HBO PPV results: Crawford bamboozles Postol, unifies 140-pound titles
In a unification fight for the WBC and WBO junior welterweight titles, Terence “Bud” Crawford proved himself to be the division’s best after beating Viktor “The Iceman” Postol in a unanimous decision Saturday night. The fight was the main event of an HBO Pay-Per-View card held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
It took Crawford a round or two to calculate his opponent, in this case, a tall Ukrainian armed with a stiff jab. “I had him figured out from round three on,” Crawford said in the post-fight press conference. Well-known for being ambidextrous, the Omaha, Nebraska native went to the southpaw stance within the first minute of the fight, and while Postol had a couple of good rounds in the first quarter of the fight, “Bud was never in danger.
“I took the jab away from him in the southpaw stance,” Crawford later explained. The 28-year most noticeably used his feet for the fight’s entirety and, despite giving Postol the middle of the ring, Crawford constantly made himself a moving target, and slowly began to time Postol with left and right counter hooks. He later said, “I just boxed today. I said all week that I was going to have fun in there and I did.”
The fifth round was a turning point in the fight. Before the bell’s echo stopped its vibration, Postol found himself on the canvas after a right hook landed flush on his chin. “The first knockdown, I was not hurt. I was just out of balance,” Postol admitted at the presser. Later in the round, and before Postol could compartmentalize the first knockdown of his career, Crawford seized the opportunity and attacked his confused opponent.
A multitude of punches forced Postol into a retreat and, after a few left hooks and a power right hand, he bent down to catch his fall while stepping backward, warranting his second knockdown of the round, with his glove touching the canvas. “The second knockdown was a knockdown – I was hurt,” Postol admitted.
Crawford, 29-0 (20), still using every inch of the ring’s outskirts, began to time his right hook around Postol’s jab with immense precision as the fight progressed. When there were lulls in the action, Crawford would turn boos into cheers, like, in the eighth round, when a right hook stumbled Postol backward. Not only did Crawford put on a clinic but he made it look easy and, in the only moment in which he wasn’t moving around the ring, Crawford smiled at Postol and shrugged his shoulders to show he was having a good time, contrary to the frustration the Ukrainian had to endure for 12 rounds.
After an 11th round in which he was deducted a point for hitting Crawford on the back of the head, Postol, 28-1 (12), went after the knockout he so desperately needed in the final round. He tried to mug Crawford into a fight and had some success using his big body but, after getting countered yet again, in the waning seconds of the fight, Postol halted his attack and Crawford reacted by raising his arms in the air before the final bell sounded.
The scores, 118-107 twice and 117-108, perfectly reflected the fight’s separation of talent on Saturday night. Yes, it was promoted to be the Nos. 1 and 2 junior welterweights in the world but we learned that Nos. 1 and 2 weren’t so close together in the first place.
With the victory, Crawford now holds the unified WBC and WBO 140-pound titles and will be regarded as the consensus champion of the class going forward. He was also presented with THE RING magazine’s belt at 140, the second one Crawford has received, his first being at lightweight.
In the other world title bout of the evening, Oscar Valdez destroyed Matias Carlos Adrian Rueda within two rounds to win the vacant WBO featherweight title.
“He came out pretty aggressive, so I had to answer back,” Valdez told UCNLive after the fight. The bout opened up rather quickly and Valdez unleashed his left hook with reckless abandon. Countless left hooks and overhand rights peppered Rueda, 26-1 (23) and, by the end of the first round, the Argentinian walked back to his corner with a bloody nose.
In the second round, a left hook to the body forced Rueda to a knee but he certainly thought about his decision. “It surprised me because I hit him with everything I got to the body and he kinda stayed there like he took it like nothing,” Valdez remembered. Rueda eventually went to a knee for a knockdown after feeling the pain. “In my head, I was thinking, ‘Relax, don’t get carried away because he’s a hard hitter,” he added. He was composed but just as aggressive and another left hook to the body sent Rueda to a knee but the fight was immediately waved off by referee Russell Mora.
“I was telling my teammates, ‘I can’t feel my legs’ – I can’t believe it. To have a belt, it’s a dream come true,” Valdez said with an overjoyed tone. He admits it really hasn’t sunk in but credits this as a team win, rather than an individual one.
“I’m a target for a lot of fighters – hungry fighters – the way I am right now,” the former Mexican Olympian said. “I gotta keep focused and train hard, so I can maintain that belt as long as possible. Hopefully Nogales,” Valdez admitted as to where he’d like to make his first defense, referring to his hometown in the state of Sonora. Valdez, 20-0 (18), didn’t beat his toughest opponent Saturday night but it certainly was his most important fight to date and he did it in spectacular fashion – for the fourth fight in a row – he stopped his opponent with a left hook.
It seemed like Jose Benavidez Jr. had an easy night with scores of 100-90, 98-92 and 96-94 favoring him in a unanimous decision over Francisco “Chia” Santana but they didn’t reflect the tough fight he was in. It was to his own undoing.
Whenever Benavidez, 25-0 (16), pumped out his jab and snapped his uppercut, he was in control of the fight but he certainly didn’t do it enough to warrant such wide scorecards. The 24-year-old from Phoenix, Arizona, boxed when he wanted to and, when he didn’t feel like it, Benavidez would rest his back on the ropes and let Santana do whatever he pleased.
Santana, 24-5-1 (12), went to the body when given the opportunity and, while he never visibly hurt Benavidez against the ropes, he certainly landed enough to get some recognition for his work. Chia went after Benavidez for every minute of the 10-round welterweight contest and his punch volume seemed endless. The bout lived up to its expectations by being an action fight and it seemed dead-even going into the later rounds.
Santana looked a bit gassed after throwing so many punches but Benavidez still continued to go into a lull in which Francisco could rest his body on him while on the ropes. Benavidez was certainly the more accurate of the two but perhaps his game plan made it seem like the fight was closer than it was. When the scores were announced, the crowd let the ringside judges know it.
In the opening bout of the HBO PPV card, Oleksandr “The Nail” Gvozdyk overcame an early scare to eventually stop Tommy Karpency in the sixth round. The light heavyweight contest was scheduled for 10 rounds.
In the opening round, Gvozdyk, 11-0 (9), was caught with a right hook from Karpency for a knockdown. The Ukrainian didn’t see it coming and wavered for the remainder of the round in order to stay afloat on troubled waters. Along with savvy footwork, Karpency’s southpaw style gave Gvozdyk trouble with range and it affected his ability to commit with his punches. Karpency’s right was sharp and continued to be unseen by Gvozdyk but the momentum slowly swung once The Nail hammered the body in the third round.
In the fourth, a left uppercut from Gvozdyk snapped Karpency’s head backward for his biggest punch so far and, while it wasn’t clear if it was the punch that did it, Tommy’s nose was cut on the bridge near the eye. Karpency’s work rate dropped considerably and Gvozdyk seized the opportunity by stalking him and committing to his punches. Something was clearly wrong with Karpency as he kept pawing at his eye throughout the rest of the fight and his face started to become bludgeoned.
Karpency, 26-6-1 (15), abruptly let out a yell in the sixth round, just before a right hand to the body forced him to a knee. As referee Kenny Bayless yelled out his count, Karpency pointed at his eye while looking at his corner on bended knee. By the time Bayless got to the count of eight, it was clear Karpency was going to stay down because he couldn’t see.
The Olympic gold medalist from Japan, Ryota Murata, rid himself of George Tahdooahnippah rather easily after forcing a stoppage in the first round. Murata, 11-0 (8), dropped “Comanche Boy” early with a left hook to the body and Tahdooahnippah never recovered. After getting trapped in a corner, Tahdodoahnippah, 34-3-3 (24), hid in his shell and, in not fighting back, compelled referee Benjy Esteves to wave off the bout.
After several punches went unanswered, Leonardo Zappavigna got the technical knockout win over IK Yang after referee Vic Drakulich waved off the bout in the sixth round. The junior welterweight contest was scheduled for 10 rounds. The left hook of Zappavigna, 35-2 (25), was on point for the 28-year old Australian, and it disrupted the unique style of Yang, 19-2 (14), for the bout’s entirety. In the fateful round, Zappavigna landed a right hand that momentarily put Yang into a motionless daze. “Lenny Zappa” then continued to land precise shots to the head and that’s when Drakulich stepped in.
With the help of a large contingent of fans supporting him, Edward Williams got the nod over Christon Edwards via unanimous decision (59-55 twice, 58-56). Fighting out of Detroit, Michigan, Williams, 12-1-1 (4), frustrated Edwards by landing his right hand and immediately clinching to thwart any return fire. Edwards, 6-2 (3), was constantly moved around the ring with his back against the ropes in what wasn’t an aesthetically pleasing fight.
Ukrainian middleweight Stanyslav Skorokhod got the wide unanimous decision (60-52 twice, 59-53) win over Hakim Bryant, ruining the 26-year-old’s unblemished record. Bryant, 6-1 (4), was in distress in the opening round after a counter left hook sent him to the canvas 90 seconds into the fight. Skorokhod, 11-1 (8), gestured to Bryant to get up and once action resumed, he went back to peppering the hurt fighter with combinations. Bryant was a mess for the remainder of the round and, at one point, tackled Skorokhod to the ground but referee Kenny Bayless ruled it a knockdown. Fighting out of Asbury Park, New Jersey, Bryant was lucky to get out of the opening round but slowly got back into the fight as the rounds progressed, thanks to his stiff left jab. In the fourth, he was even stalking Skorokhod around the ring but his defense was lacking and his offense couldn’t outweigh his opponent’s. However, considering the fight could’ve been stopped in the opening round, his comeback was endearing.
In the opening bout of the Top Rank Promotions card, light heavyweight “So Cold” Steve Nelson earned a stoppage win over Tim Meeks after the ringside doctor stepped in to advise referee Vic Drakulich to stop the bout in the fourth and final round. Fighting out of Omaha, Nebraska, Nelson, 3-0 (3), couldn’t miss with his overhand right and the beginning of the end for Meeks started in the waning seconds of the opening round when one of those shots dropped him. Meek, 5-3-1 (3), was cut by another right hand in the third round to make matters worse and, while he was still on his feet when the stoppage occurred, there was no argument from the Texan.