Terence Crawford is on a mission to unify the belts at junior welterweight, but it's becoming readily apparent he needs to seek out new challenges soon.
The 29-year-old from Nebraska has thoroughly dominated the some of the best the 140-pound division has to offer, the latest exhibition an 11th-round technical knockout win over Felix Diaz at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, his fifth defense of his WBO and WBC world titles.
HBO Boxing showed the stoppage:
Watch: Felix Diaz's corner ends the fight in Round 11 of #CrawfordDiaz. https://t.co/eihofLbHhS2017-5-21 03:44:31
CBS Sports' Brian Campbell and Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole gushed about Crawford's virtuoso display:
Kevin Iole @KevinI
And Diaz does indeed stop it. Absolutely outstanding performance by Crawford. Amazing fighter. Sensational.2017-5-21 03:41:16
Brian Campbell @BCampbellCBS
That's it. TKO for Crawford. Crown him. He is who we thought he was.2017-5-21 03:41:05
It was typical of a Crawford fight: a couple of rounds where the Omaha native studies his opponent, throwing out probing (and accurate) jabs to tease out reactions and weak points before honing in and issuing a savage beatdown.
Diaz, a former Olympic gold medalist at junior welterweight, had a few moments of brutal grace, and he connected on some punches that were probably the hardest Crawford has been hit in a couple of years.
However, he absorbed far more damage than he dished out, and his swollen, bloody face was all the evidence anyone needed by the end of the 10th round when his corner refused to let him go out for the next.
In his post-match comments on the HBO broadcast, Crawford named Manny Pacquiao, Julius Indongo and Keith Thurman as boxers he would like to take on.
Indongo might be the likeliest next opponent if the politics of boxing don't get in the way, as the 34-year-old Namibian was in attendance for the fight and has the IBF and IBO junior welterweight belts that Crawford covets, per ESPN.com's Dan Rafael:
"Well, I never kept track of how many people have ever had held all four titles, but it is one of my goals to say that I am undisputed champion. I watched the [Indongo-Burns] fight and he put on a great performance. He did what he had to do to get the job done. He's tall and rangy and he can box. It would be a good fight."
Indongo certainly got to see the best of Crawford on Saturday night.
Diaz proved his skill and toughness in the first few rounds, tagging Crawford with a couple of very solid hooks that had the champion in retreat. Utilizing a southpaw stance for the duration of the bout, Crawford kept the bout under control with a solid, active jab and by the end of the third round, had the timing down on his power punches.
Saturday Night Boxing's Adam Abramowitz praised Crawford's third round:
The fighting pride of Omaha, Nebraska @budcrawford402 reigns supreme at The Mecca of Boxing. (photo: Scott Levy / MSG Photos) #CrawfordDiaz https://t.co/GE6U4Tlek22017-5-21 03:53:14
HBO Boxing showed some of his work from that frame:
adam abramowitz @snboxing
That was elite stuff from Crawford in the 3rd round.2017-5-21 03:12:34
Diaz's aggression helped him land some sound blows, but it often led him intro trouble as well. Crawford's unshakeable calm and expert timing allowed him to crack Diaz with several vicious uppercuts, something the Dominican found impossible to match.
NYFights.com's Michael Woods noticed the punishment taking a toll as the fight wore on:
Watch: @budcrawford402's combo and defense against Felix Diaz in Round 3 of #CrawfordDiaz. https://t.co/WfaKm2PT2d2017-5-21 03:18:45
Indeed, Crawford had fewer traps to lay in the later rounds, and had plenty of success firing barrages of shots straight through the gaps in Diaz's defenses.
Crawford might've lulled himself into a false sense of security by the seventh, as Diaz was able to score a counter left hook that had been missing for a few rounds.
Ring Magazine's Mike Coppinger felt Diaz might land a couple more of those bombs:
Michael Woods @Woodsy1069
Diaz now easier to hit. Reflexes dimming.2017-5-21 03:22:36
Diaz paid a price for hitting Crawford, as the latter stepped up his aggression and began taunting him mercilessly, sticking his tongue out and making it known he wasn't fazed at all.
The next couple of rounds went in a similar fashion, Crawford alternating deadly accurate power punches with humiliating taunts. Diaz is a solid boxer, but there was nothing in this for him by that late stage and his corner was right to stop the bout early.
The boxing world is open to Crawford, so long as people dare to step in the ring with him. A fight with Pacquiao would bring him worldwide attention win or lose, while a bout against Indongo would make for a nice bit of history if he won and unified the division.
Crawford's talent and skill are undeniable at this point. If he is to truly capitalize on his pugilistic gifts, he is going to need to opponents that put him to the test.