Crawford Stops Spence in a Performance For the Ages

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The three-division titlist wins an unprecedented second undisputed crown, this time at welterweight, with a masterful stoppage win over the gutty Errol Spence Jr. Saturday night on SHOWTIME Pay-Per-View.

It had been billed as what has become something of a boxing rarity, a “50-50” matchup of two elite fighters still in their prime, or mostly so. But by the time referee Harvey Dock jumped between a dominant Terence “Bud” Crawford and a nearly defenseless Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr. to wave things off at 2:32 of the ninth round of their much-heralded, long-awaited showdown for the Undisputed Welterweight World Championship Saturday night in Las Vegas, those percentages had shifted dramatically, to maybe 80-20 percent for Crawford, or even 90-10.                     

All right, so perhaps it was supposed to be something more akin of a 51-49 or 52-48 fight slightly tilted toward Crawford, the WBO 147-pound World Champ, who went off as a reasonably close -150 favorite to Spence’s +120. But after dropping a feel-out first round to WBC/WBA/IBF titlist Spence, the pendulum inexorably swung more and more in the Omaha, Neb., fighter’s favor.

“Terence Crawford gave his greatest performance on his biggest stage,” SHOWTIME analyst Al Bernstein opined, which seemed to perfectly sum up what the celebrity-packed live audience at the T-Mobile Arena and the PBC on SHOWTIME Pay-Per-View audience had to be thinking as well. 

In winning his 10th consecutive bout inside the distance, the 35-year-old but arguably still ascending Crawford (40-0, 31 KOs) not only became the first male boxer to be the undisputed ruler of two weight classes in the four-belt era (he previously held that distinction at super lightweight), but he may well have etched his name alongside some of the greatest welterweights ever to grace the prize ring.

The truest form of appreciation for boxing’s finest practitioners is more about the public’s collective gut reaction than mere statistics, but even so there can be no denying the surprisingly wide chasm separating Crawford from the undeniably elite Spence (28-1, 22 KOs) on this night. Not only did Crawford send Spence to the canvas for the first three knockdowns of his career (once in the second round, two more in the seventh), but punch statistics compiled by CompuBox revealed that he had connected on 185 of 369 total punches (an absurdly high 50 percent), 87 of 206 stinging jabs (a nearly absurd 42 percent) and 98 of 163 power shots (a completely bonkers 60 percent).

All of which very well might mean, as Apollo Creed told Rocky Balboa upon the conclusion of their first bout, that there “ain’t gonna be no rematch,” although Spence, his face as well-bruised as his pride, begged to differ.

“Hey, we got to do it again,” Spence said. “I will be better and it’s going to be a lot closer.”

For his part, Crawford sort of agreed. Asked if a do-over with Spence could be successfully pitched to the same people who thought Saturday night’s massacre would be a more or less evenly matched affair, a la Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns I 42 years ago, he said, “Of course the public would buy it.”

It just might be so. Not all rematches are exact replicas of the originals. Sometimes, the loser of a blowout even finds a way to turn the tables in a major way. But for Spence to do a 180-degree turnaround, much would have to change, not the least of which would be tactical adjustments.

Crawford, ostensibly a switch-hitter who seamlessly shifts from orthodox to southpaw and back again when he is of a mind to, fought entirely in a lefty mode against Spence, who always fights that way. But Crawford negated Spence’s state-of-the-art jab with one of his own, and a harder, more accurate one at that, in addition to the sort of laser-beam counterpunching upon which he had built his reputation.

“Errol Spence is a tremendous talent,” Crawford allowed. “He has a great jab. We were worried about the jab coming in. He sets up all his shots off the jab. So our main focus was his jab. You take away his best attribute and the rest is history.”

Sometimes, historic fights are memorable not for their two-way action but because one of the participants stands above and apart even from someone of like reputation. And it isn’t always a talent gap that spurs the victor to go beyond even his own lofty expectations. For Crawford, dumped by one previous promoter for being box-office poison, some of those past slurs provide additional motivation.

“They tried to blackball me,” Crawford recalled. “They kept me out, they talked bad about me, they said I wasn’t good enough, I couldn’t beat these top welterweights. I just kept my head to the sky and I kept praying to God that I’d get the opportunity to show the world how great Terence Crawford is. Tonight, I believe I showed how great I am.”

Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz outpoints Giovanni Cabrera

Isaac Cruz, who calls himself the “Mexican Mike Tyson,” is on the hunt for a world title shot. The 5’4” Cruz, a 135-pound prototype of heavyweight fire-plug Tyson, took another step closer to that goal on Saturday night though not without some issues. 

Cruz (25-1, 17 KOs) had hoped to blast out the taller, longer-limbed and softer-punching southpaw Giovanni Cabrera. Instead, he got his victory, but it did not come with the exclamation-point finish he had hoped for. In their 12-round WBA/WBC Lightweight World Title Eliminator, Cabrera (21-1, 7 KOs), fighting with his hands held low and taking his share of hard shots because of it, landed enough pillowy punches to nearly upset the bull-rushing Tijuana resident also known as “Pitbull.” Scores were 115-112 and 114-113 for Cruz and 114-113 for Cabrera, which seemed a tad generous for the loser.

“The judges make their own decisions, but I don’t feel like he connected with any (meaningful) punches,” Cruz said. “(Cabrera) thought it was my birthday, so many hugs that he was giving me during the fight. He was hugging me all night.

It also didn’t help Cruz’s cause that he was docked a penalty point by referee Thomas Taylor in the eighth round for head-butts, or that Taylor gave Cabrera some additional time to catch his breath in the sixth to have some flapping tape on his gloves cut and replaced.

Alexandro Santiago makes 40-year-old Nonito Donaire act his age

Whether he won a world bantamweight title for the fourth time, or not, in his bid for the vacant WBC belt against Alexandro Santiago, this much was certain: 40-year-old Nonito Donaire is going to be enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and probably will be elected on the first ballot. But aspirants to the IBHOF must be retired from the ring for at least three years to be considered, and, well, the “Filipino Flash” is going to have to decide how long he wants to keep adding entries onto his 22-year professional career.

Donaire (42-8, 28 KOs) looked uncharacteristically slow in being outpointed by the 27-year-old Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs), whose youth more than offset the three-inch disadvantages in height and reach he had against his onetime idol.

Scores were 116-112 (twice) and 115-113.

“This is a blessing for me to do this for a very, very long time,” Donaire said, in what sounded a bit like a nod toward retirement. “(But) I feel good still.”

So what didn’t work for Donaire, whose vaunted left hook, although landing hard enough to open a cut above Santiago’s right eye in the third round, was less effective thereafter?

“I didn’t pull the trigger,” Donaire said. “That was my biggest problem.”

Santiago had fought for a world title once before, holding IBF super flyweight champ Jerwin Ancajas to a 12-round split draw on Sept. 28, 2019, an outcome which allowed Ancajas to retain his title. But the nearly four-year wait for another shot at the brass ring proved even sweeter, considering who had defeated in grabbing it.

“It’s been an honor to fight such a legend as Nonito Donaire,” said Santiago, who recently became the father of a baby boy. Asked how he felt to finally have become a world champion, he added that “It’s hard to explain this moment right now. All the work we put in for this moment … it’s great to win this title.”


Yoenis Tellez’s inexperience no problem as he KOs veteran Sergio Garcia

On paper, it might have seemed that neophyte pro Yoenis Tellez was in way over his head against veteran Sergio Garcia, but you know what they say about appearances being deceiving.

Garcia, 23, had been scheduled to fight Jesus Ramos Jr. on Saturday night’s undercard, but when Ramos fell out he was replaced by Tellez, who came in with a 5-0 record with four KOs as a pro compared to the 30-year-old Garcia’s 34-2 with 14 wins inside the distance. Not only that, but the five guys Tellez had defeated had a cumulative record of 24-62-8 at the time he fought them. Garcia was the first opponent he had faced with a winning record.

No matter. Tellez, known as “El Bandolero,” had logged 150 bouts as an amateur in his native Cuba before he came to the United States by way of two years in Russia, and he was highly regarded enough to be considered a worthy opponent for Garcia even if it meant being put into a 10-round super welterweight bout for the first time.

But, hey, who needs 10 rounds when you have a right hand as explosive as Tellez, who floored Garcia twice in the third round, prompting referee Robert Hoyle to step in and award the new kid on the block a stoppage victory.

The way Garcia went down, especially the second time, so ignited something within Tellez that he went after him as a famished lion might go after a stricken wildebeest.

“That was the `assassin instinct’ that us Cubans have,” said Tellez, who is trained by veteran Ronnie Shields.

For a closer look at Spence vs Crawford, check out our fight night page. 

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