Terence Crawford is a great fighter. There, I said it. I admit, I've been a bit skeptical about the Crawford hype train - I think largely because of how quickly HBO pushed that train forward. But tonight he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that HBO was right to push him - he's the real deal. After becoming the undisputed king at Lightweight, Crawford moved up to 140 pounds and tonight became the undisputed king of that division, beating the #2 Viktor Postol in a completely dominating performance. Thefight started off somewhat evenly (if a bit boring) with tentative rounds 1-3 that favored Postol a bit. In round 5, Crawford dropped him with one punch and the fight was basically over from there, as he used great timing, movement, and accuracy to control the fight from that point forward.
Will fans be happy with this? Probably not. The fight has already drawn the ire of many fans for being on PPV, and for those who did tune in, it was far from a barn-burner, late fight theatrics from Crawford aside. We did not get a classic here - instead we got the continued rise of a great fighter.
So what is next for Crawford? Manny Pacquiao is back in November, and Crawford is on the short list there, but I just can't see that happening - too much of a high-risk, low-reward fight for Pacquiao. I would be thrilled to be wrong, but I'm not betting on it. So probably a keep busy fight or two before we see where Crawford is ready to find his next challenge.
Here are thoughts on the rest of the card:
- Oscar Valdez turned in an amazing, dominant performance tonight, and a star-making one too. He came out swinging hard, but maintaining his technique, and right from the start, it felt like just a matter of time. In round 2, after a pair of textbook liver shots, he finished things off. Valdez is now a Featherweight world champion, and much deserved. This is one of the sport's deepest divisions so there's no shortage of great fights ahead of him. I can't wait to see how high he goes.
- A word must be said about HBO's pacing. Four boxing fights in a row can make for a long night, but HBO keeps things rolling, never pausing for those lengthy analyst comments Showtime uses. It makes for a nice, fast-paced night of action.
- Francisco Santana and Jose Benavidez Jr. went to war and it was pretty fantastic. The two men put on your classic phone booth style fight, with most of the action inside. Benavidez looked great at times (as he has in the past) and bad at times (again, as he has in the past), but in the end, he pulled it together and earned the win with his superior technique. Santana was super gutsy and clearly wanted this fight badly - but sometimes willpower can only take you so far.
- Benavidez vs. Santana was a tough fight to score, and I am happy with the Benavidez UD win (I had it 96-94 Benavidez myself). What I am NOT happy with is a 100-90 scorecard turned in by Adalaide Byrd. That's... well, it's insane. It's also so very boxing.
- Oleksandr Gvozdyk came into his fight with Tommy Karpency as the much hyped, heavy favorite. That briefly looked like it would go up in smoke in round 1, as Karpency landed a surprising right hook that dropped Gvozdyk - the first time he's been down in his pro career. But Gvozdyk responded to it well, making it back to his feet and taking over with his superior technique en route to the round 6 stoppage. He's now 11-0. Light Heavyweight is dominated by Kovalev, Stevenson, and Ward - Gvozdyk is not in that discussion yet, but he's heading there, and that's exciting to watch.