Terence “Bud” Crawford, Omaha’s pride and last Saturday, fists— defended his WBO lightweight championship in an all-action war Saturday against Cuban defect Yuriorkis Gamboa.
Omaha’s first world title fight since Joe Frazier defeated Ron Stander in 1972 ended in the ninth-round when Crawford put Gamboa on the mat for the fourth time in four rounds. Crawford landed 146 of 348 punches (42 percent) to Gamboa’s 82 of 345 (24 percent).
— HBOboxing (@HBOboxing) June 29, 2014
A calendar year ago, Gamboa appeared poised to be the next star in boxing, but his foiling at the hands of Crawford certainly puts distance between the thought and reality. The mind-bending speed, ego-driven temperament, and wildness that have become Gamboa’s signatures were bested by the precision and power of Crawford. When Gamboa could no longer dictate the pace, Crawford became the fight’s metronome—hammering the body, landing combinations to the head. More importantly, he was patient. It didn’t matter that Crawford used the first 12 minutes as a litmus test, losing on most scorecards, the subsequent rapture left Gamboa on his back and Crawford holding the belt above him.
How was it that a fight pitting two fighters with precisely 23 wins, six first-round knockouts, eight-fight knockout streaks, and unblemished records—the exact same resumes—ended up in the manner it did?
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) June 29, 2014
Crawford has developed a dexterity few are told to apply: he switches boxing stances in the ring. Fighters are often told to refrain from switching because it’s a high-risk, high-reward move.
The last three fights have left Crawford either losing or effectively even after the first four rounds. However, he has then switched to southpaw in all of them, fashioned a more effective jab, and dominated the remainder of the fight.
Manny Pacquiao has been known to throw in the mix of orthodox and southpaw styles depending on the fight, but Crawford’s use is more tactical. Like Sugar Ray Leonard, the tactic is often infused from Rounds 4 to 8—the period of the fight where adjustments are essential and often reveal the winner. Crawford is the first to tell you he isn’t one-dimensional; he’s as adaptable a fighter as contemporary boxing has.
Crawford isn’t known to pack the fieriest punch in the sport, let alone within the 140-pound division he’s governed since becoming a professional. Since November 2012, Crawford has won just two fights via knockout and has gone to decision three times. His versatility keeps opponents off-balance, but his ability to outbox them carries far more weight than a knockout prowess. Prior to his fight with Gamboa, Crawford was on average 3.7 pounds lighter than his opponents. Despite the size advantage (137.75 to 128.27), Crawford hadn’t faced a fighter packing as much power as Gamboa.
Scotland’s Ricky Burns hadn’t lost a world title fight until he met Crawford in March. The Glasgow crowd couldn’t suppress Crawford’s cross and hook combinations, and he beat the hometown kid by unanimous decision.
Crawford’s 71.4 percent punching power is currently second best in the lightweight division (No. 1: Gamboa), per BoxStat, but it’s his combination of skills that create the mismatch. His ability to duck, counter, trade styles, rattles off combinations, and suffocate the gameplan of his opponents that widens the gap. He’ll pepper you in high volume (81 punches per round vs. Sidney Siqueira) or stalk you like a wolf waiting for openings (43.2 punches per round vs. Breidis Prescott); it all depends on the context of the fight. Crawford is a jack-of-all-trades, master of none fighter—and brings nothing but electricity when he enters a ring.
“I showed that I can take a punch. I showed that I can keep my mind focused. I showed that I can not get frustrated, that I could come from behind, that I can trade, if need-be,” Crawford said after Saturday’s fight. “I showed that I could be a crowd-pleaser. I just felt like this was a long time coming. When everybody asked me when they were going to see more out of Terence Crawford, I always told them, ‘Just put me in there with somebody.’”
In the aftermath of the fight, Crawford has been heralded as a star in the making. The combination of precision and fortitude may as well have been laced in his gloves the night he bested Gamboa not twenty minutes from his home. Those walking out of the CenturyLink Center that night won’t soon forget the night Terence Crawford became the kingpin of the 135-pound division, turning Omaha into the boxing capital of the globe in the process.
Josh Planos has had his work featured at Rivals, Bleacher Report, Denver Post, CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio, and ESPN Radio, and is currently a columnist for the ESPN TrueHoop Network, FanSided and The Pick and Roll. He loves interacting with readers via Twitter (@JPlanos).