ESPN+ results: Terence Crawford stops Horn, wins WBO welterweight title
Terence “Bud” Crawford became the new WBO welterweight titleholder after forcing a ninth round stoppage of Jeff Horn, on Saturday night, marking his territory in one of boxing’s deepest weight classes. The contest was the main event of a Top Rank card streamed exclusively on its new ESPN+ platform.
“We knew everything he was going to do in there. We knew how the fight was going to go. We knew how he was going to come. He did everything we were expecting him to do,” Crawford said at the post-fight press conference, after a bout in which his dominance was a clear indication of such knowledge.
Making his welterweight debut, Crawford, 33-0 (24), was a step ahead of the hardnosed, forward-pressing Australian, whose roughneck style was forceful enough to upset Manny Pacquiao last year. As Crawford implied, Horn brought the same tactic upon him, and starting off the fight in the southpaw stance, the ambidextrous boxer-puncher started timing Horn with a tremendous lead right hand in the opening rounds. Often times crouching low, Crawford was starting to bait Horn into that lead right hook in the second round, and pivoting off his front foot to either get out of the way of a retaliating punch, or to follow-up his offense.
Horn, who was looking to make the second defense of the belt he won from Pacquiao, landed perhaps his best shot to start the third round but there weren’t many to choose from. In the moment, it woke up the pocket of fans who traveled to see him try and upset the apple cart but soon they’d be left with nothing else to say, once a swarm of offense started to overwhelm and frustrate “The Hornet.” A majority of the 8,112 at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena were there to see the American, and there was plenty to cheer about, once Crawford really got into his rhythm in the fifth round. By then, Crawford was using both hands to pepper Horn to the head, marking him up a bit by the end of the round and leaving his mouth open, as he walked to his corner. What Horn was walking into was much like whirlwind of shots too dizzying to even take account but the spray of sweat after each punch landed made things clear.
Crawford, 30, was in cruise control by the sixth and seventh rounds, and, in the last seconds of the eighth, jolted some drama into the round by almost knocking Horn down for the first time in the fight. It was merely a hint of what would come in the ninth round. When it started, Horn came out of the gate with a go-for-broke mentality but Crawford – like he always does – was calm under that pressure, and found openings to the body that he didn’t exploit until then. An accumulation of shots, with about 50 seconds to go in the ninth, had Horn off-balanced and forced to keep himself up with his hands, warranting a knockdown ruled by referee Robert Byrd. Once action resumed, Crawford went in for the kill, pummeling Horn, 18-1-1 (12), with that trusty right hand into the ropes and giving Byrd a moment to stop the contest at the 2:33 mark.
“I feel like I’m getting better and better. I feel stronger. I feel energized,” Crawford said about his debut at 147 pounds. ”I believe I do well with any welterweight in the division. I think they’re all gonna respect me now. I felt like I just displayed my talent and my power. They saw how I dealt with him.”
With his promoter Bob Arum beside him at the post-fight presser, Crawford didn’t really have too much to say about the fight but, much like him winning tonight, that was not unexpected. The Omaha, Nebaraska, native seemed to know this win wasn’t going to make waves but becoming a titleholder in his third weight class is plenty to boast about, especially after becoming an undisputed champion at 140 pounds last August. Crawford isn’t really into that, especially when it’s the specialty of the man sitting next to him.
“I told everybody; I compare him – and it’s the highest praise that I can give a fighter, a welterweight – that he reminds me of Sugar Ray Leonard, and that, to me, is a great, great compliment,” Arum said, “because I always thought that Leonard was the best, and this guy is equal, if not better than Ray was.”
Crawford, who looked exactly the same when arriving to Las Vegas earlier this week, seemed to appreciate the compliment, even mumbling into the microphone while Bob spoke that it was indeed a good one. Such high comparison and hyperbole can bring out the outraged historians but, in terms of pure talent, Crawford is perhaps the best fighter America has to offer, at the moment, and, by entering a division in which there is enough talented opposition for much bigger wins down the road, it can shape a career to become an all-time great like Leonard. Crawford seems to know exactly what he possesses, and before being sent off to enjoy his night, he murmured one last thing to Bob, insinuating that he also knows what to do with it.
“Let’s get that money.”
Topping off the undercard, former IBF junior lightweight titlist Jose “Sniper” Pedraza earned a unanimous decision over Antonio Moran after 10 rounds of bloody lightweight action. All three judges at ringside scored the bout identically for the Puerto Rican at 96-94.
Pedraza, 24-1 (12), won a WBO lightweight trinket in the process of going to war with Moran, in the first half of the contest. After a first round in which both men took turns landing shots, Pedraza managed to force a cut on the bridge of the Mexican’s nose, and it bled for the rest of the fight. Moran, 23-3 (16), wasn’t dismayed from the leaking cut, and, with both men wearing white gloves and trunks, it provided dramatic color for a fight that sustained intense action for five rounds. In the fourth, Moran may’ve had his best round, and it was a sheer testament of will and conditioning as he kept throwing and throwing. Pedraza, 29, didn’t panic under the pressure, however, and, thanks to the body shots he started landing in the sixth, Moran slowly sputtered until the final round.
Jose Benavidez Jr. ousted Frank Rojas with a first round knockout to win a WBA welterweight title eliminator. The fight was scheduled for ten.
Benavidez, 27-0 (18), caught Rojas with a body shot and right hand to force the Venezuelan backward toward the ropes, and that was where a right to the temple dropped him to the mat. Rojas, 22-1 (21), was on his belly and disoriented from the shot, and, when trying to get up, fell foward as the referee eventually counted him out. Benavidez, 26, made it look easy against the unbeaten opponent, and, considering he shares a promoter with the main eventer of the evening, surely he’s in play for a big fight soon.
Eighteen-year-old lightweight prospect Gabriel Flores Jr. showcased himself well in his unanimous decision win over Jorge Rojas.
Flores, Stockton, California, had a left hook that couldn’t miss. It came off his jab and sometimes led a combo, and Rojas, 4-4-1 (2), could do nothing about it. Flores, 8-0 (5), had an accurate night of offense and, as for his defense, Rojas couldn’t land one memorable shot. By the end of the four rounds, Rojas’ reddened face told the story of a one-sided beating.
Shakur Stevenson sent Aelio Mesquita to the canvas four times, en route to his second round technical knockout, but flirted with what could’ve been disaster in the process of getting his seventh win. The featherweight contest was scheduled for eight rounds.
Stevenson, 7-0 (4), entered the second with the utmost confidence after two separate left hands connected on Mesquita’s chin for the first two knockdowns of the fight but, in the process of putting him away, he made a mistake. Fighting out of Guaruja, Brazil, Mesquita, 16-2 (14), was overmatched and fighting reluctantly after the horrendous first round, and, after getting sent to the canvas a third time in the second round, Stevenson couldn’t hold back a punch, as Mesquita was on the canvas. Catching the foul, referee Benjy Esteves Jr. docked a point from Stevenson afterward, and, once action resumed, Stevenson easily sent his opponent back a fourth and final time but not without hitting him on the floor again. The late shots weren’t egregious or intentional but Esteves missed that second one, as he waved off the fight immediately. No harm, no foul.
Maxim Dadashev took the result out of the judges’ hands with a final round stoppage of Darleys Perez to win a WBO junior welterweight trinket.
It was a competitive fight between prospect and veteran until the 10th, in which Dadashev, 27, hurt Perez for the first time in the fight, with a right hand he’d been throwing all night. A former lightweight title challenger from Colombia, Perez, 34, flopped to the canvas and took his time to get up while referee Jay Nady made his count. Perez, 33-4-2 (21), got up in time but was too wobbly for Nady’s taste and he waved it off with 1:11 remaining in the fight. Dadashev, 11-0 (10), was left with a bruised left eye from all the jabs and left hooks Perez landed him throughout the course of the previous nine rounds but none of that matter in the end.
Steven “So Cold” Nelson stopped DeShon Webster in the sixth and final round of their light heavyweight match to remain unbeaten.
“The win ain’t the thing I was concerned with. It was stopping him. He’d never been dropped, never been stopped. I came out here and made a statement,” said the Omaha, Nebraska, native afterward. “I had him the entire time. I was just working in there, and eventually I broke him down.”
Nelson, 11-0 (9), out-worked Webster with his authoritarian offense, that landed first in seemingly every time they exchanged. After a slow, tactical first round, in which Nelson had to gauge a height and reach disadvantage, the 30-year-old got into a rhythm that had Webster reluctant to get into a fight. Off his back foot, Webster, 10-2 (6), wasn’t effective at all, and left hooks at the end of Nelson’s flurries landed consistently. In the fateful sixth, Nelson landed a couple of right hands that dropped Webster to his knees for a knockdown. Moments later, referee Russell Mora made a judgment call and waved off the bout with Webster still on his feet, after eating another accurate flurry without really fighting back.
In the opening bout of the Top Rank card, David “The Lion of Zion” Kaminsky delivered the first knockout of his nascent career after forcing a stoppage of Trevor Lavin in the second round. The middleweight contest was scheduled for four.
Born in Israel and fighting out of Los Angeles, California, Kaminsky, 2-0 (1), didn’t have trouble landing his combos, in a dominant first round, and the fight quickly went downhill for Lavin, 1-1 (1), once getting dropped with a right to the temple in the second. Kaminsky, 17, stepped on the gas and caught Lavin with a right uppercut that dropped him a second time, moments later, and warranted referee Benjy Esteves Jr. to wave it off immediately.