Ending aside, there’s no doubt Terence Crawford was the far superior fighter Saturday night, after he earned an unusual sixth-round TKO against Amir Khan, who did not continue after getting hit with an accidental low blow.
Before that occurred, it was Crawford who dominated the action. A counter right hand and a clean-up left hook had the often fragile Khan on the canvas in the first round. In the subsequent rounds, Crawford surgically dissected Khan, who managed to get in a few good punches but was simply overwhelmed by the tactical brilliance of his opponent.
Crawford at present is the most adaptable and versatile fighter in the sport. He has an uncanny ability to adjust on the fly, which is augmented by his constant change in stance. One way or another, Omaha’s finest will at first decipher his foes and then decimate them with a cold and calculating efficiency.
He’s also as ruthless a finisher as there is in the sport, which is why Khan’s trainer, Virgil Hunter, told ESPN he decided to pull the plug on the fight when he did. He understood his job is to protect his fighter, and ultimately, he did his job. Hunter couldn’t save him from losing, but he saved him from a prolonged beating.
The consensus is that Crawford and Vasiliy Lomachenko are the two best fighters in the sport. The question at this moment is not whether anyone can beat them, but can they find decent dance partners while they’re still in their physical primes? Although Lomachenko, who handily defeated Anthony Crolla last week in Los Angeles, is being set up to possibly unify the lightweight division, the future prospects aren’t so clear for Crawford.
Now, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a clear favorite for the fight that should be made. The boxing world wants a Crawford showdown with IBF welterweight titlist Errol Spence Jr., who recently shut out Mikey Garcia at AT&T Stadium. Although it seems Spence has more options on his side of the street since winning his title against Kell Brook in 2017, he has faced the likes of Lamont Peterson, Carlos O’Campo and Garcia.
”The welterweight division in packed,” said Spence on the night of March 16. “You got Terence Crawford, you got Shawn Porter, you’ve got Keith Thurman, you’ve got guys like [Yordenis] Ugas, you’ve got Danny Garcia. So it’s packed, and it’s a loaded division.”
But there’s only one fight that truly matters: Crawford-Spence. Everything else is just really a consolation prize. The fans want this fight, Crawford and Spence need it for their legacy, and the business of boxing — and its power brokers — needs it for its own credibility.
“It’s going to take everyone to cooperate,” said Spence when asked how it could be consummated.
After the main event on Saturday night, Bob Arum stood in the ring and made it clear he would do everything in his power to make this fight, but Al Haymon, who handles the career of Spence, would continue to be an obstruction. Basically, the two need to dance, and unfortunately, it’s not going to be easy.
Crawford has had a series of solid victories, ranging from Ricky Burns, Yuriorkis Gamboa and Viktor Postol. He is a three-division champion and was the undisputed ruler at junior welterweight. It’s certainly a solid résumé, but it does lack that one signature win.
The same could be said of Spence. The two need each other, and if they do meet up, the boxing world would be in for a treat.
While Crawford is the present, it’s clear that Teofimo Lopez is the future.
Lopez defeated Edis Tatli in four rounds on Saturday night, finishing Tatli off with a single right hand to the body. It’s not just that Lopez wins, but it’s the flair with which he does so. As he did with the likes of William Silva, Mason Menard and Diego Magdaleno, Lopez left an impression on the audience Saturday.
Unlike Shakur Stevenson, another bright prospect who was taken the distance while dominating Christopher Diaz, Lopez once again left the people wanting more.
“We promised to take over the show, and once again, I took it over,” said Lopez. “I didn’t have the best camp, but I did what I needed to do and came out victorious. I knew I was going to get him with a body shot. I softened him up and finished him.”
There are growing concerns that the young, pugilistic prodigy needs a more professional and stable training environment, but it’s hard to knock the results thus far. Truth be told, this was more or less a workmanlike effort from Lopez, who showed only flashes of his vast offensive arsenal to begin this fight against Tatli, who had never been stopped in his previous 33 fights.
On this particular night, the talented and precocious Lopez was the main supporting bout on the pay-per-view card. It will most likely be the last time he will be on any undercard. Despite his relative inexperience of only 13 fights, it’s clear that Lopez is an advanced prospect who has become a legitimate lightweight contender.
But don’t tell Lopez he’s a prospect anymore. Instead, he believes he’s a soon-to-be world champion. That’s definitely possible, but that first championship opportunity isn’t likely to come against Lomachenko.
There are two realities that exist in the scenario that prevent a megafight against Lomachenko from happening. First, Lomachenko (who holds the WBA and WBO titles) has made it clear that unless Lopez has a belt around his waist, he really has no interest in facing him. And second, Lopez is having increasing difficulty making the 135-pound limit. At 21 years of age, his body is naturally growing out of the division.
Given that dilemma, the plans are really up in the air for Lopez. Ideally, he’d secure a few more fights that will put him in position to fight for one of the lightweight titles, but to get to that point, he would need some better competition. There aren’t many who want to step in the ring with him at this time, but opponents will be found and the journey to a title will continue.
Once Top Rank is able to pull all of that together, Lopez will seize the spotlight as the main event — a place he’ll have earned, and a place he’ll likely stay for a very, very long time.