There's a new superstar in boxing, and his name is Bud.
WBO lightweight champion Terence "Bud" Crawford (24-0, 17 KO) put on a scintillating display on Saturday night in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.
In his first defense since taking the title from Ricky Burns in March, Crawford scored a ninth-round TKO victory over previously unbeaten Yuriorkis Gamboa (23-1).
This was the scene at a raucous CenturyLink Center just before the fight began:
Crawford's performance certainly didn't disappoint. He overcame a huge early deficit and floored the rugged and speedy Cuban four times on his way to victory.
The 26-year-old champion clearly gave his fans what they came to see.
While Crawford was the winner, both men put on an excellent and dramatic show of skills and guts. ESPN's Dan Rafael called it the best fight of the year thus far:
Early in the bout, Gamboa's speed and experience advantages were evident. He kept beating Crawford to the punch by scoring lead right hands.
In Rounds 1 and 2, Gamboa outboxed the champion with elusive upper-body and foot movement. He also made good use of his blinding hand speed. It looked like he might have an easy night ahead of him.
In the third round, Crawford switched to southpaw, which he often does, and the action opened up a bit more.
However, it didn't favor Crawford at first.
Gamboa began to launch right hands with more conviction, and he found the mark on more than one occasion. The challenger had easily taken the first three rounds.
In the fourth round, as Max Boxing's Steve Kim points out, Crawford began to do better work:
In the fifth round, Crawford changed the fight with one shot. A counter right hand sent Gamboa to the mat. Though he got to his feet quickly, he hadn't regained his legs. He was hurt several times through the rest of the round.
For the remainder of the fight, Gamboa fought desperately. He lunged and missed more often than he landed and seemed to have abandoned his game plan. When he couldn't hit Crawford, the champion popped him with ridiculously accurate counters.
In the eighth round, Crawford lured Gamboa into the corner and dropped a sensational combination on the tough Cuban. Courageously, Gamboa continued on, but his time was limited.
He actually hurt Crawford in the ninth with a wild right hand early in the round, but the 26-year-old champion would soon turn the tables.
Crawford showed his mettle and savvy. He held on to regain his wherewithal and subsequently dropped Gamboa twice more. The second and final knockdown of the round—and fourth of the fight—came on a nasty right uppercut.
Referee Genaro Rodriguez had seen enough. The round was amazing, and ESPN's Dan Rafael called it the best frame the sport has seen in 2014 thus far:
This was the shot that ended the night:
Gamboa showed great heart, even though he was delusional in his post-fight interview with HBO's Max Kellerman. When asked if Crawford was the best fighter he had ever faced, per the HBO telecast, Gamboa said: "No." He also said he thought he could have continued.
Sure you could have, Yuri.
Gamboa had a great approach to start out, but he had no answer once Crawford switched to southpaw.
Instead of continuing to employ the head movement and defense that led to his early success, he kept his hands low and left himself vulnerable.
Crawford showed himself to be a true star in boxing. He doesn't just have speed and power; he has the rare ability to adjust midfight. That's something Kim honed in on as he summed up Crawford's night:
From looking at these punch stats, you wouldn't be able to tell that Gamboa had a huge lead to start the fight. That's how significantly Crawford turned the tide from the fifth round on:
Adjustments in battle are what separates good fighters from great ones.
It is clear, Crawford has everything needed to be great.
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