(via @HBOBoxing on Twitter)
Terence Crawford is a lot of things after Saturday night: the true lightweight champion of the world; a candidate for Fighter of the Year; perhaps the best test for Manny Pacquiao outside of Floyd Mayweather; and someone who’s going to start getting some pound-for-pound top 10 buzz. It was a big victory for him on HBO over Raymundo Beltran against his highest-ranked opponent at 135 pounds, if not his hardest. And it confirmed what we already knew — the kid they call “Bud” is the total package.
Crawford did what was expected, which was to dominate, winning a decision where he hardly lost one clear round (119-109, 119-109, 120-108, officially). That says more about Crawford than it does Beltran. Beltran actually fought pretty well over the first half of the fight. He was, arguably, too cautious, not charging in and throwing punches with abandon. To be fair, he had good reason. Crawford is a pure boxer, but he can punch, too. Beltran learned that in the 3rd, where, after landing a great, long right hand, Crawford surged back with a right of his own that wobbled the Mexican.
Otherwise, it was Crawford’s jab from the southpaw stance with some hooks liberally sprinkled in. The jab puffed up Beltran’s eye, and by the middle rounds, he had Beltran backing up. Beltran won the 5th on my scorecard, then, maybe, the 9th, thanks to some power punching. Otherwise, he was frustrated plenty. Beltran probably wouldn’t beat every other lightweight on Saturday night, like HBO’s team said (Miguel Vazquez, anyone?). But he was good enough to confirm he’d earned his status as the #2 lightweight in the world.
It’s just that there’s nothing Crawford can’t do. He is a boxer by nature, sure, but he also has a commendable fighting spirit — if you hit him, best believe he’s gonna hit you back. He takes enough risks that he gets hit when he might otherwise not. In 2014, he now has wins over Ricky Burns, Yuriorkis Gamboa — in a Fight of the Year candidate — and Beltran to become lightweight champion. That’s a good year.
The new Transnational Boxing Rankings Board champ at 135 is already planning to move up to 140. There are some wonderful targets there: champion Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse, Adrien Broner, and, yes, Pacquiao. If Crawford can retain the power at 140 he has at 135, he can beat any of them.