CRAWFORD STOPS KAVALIAUSKAS IN 9, RETAINS WORLD TITLE
On Saturday, Dec. 14, WBO welterweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford defended his 147-pound title with a ninth round TKO of Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The TKO of Kavaliauskas was Crawford’s third successful defense of his WBO title.
Though Kavaliauskas was a clear underdog going into the bout, he performed fairly well in the early rounds. After a quiet first round that could have been scored either way, Kavaliauskas tagged Crawford with some notable shots in the second.
Then, in the third round, Kavaliauskas hit Crawford with a right hand that appeared to stun the champion. After the right hand landed, Crawford grabbed onto Kavaliauskas to recover as Kavaliauskas was throwing a follow up combination, but fell to the canvas while doing so. Referee Ricky Gonzalez ruled it a slip.
The ESPN broadcast team at ringside was critical of Gonzalez’s call, believing that Crawford went down as a result of being hurt from punches. Either way, the shots from Kavaliauskas ignited something in Crawford, as the defending champion came out aggressively in round four.
Crawford began to land more often in the middle rounds, backing Kavaliauskas up and hitting him with right hooks and straight left hands. In the seventh, Crawford hurt Kavaliauskas badly with right hand, sending the challenger to the canvas. Kavaliauskas got up, but took more punishment from Crawford during the closing seconds of the round.
Finally, in the ninth round, Crawford found Kavaliauskas with another right hand to create a second knockdown. While a wobbly Kavaliauskas beat the referee’s count, Crawford closed the distance quickly and followed up with one right hook that sent the challenger down again. Feeling that Kavaliauskas was taking too much punishment, Ricky Gonzalez called a halt to the bout.
With the win over Kavaliauskas, Crawford now looks to fight bigger and better names in the welterweight division, although a potential fight with WBC/IBF champion Errol Spence Jr. may not materialize for a while as a result of Spence’s injuries from a horrific car crash in October.
Despite coming up short in his first world title fight, Kavaliauskas gave a good account of himself and has opened the door for other big opportunities in the near future.
In the co-main event, 22-year-old lightweight phenom Teofimo Lopez captured the IBF title by stopping defending champ Richard Commey inside two rounds. This is Lopez’s first title in 15 fights.
After a closely contested first round, Teofimo landed a massive right hand in the second that sent a concussed Commey wobbling around the ring before falling to the canvas. Commey managed to beat the count, but was immediately swarmed by Lopez and was stopped seconds later to spare him anymore punishment.
Lopez now appears to be on a collision course with WBO/WBA lightweight champion and pound-for-pound superstar Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KO) for a unification fight in 2020.