“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you’ll go far.”
In Terence Crawford’s case, no stick is necessary — just a big left hand and absolutely lethal boxing abilities.
Crawford (28-0, 20 KO) successfully defended his junior welterweight title — and squashed an awful lot of pre-fight trash talk — with an impressive 5th round stoppage of Hank Lundy (26-6-1, 13 KO) at the sold-out Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York on HBO.
Both fighters looked agitated and ready to mix it up in the opening round. Crawford switched from orthodox to southpaw early, but it was Lundy who initially connected with the harder, wider shots.
Crawford began timing his challenger’s lunging attacks in the 2nd. The champion continued to build momentum in the 3rd and 4th rounds, using his jab to set up power shots with increasing effectiveness. In the 5th, Crawford stunned Lundy with a series of big left hands, knocking the rugged Philadelphian to the canvas. Lundy beat the count, but was still visibly hurt. The champion pounced, wailing away in the corner before referee Steve Willis stepped in to stop the fight.
Tonight’s performance doesn’t change Crawford’s status as a pound-for-pound darling. After losing the Pacquiao sweepstakes to Tim Bradley, he took a sideways step in opposition with Lundy, who’s more of a gatekeeper than legitimate top contender at 140 pounds (although he’s undeniably tough and fan friendly).
The lopsided match-up shouldn’t take away from Crawford’s dominance, though. The 28-year-old Omaha native has a wealth of talent, is as savvy on the attack as he is in defense, and has yet to display any major flaws. He faced an inferior opponent and took him out, leaving nothing to the imagination.
Crawford’s biggest challenge now isn’t any particular pugilist, so much getting anyone who can help him grow his brand in the ring.
In my opinion, Crawford might be the biggest casualty of the cold war between Top Rank and Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions.
Crawford doesn’t lack talent or entertainment value. His name recognition, however, has yet to reach the same peaks. A move up to 147 would open doors with the likes of Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia and even Adrien Broner, but all these bouts are off limits due to the aforementioned cold war.
After the fight, Bob Arum mentioned Ruslan Provodnikov as a potential opponent for Crawford. While that fight would certainly provide fireworks, it feels like a high-risk, low-reward bout that would benefit fans more than Crawford’s stocks.
Interestingly, Lundy might have proposed Crawford’s best next step. In the pre-fight build-up, he claimed that undefeated Ukrainian Viktor Postol is better than Crawford. (Mind you, Lundy also said Dannie Williams and Olusegun Ajose were tougher, too.)
While a Crawford-Postol matchup might not have much mainstream appeal, it would figure to be every bit as much of a slobberknocker as a date with Provodnikov.
No matter where Crawford goes next, one thing is certain — his trajectory is up.
Verdejo Dominates, Bores In Broadcast Opener
Undefeated lightweight Felix Verdejo (20-0, 14 KO) opened the telecast as one of boxing’s most highly touted prospects, but did nothing to build on his prophesied greatness, instead dawdling his way to an uneventful unanimous decision over William Silva (23-1, 14 KO).
Verdejo established his jab from the opening bell. Employing a patient, clinical approach, the former Puerto Rican Olympian used his speed advantage to neutralize Silva’s offense.
While Verdejo dictated the pace the middle rounds, he never seemed interested in gunning for a stoppage. Meanwhile, Silva became less and less interested in fighting, period. Exchanges were few and far between, as Verdejo landed darting jabs, right hands and hooks at will (albeit one at a time) while Silva largely kept his hands at home.
The official scorecards read 100-90, 100-90, 99-91, all in favor of Verdejo. TQBR scored the fight 99-91 in favor of Verdejo.
The stats were as telling as the scorecards. Verdejo landed a modest 106 of 421 total punches, while Silva flashed a woeful 14% connect rate on just 325 punches thrown.
Silva, who entered the fight with a spotless record built almost entirely against low-level opposition in his native Brazil, showed nothing. I hope this is the first and last we ever see of him.
Verdejo, on the other hand, poses a bit of a quandary. The 22 year-old’s hands are as fast as hyped and his technique has been honed beyond that of a raw prospect. What he lacked tonight was aggression, volume and fluidity. Silva’s disinterest did him no favors, but while ESPN’s 2014 Prospect of the Year is now 10 rounds more seasoned, he’s no closer to living up to constant comparisons to Boricua greats Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto.
Top Rank has brought Verdejo along slowly. Though they’ve kept the young fighter busy (he fought eight times in 2013, seven in 2014 and three in 2015), his quality of opposition has hardly been stepped up. With fights already scheduled for both April 16 and June 11, we’ll just have to hope this slow-cooked approach yields tasty results down the road.
Photo: Terence Crawford, right, punches Henry Lundy, left. (Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)