NEW YORK — The argument over who is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world has been largely a two-man discussion between unified lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko and welterweight titlist Terence Crawford, who have had a chance to make their latest statements within eight days of each other.
Last week, it was Lomachenko, the three-division champion, who destroyed former lightweight titlist Anthony Crolla by one-sided, one-punch knockout in the fourth round. Crawford kept pace with a sixth-round knockout of Amir Khan on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, but not in the authoritative way he might have wanted.
The fight ended in the sixth round, when Khan’s trainer, Virgil Hunter, told referee David Fields that Khan could not continue after an accidental low blow in the main event of the first Top Rank Boxing on ESPN pay-per-view card.
“I want to apologize to all the fans. The fight was just getting interesting,” Khan said. “Terence is a great fighter. I’m not taking anything away from him. I now realize why he’s one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. I’m a good boxer but he was showcasing great skills, great movement.
“I was caught with shot below the belt. I could feel it in my stomach. I couldn’t continue. I could feel it in my legs. I’m a warrior. I would never give up in a fight like this. I was in pain. I couldn’t move. I could not continue. I’m not one to give up in any fight. I fight to the end. I’m gonna come back stronger from this.”
It was a disappointing ending to an otherwise strong showing from Crawford, who dominated but was nonetheless robbed of a chance to close his second title defense in style.
“I could tell I was breaking him down. It was just a matter of time,” Crawford said. “I just took my time. I was disappointed the corner stopped the fight in that manner, but Virgil is a great coach, and he was looking out for his fighter. I know he didn’t want to go out like that.”
Andre Ward assesses Terence Crawford’s performance in his TKO win over Amir Khan, saying that “Bud” is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Crawford nearly knocked Khan out in the first round. He nailed Khan with a right hand near the ear that badly rocked him and then floored him with a left hand. Khan got up quickly but was unsteady, and Crawford, normally a slow starter, was all over him.
Crawford had Khan holding on and then caught him with more punches that nearly knocked him down again as the round came to an end.
Khan tried to move and collect himself in the second round, and though Crawford was patient, he managed to clip Khan again and knocked him off-balance.
The fight became a bit of a boxing match in the third round, as Crawford turned southpaw, as he often does, and looked to reach Khan with his right jab. Khan had problems getting any real offense going and seemed more concerned with protecting his chin than landing his punches.
There was good action in the fourth round, when Khan (33-5, 20 KOs), 32, of England, finally began to land punches and stood up to solid ones as well. But he also appeared to hurt his right hand.
They exchanged many punches in the fifth round, but Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs), 31, of Omaha, Nebraska, appeared to hurt Khan, who took the punch and shook his head — a sure sign that he felt the shot.
Early in the sixth round, Crawford landed a left hand very low that clearly hurt Khan, who was given time to recover from Fields. But during the recovery time, Khan still appeared to be in pain, and Hunter said Khan could not go on. Fields stopped the fight at 47 seconds, leaving the crowd of 14,091 booing.
Teddy Atlas wonders whether Amir Khan should have fought through and continued against Terence Crawford.
“He couldn’t get his legs back, and he said he couldn’t go on,” Hunter said. “He told me he wanted to wait for a minute and see if he could get his legs back, but the pain was too much. You get hit in the testicles on the side, and scientific studies show it can incapacitate you. He’s never shown any indication in his career that he would quit. It was my decision to make the call.”
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said he thought Khan could have kept fighting.
“I think he could have continued. He had five minutes to recover,” Arum said, noting that Khan did not use all of the time. “It was an accidental low blow, and he could have recovered. Virgil saved his fighter. I think Khan didn’t want to continue. It seemed that way.”
According to CompuBox statistics, Crawford landed 88 of 211 punches (42 percent), and Khan landed 44 of 182 (24 percent). When the fight was stopped, Crawford led 50-44 on one card and 49-45 on the other two.
Saturday’s fight was Khan’s 10th world title bout.
Khan, a former unified junior welterweight world titleholder, came into the fight unbeaten as a welterweight and won two fights in a row following a 23-month layoff after an audacious attempt to win a middleweight title from Canelo Alvarez in 2016. That fight resulted in a crushing sixth-round knockout loss for Khan.
Back in his more natural weight division, Khan was hopeful of using his similar speed and power to get past Crawford and author what would have been one of the biggest upsets in British boxing history. But he didn’t come close.
Crawford, who earned a minimum of $5.5 million to Khan’s minimum $5 million, had heard plenty about Khan’s speed leading up to the fight but was not very impressed.
“[Jose] Benavidez and [Yuriorkis] Gamboa were 10 times faster than him,” Crawford said, comparing Khan with two opponents he had knocked out.
With the fight over, disappointing or not, Crawford and Arum turned their attention to what they want next — and it’s the same fight most boxing fans want: a 147-pound unification fight with Errol Spence Jr. (25-0, 21 KOs). Spence shut out lightweight world titlist Mikey Garcia, who moved up two weight classes to challenge him, on March 16.
“The fight I want next is Errol Spence,” Crawford said. “Whenever he is ready, he can come and get it.”
Arum was far more vocal about the situation and called out Al Haymon, the Premier Boxing Champions boss who directs the career of Spence as well as those of welterweight titleholders Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter and former longtime Top Rank fighter Manny Pacquiao.
Arum and Haymon have long been bitter rivals and rarely make fights together, the exception being the 2015 showdown between Floyd Mayweather and Pacquiao in boxing’s richest fight. Now they are affiliated with different broadcasters, Top Rank with ESPN and Premier Boxing Champions with Showtime and Fox, but Arum said a deal can be made.
Using sometimes salty language, Arum blamed Haymon, who does not speak to the media, for blocking not only a Crawford-Spence fight but also fights such as an undisputed heavyweight world title fight between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder.
“We want to fight Errol Spence,” Arum said. “Everyone wants the fight. There is one guy stopping it, and that is Al Haymon.
“Al Haymon won’t make fights. Spence won’t fight Crawford, not because of Spence but because of Al Haymon. He’s running a scam of a company. People have to realize he is ruining the sport of boxing. To not make a Spence fight with Crawford, which is a fight that all fight fans want, why? He only has his fighters fight in his own camp, unless he gets fighters he knows his fighters can beat. That’s the scam. Spence believes he will beat Crawford. Al Haymon does not believe. I’m looking to make the fight and do it on the most reasonable terms.”