while the brash youngster seemed to just get stronger. Charlo went on a relentless attack in the 10th, connecting on multiples of power punches that seemed to daze Trout and he remained in charge in the final two rounds.
According to Charlo, who has now defended his 154-pound title three times, “Sometimes you knock them out, sometimes you just beat them.” The young Jermell went on to say that, “I went to fish, I tried to get some Trout but I couldn’t catch him on the hook. I know they’re used to seeing me knock boys out, but at least they saw me take care of business.”
Said the southpaw Trout, “Take those knockdowns away I won the fight.” I don’t think so, since boxing matches are judged on aggressiveness and punching. Clearly Trout was trying to avoid the big shot while getting off some of his own, and thus was off-balance much of the time. The former champion, who also went the distance in a unanimous decision loss to Jermell’s twin brother and interim middleweight titleholder Jermall in 2016, was classy in defeat. “I can’t make any excuses, the better man won with those knockdowns. Both Jermell and Jermall are really good. They are the future. But I’m not done yet. I’m not defined by my results. I’m defined by the risks I take. I’ve taken the risks and I’ve stood my ground every time against giants and killers. And I’m still here.”
All that said, Jermell now clearly has his sights set on Jarrett Hurd, which will be a great fight; boxer versus come forward, no reverse gear brawler: “Trout will tell you who will win that fight,” Charlo said of that potential unification bout with IBF and WBA 154-pound titleholder Jarret Hurd. “That’s why he survived 12. If Hurd sat in front of me and took those shots he’s done.” Hurd will have something to say about that, with his aggressive take-no-prisoners-style. Let’s hope that fight gets made. I will definitely be watching that one.
Tyson Fury won his comeback fight in Manchester, but the match really left more questions than answers. Little to surprise anyone here. This fight was the definition of irrelevant, in my opinion. Fury “fought” a comeback get-the-rust-off fight with a much smaller cruiserweight named Seder Seferi, not a heavyweight, a guy about 77 pounds smaller than Fury. Basically, three rounds of nothing until the end of that round until Fury landed a left uppercut near the start of the fourth. The crowd booed heavily when Seferi’s corner threw in the towel at the end of that round. Some thought he quit on his stool. So little was shown by Fury that whether he can come back and be relevant in the heavyweight division remains an open question. We will get a better idea of where Fury is at when he fights a real heavyweight, hopefully soon.
Meanwhile, in Montreal, another solid fight card went down at the casino courtesy of Groupe Yvon Michel. Winners included Tommy Houle, Terry Osias, Louisbert Altidor, Dario Bredicean, Shakeel Phinn and Marie Eve Dicaire, the latter three notching significant wins as they get ready for a step up in competition in the near future.
— Ralph Semien