Terence Crawford soundly defeats Australia’s Jeff Horn to capture the WBO Welterweight championship – his third division

Super stardom may elude former undisputed Super Lightweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford, but the Omaha native ruthlessly collects belts like they are infinity stones. Last night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs) withstood an early frenzied attack of Horn (18-1-1, 12 KOs), before deftly picking apart the defending champion with a punishing array of precise, well-timed shots until referee Robert Byrd halted the bout with 27 seconds remaining in the 9th round.

Horn caught Crawford with some right hands as he frequently pressed his way inside to attempt to gain control of the momentum of the bout by means of his perceived advantage in physicality and strength. However, in addition to Crawford proving to the champion that he’s slim strong, the 30-year old Omaha native also calmly excelled at punching where Horn was moving to – while fighting off his back foot.

Once Crawford’s tactics forced Horn to scramble for new alternatives, the Aussie’s hesitance created the opening for Crawford to walk to him bombing away in his south paw stance.

Horn’s stamina showed signs of failing him going into the fourth round, and after the punishment mounted, a Crawford flurry over the final minute of round eight hinted that Horn might not be around much longer. Crawford’s ring IQ was the difference in the early rounds. He quickly picked up on the fact Horn was badly hurt at the close of the eighth, so he pressed for the stoppage the next round, scoring a knock down well before the first minute.

The action resumed but moments later Byrd stepped in between the two fighters during another Crawford flurry to protect a defenseless Horn. After a few rounds of smiles and playful winks, Crawford backed away while briefly shimmying his shoulders to lead his ringside constituency in a brief celebration of a job well done.

But, what did we really learn about the new champion’s future at the talent-laden Welterweight division? Team Crawford certainly should have enjoyed its accomplishment all the night, but today a few key questions remain.

Can Crawford ever garner any star power?

Fans held wide-ranging views on the scope of the fight’s promotion in the preceding weeks that led up to fight night. Author and ESPN commentator Mark Kriegel wrote an in-depth profile on Crawford on ESPN’s boxing page. ESPN aired a sit down with trainer Teddy Atlas earlier in the fight week. Some of the action from the undercard generated some electricity going into the main event. Former P4P champion Andre Ward’s analysis and insight helped to buttress some of the pre-fight time-filling moments of the commentator trio. And then ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna did his pre-fight interview with Crawford.

In contrast to Crawford, NFL coach Bill Belichick and NBA coach Greg Popovich almost come off as uncontrollable motor-mouths.

Not every boxer is as skilled or interesting on the microphone as they are in the ring. No real knock on Crawford here. He could talk a lot or he could be as off-putting as an Adrien Broner, and fans would make of it whatever they want. However, after watching Crawford enjoy himself while participating in this year’s celebrity game during the NBA’s All Star Weekend activities, this author thought maybe there was a thawing of the ice regarding Crawford’s comfort level with media.

As focus moves to making any of these potential unification fights, Crawford may never become a better interview during the final moments before a marquee fight. Crawford did show some life during the post-fight interview. Hopefully in the future either Top Rank or ESPN will look for certain settings or personalities to pair Crawford with so that he feels more comfortable to open up more.

On social media the new WBO champion’s feeds regularly feature a lot of heartfelt posts and photos about his young kids’ sports events, as well as his girlfriend Alindra Person. Frankly, Crawford may be a similar type of family man as Ward, and just not share the retired fighter’s interest to be one of the better respected voices of boxing.

At the end of the day, fans may just have to accept that Crawford’s content with being exceptional at his primary job. A fighter who’s willing to accept the game’s biggest challenges.

Did Crawford’s power make the trip to 147-pounds?

Crawford stopped Horn. That feat was the expected outcome for the overwhelming majority. Manny Pacquiao bludgeoned Horn in the 9th round of their fight. Crawford closed the show in the same frame. Based on Horn’s fatigue, and him being so easy to find for Crawford; Crawford’s punching power at Welterweight isn’t definitive for this author. He certainly can still get the attention of opposing Welterweight.

Crawford doesn’t necessarily need to be a lethal puncher for him to be successful in the division. And, he will likely feature a more balanced punching attack in his future bouts. Crawford focused more on head shots to deal with Horn, as a result of his clear belief that many levels separated the two fighters. When he faces the other proven fighters in the division expect to see a vastly different punch selection, as well as the ways he chooses to set up the delivery of those shots and combinations.

Is Crawford really strong enough to handle a bigger Welterweight like IBF champion Errol Spence Jr?

Crawford showed he was stronger than Horn, and did so very early in their fight. But, Crawford used Horn’s movement to his benefit, slipping out to either side while landing shots when Horn charged inside. Byrd didn’t live up to the Horn team’s expectations that he would disallow the defending champion from working inside, possibly roughing Crawford up while in close quarters. Horn rarely got to body up Crawford and get his feet set to accomplish anything.

Facing Spence would be a completely different task. Spence’s relentless body attack is a staple of the Texan’s offense, but he doesn’t recklessly charge inside free-swinging. His attack is deliberate, educated, and Spence gets a return on his investment more often than not. Beyond his punching, Spence doesn’t waste time with elbowing and head butts to create contact, he often employs a stiff arm to corral or re-position his opponent. Spence also punches with a good base, so he has enough power on his shots to either partially punch through the guard, or move it so there’s an opening for the subsequent punch.

As expected, Horn didn’t test Crawford in these ways, so there’s still some intrigue involving how the division’s newest champion’s strengths match up with those of one of its best champions.

Crawford’s mentioned Spence as a desired opponent over the past year – the fighters’ hometowns of Omaha and Dallas hearken back to the Big 12 Conference’s old Cornhusker-Longhorns rivalry. So, thoughts of a unification start with a Spence fight, but there are interesting questions in a potential bout with the Danny Garcia vs. Shawn Porter winner. Or, Keith Thurman if he ever finds his way back into the discussion.

All in all, Crawford’s Welterweight debut was a success. Crawford seems to approve of Top Rank and CEO Bob Arum’s handling of his career. The now three-division champion seems to have moved past his off-the-field issues that set him back a couple of years ago. Let’s hope the combination of his family and his aspirations in the sport keep him focused; and that if he’s successful in the challenges he’s willing to accept, that the real will truly recognize the real. If Terence “Bud” Crawford hasn’t shown us that he’s real yet, then  former two-division world champion and ESPN analyst Tim Bradley’s assertion last night might be spot on  – he’s the Black Panther!

Header photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Body photos by Top Rank 



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