By David Greisman
Low Blow TKO Gives Terence Crawford Victory Over Amir Khan
The ending of Terence Crawford’s fight with Amir Khan was bizarre, anticlimactic and unsatisfying. It deprived boxing fans — and then the 24 hours that followed added insult to injury.
Those of us who are foolishly optimistic hoped that Crawford vs. Khan could be a steppingstone on the way to us seeing Crawford against some of the other top welterweights, including Errol Spence. Then came the cold splash of reality, snapping us back to what we’ve otherwise known all along: Don’t expect to see any of those fights anywhere in the near future.
First, though, let’s recap the Khan fight:
Crawford looked as good as usual — like one of the best fighters, pound-for-pound on the planet, a boxer who is both brilliant and talented. He had no trouble with Khan’s vaunted hand speed, which isn’t what it once was. Crawford avoided Khan’s early shots, attempted counters, and scored big in the first round, avoiding a jab and responding with a right cross that rocked Khan, then a a follow-up left hook that deposited him to the canvas. Khan got up and survived the rest of the first.
Crawford remained mostly in counter mode in the second and third rounds, trying to lure Khan into vulnerability. Khan didn’t let his hands go very often. It was hard enough to try to overcome Crawford’s defense, even harder when he needed to be wary of his offense.
And so Crawford turned up his output in Round 4, letting loose with an extended combination, pot-shotting Khan with hooks and southpaw left crosses and a good number of body shots. That fourth round saw Crawford go 27 of 58, landing 20 of 39 power punches — more than he had in the previous three rounds combined, according to CompuBox.
In-between rounds, Khan’s trainer, Virgil Hunter, could be heard asking Khan how he felt and telling him to work with the left hand. That led to suspicion that Khan’s right hand might’ve been hurt; after the bout, Hunter said that Khan had bone spurs in his elbow, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated.
Khan could still throw the right. He led off Round 5 with a home run of a right hand that otherwise missed its mark. Crawford continued to dominate in an even more one-sided round, going 26 of 53, landing 18 of 29 power punches, all while Khan did less than he had in the previous round.
It was clear which way the fight was going. Which is why the ending was both abrupt and unsatisfying.
Early in the sixth, Crawford went to throw a left to the body while Khan’s arm was pulling Crawford’s head down. The hook landed very low, more on Khan’s leg than his groin. Khan was given time to recover but didn’t take the whole five minutes. Instead he said he couldn’t go on, and Hunter stopped the fight.
“I could feel it in my stomach. I couldn’t continue. I could feel it in my legs,” Khan said afterward, according to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com. “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.”
Khan has indeed been brave in the past, often to a fault. A fighter who’s been knocked out before — and dramatically so by Breidis Prescott and Danny Garcia — still stepped up in weight and stepped in with Canelo Alvarez in 2016, only to be knocked out once again, and dramatically so. He took on this challenge in Crawford.
But we as boxing fans want fighters to go out on their shields. Sometimes, however, they know they’re done beforehand. For Khan, it may have been from the low blow, from the punishment that had accumulated beforehand, from a feeling that the fight was getting away from him, or a combination of any of the above.
The loss dropped Khan to 33-5 with 20 knockouts. And yet he remains in the mix for lucrative fights, particularly if he and British rival Kell Brook finally are able to make a deal. Brook may not want to face Khan, though. More on that below.
Crawford is now 35-0 with 26 KOs. This was his second defense of the world title he won from Jeff Horn last year. Crawford was also a titleholder at lightweight and the undisputed champion at 140.
He’d like the chance to unify at 147. But he’s signed with Top Rank, which has a broadcasting deal with ESPN, while many of the other top welterweights — Errol Spence, Keith Thurman, Manny Pacquiao, Shawn Porter — are with Al Haymon and Premier Boxing Champions, which works primarily with FOX and Showtime.
“There are more great fights ahead of Terence Crawford like the one he had against Amir Khan without pulling Errol Spence into the picture, just as there are several great fights against champions [for Spence].” said PBC spokesman Tim Smith, speaking with Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times. “We’ll let [Bob] Arum handle Top Rank and Crawford’s business while we attend to Errol Spence and Premier Boxing Champions’ business — truly exciting times in boxing and the welterweight division.”
Smith is right that Spence has other options available, whether it’s Thurman, Pacquiao or Porter. Crawford doesn’t have much in the way of options, and what options he has just aren’t as notable.
Egidijus Kavaliauskas was being groomed for a shot; he was held to a draw against Ray Robinson last month and would struggle even worse against Crawford. Kell Brook is being floated as an option, assuming that Brook can make 147 again; he’s been up at 154 since last year.
It’s a shame that the business of the sport continues to get in the way of fights we want to see. Both sides are equally to blame, but their stances are also understandable, however frustrating that might be. They have investments to protect and deals to honor.
The unfortunate reality for Crawford is he needs the other top welterweights right now more than they need him.
Shakur Stevenson Makes Another Big Step Look Easy, Defeats Christopher Diaz
It’s easy sometimes to forget that featherweight Shakur Stevenson has been fighting as a pro for only two years.
He’s that poised and that polished, not only gifted physically with good hand speed and power, but comfortable mentally as well, controlling the action, picking the right shots in the right spots, and dealing with increasingly difficult opposition without it looking overly difficult.
Yes, Stevenson won a silver medal in the 2016 Olympics. But it’s still rare these days for top amateurs to ascend quickly in the pros. They tend to be guided gradually, adding new skills in the gym, passing tests along the way, and learning lessons that can be applied the next time out. Stevenson is now just 11 fights into his pro career. He will continue to grow, but already he looks close to being ready to challenge for a world title.
The 11th win came Saturday night against Christopher Diaz. Stevenson went 10 rounds for the first time, though you can’t really say that he was taken 10 rounds. Rather, it looked like Stevenson allowed the fight to go the distance, winning with defense, with foot movement and boxing.
He also was superior on offense as well. The boos that came in from some in the crowd at Madison Square Garden were likely because talented fighters who are clearly outclassing their opponents are expected to do even more, to kick the action and the domination into a higher gear. Diaz was having a hard time hitting Stevenson. Stevenson looked like he could’ve hit Diaz even more.
Diaz tried what he could, pursuing Stevenson from the opening minutes, cutting off the ring but rarely closing the distance long enough to let his hands go. Stevenson merely changed positions and made Diaz reset, or if he remained, he made Diaz miss. The television cameras often showed Diaz stepping on Stevenson’s lead foot. That’s something that can happen when an orthodox fighter (in this case Diaz) faces a southpaw (Stevenson). But it was also natural to wonder whether it was intentional, whether Diaz was frustrated and trying to get Stevenson to stand still.
Diaz had a better fourth round than the previous three. That was actually the result of Stevenson getting more comfortable on the inside, getting hit on occasion but landing more on Diaz in the process. Stevenson scored what may have been his best punch of the night in the sixth round, landing a left about 40 seconds in that buckled Diaz’s knees.
The disparity in ability was most evident in a brief sequence in the seventh. Diaz at last trapped Stevenson in the corner, only to whiff with all three of the punches he threw. While Diaz was credited by CompuBox with landing more punches than anyone else who had faced Stevenson before, that’s still not saying much.
That’s because Diaz only landed 76 of 345 on the night, a 22 percent connect rate, landing about one shot for every five he threw. That averages out to fewer than eight punches landed per round. Stevenson went 165 of 445, a 37 percent connect rate, landing about one shot for every three he threw, averaging about 16 landed punches per round. He also was notably accurate with his power punches, going 111 of 226, landing about half of what he threw.
He could’ve punished Diaz down the stretch. Instead, Stevenson was content to leave with the wide unanimous decision. One judge had it a shutout at 100-90, while the other judges had it 99-91 (nine rounds to one) and 98-92 (eight rounds to two).
Diaz, who is now 24-2 with 16 knockouts, had suffered his only other defeat last July in a fight for a vacant world title up at junior lightweight, losing a decision to Masayuki Ito. This is another setback for him.
Meanwhile, it’s another step forward for Stevenson, who’s now graduated from 126-pound prospect to 126-pound contender. He’s 11-0 with 6 KOs and continues to have his eyes on a couple of titleholders in his division, particularly Josh Warrington but also Oscar Valdez.
Each of those would represent another big step up for Stevenson. His team may want him to continue to develop further before making those fights — to see how he handles each subsequent test before sending him in for the final exam.
Dave Allen’s Beautiful Body Shot Finishes Lucas Browne in Three
Dave Allen will never be considered one of the best heavyweights in the world. He’s not even close to being one of the best heavyweights in the United Kingdom. But that’s what made his knockout win over Lucas Browne on Saturday all the more enjoyable.
It was the biggest win of his career, by far. And it came seemingly out of nowhere.
Browne used his reach advantage to win the first round, landing single shots and then making the shorter Allen miss. In the second round, Allen missed with a pair of overhand rights, while Browne began to land a right uppercut followed by a left hook or jab with regularity. Allen decided that he could have more success going downstairs and began to target Browne’s body.
He must’ve recognized something in Browne’s reaction — it was a body shot that wound up ending the fight.
Allen began the third having an easier time getting in closer range. Toward the end of the opening minute, he dodged a right uppercut from Browne, blocked a left, then ducked under a right hand. The sequence put Allen in perfect position to land a left hook to the body.
The shot registered on Browne, who took a few steps backward and then went to the canvas, where he remained as the referee counted him out.
Browne is no world-beater himself, but he’d fought and succeeded on a higher level than Allen. He’s now 28-2 with 24 KOs, and at age 40 may want to wind down his career. The other defeat came a year ago, a sixth-round knockout loss to Dillian Whyte.
Allen also lost to Whyte, dropping a decision in 2016. That was the first of his four losses. But he’s now put together four wins in a row, including this headline bout at London’s O2 Arena. He’s now 17-4-2 with 14 KOs and has earned himself another payday — and a highlight that he can revel in for the rest of his days.