By Sally Fahey
Terence Crawford laid quite a claim last night in Vegas.
Already a winner of world titles in two weight classes, Crawford aimed to make a big impression in his first fight in the 147-pound division that several of the sport’s best call home, and he did so by dominating Jeff Horn.
Crawford punished Horn in a one-sided fight, stopping him in the ninth round to win a world title in his third division in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card before 8,112 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“Like I told you all before, I’m strong. I was way stronger than him. You all kept telling me how strong he was, so I had to go and show you,” Crawford said. “I just had to get in the ring and prove it. You saw what I did in there. My power carried up, my physicality. Now I want all the champions at welterweight.”
Crawford, of Omaha, Nebraska, came into the fight already universally considered one of boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. The near-flawless performance against Horn should only burnish his reputation.
Crawford had already won a world title at lightweight and then moved up to junior welterweight, in which last August he became only the third fighter of the four-belt era to unify the titles of all four major sanctioning bodies when he blitzed Julius Indongo in a third-round knockout to take his two belts and become the undisputed champion at 140 pounds.
Then it was on to the welterweight division that boasts fighters such as titleholders Errol Spence Jr. and Keith Thurman, not to mention former champion Manny Pacquiao and former titleholders Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who has promoted fights for more than 50 years, was very impressed with Crawford and compared him to a legend.
“His future is unlimited. He’s a terrific fighter. It’s the highest praise I can give a fighter, a welterweight, that he reminds me of Sugar Ray Leonard,” said Arum, who promoted several Leonard fights. “That to me is a great, great compliment because I always thought Leonard was the best, and this guy is equal or better than Ray.”
Crawford, Horn’s mandatory challenger, put his name into the mix for major fights with any of them if they can be made, but first he had to deal with Australia’s Horn, who made his United States debut for the second defense of the world title he lifted from Pacquiao by controversial decision last July before 51,000 people at Suncorp Stadium in his hometown of Brisbane.
Crawford’s dominance was illustrated by the CompuBox punch statistics. He landed 155 of 367 punches (42 percent), and Horn landed 58 of 257 (23 percent), none of which seemed to do much of anything.
“He was hard to tag, and he just kept me guessing,” Horn said. “He’s a classy fighter who fought a great fight.”
The 30-year-old Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs), who came out immediately in a southpaw stance, caught Horn (18-1-1, 12 KOs) with a hard left hand in the first few seconds of the fight to knock him off balance. Crawford’s speed advantage was evident immediately in a round Crawford appeared to win easily.
Horn, aiming for another huge upset, had a big contingent of fans who chanted “Hornet! Hornet!,” but they couldn’t fight for him, as Crawford continued to land in the second round, including a straight left hand down the middle that rocked Horn.
Crawford was in total control the entire fight, including in the third round as he landed right hooks, straight left hands and clean jabs that rocked Horn’s head back. Horn, who suffered a small cut over his right eye in the fourth round, had no answers for anything, and it didn’t get much better.
Crawford, meanwhile, looked like he was having fun. He stuck his tongue out and wound up with some punches as he nailed Horn with heavy shots from all angles, especially straight lefts, in what was easy work.
When Horn, 30, bulled Crawford to the ropes in the sixth round, Crawford got away after landing a left uppercut that stunned Horn.
In the eighth round, Crawford, who is adept at switching stances, turned right-handed and continued to find a home for his blows. He had Horn in big trouble as he lashed him with crushing punches that probably would have put opponents away when he fought in the smaller junior welterweight and lightweight divisions. But Horn, who earned $1.75 million to Crawford’s $3 million, sopped up the enormous punishment and showed a great chin to take the shots.
But he could take them for only so long. Crawford continued to pound him in the ninth round, landing two right hands and a left that hurt him badly and forced him to touch his gloves to the canvas for a knockdown. Crawford was all over him when the fight resumed, and as he blasted him with both hands, referee Robert Byrd jumped in to stop the fight at 2 minutes, 33 seconds.