BOXING FEATURED

Crawford Unseats Horn, Santa Cruz Takes Mares Rematch

Terence Crawford Easily Bests Jeff Horn, Adds Welterweight Title to Collection

 Terence Crawford arrived in the welterweight division Saturday night by sending Jeff Horn packing, out-boxing him and breaking him down over the course of nine rounds to win a welterweight title.

It was the result nearly everyone expected — everyone except Horn, his team and his loyal fans.

Horn believed he belonged in the ring with the best fighters in the world after winning a highly controversial decision over Manny Pacquiao last year. Except anyone with a working pair of eyes and half a brain saw Pacquiao winning that fight, even if that older, declining version of Pacquiao had more trouble with Horn than the phenomenal younger version of Pacquiao would’ve.

Horn’s not a bad fighter, but there was a big difference between what he brings to the ring and what Crawford is capable of doing.

Crawford is one of the best boxers in the world, an all-around fighter who is tremendously skilled on defense and offense.

He was calm and comfortable despite Horn’s pressure. He easily made Horn miss, dodging and ducking and blocking shots, using angles and movement and timing to throw Horn off. He absorbed the rare blows that did land. He set up counters from the outset, walking Horn into a hard southpaw left hand in the first round, lacing in quick lead blows on other occasions when Horn was in range and getting ready to attack.

Crawford wasn’t just the more skilled, more savvy boxer, but the stronger man in the ring. He not there to be bullied, which sapped any of Horn’s remaining, waning confidence. It was Crawford who controlled the clinches. That, and Crawford’s uppercuts from in close, took away what little hope Horn had on those rare occasions he got inside. Meanwhile, Crawford continued to dig in hard left hands to the body, the same shot that finished Julius Indongo last year.

 

The situation got even worse once Crawford hurt Horn toward the end of the eighth and began to unleash further punishment, including a left hand that buckled Horn’s knees just before the bell. Crawford continued to potshot Horn in the ninth, scoring a knockdown with a left hand when Horn’s gloves touched the canvas. Referee Robert Byrd issued a count, and then Crawford continued to throw, convincing the referee to step in and end the proceedings.

Crawford moved to 33-0 with 24 knockouts. He now has three world titles; he also had a reign at lightweight and was the undisputed world champion at junior welterweight.

The allure of welterweight has been there for some time, what with all the big names that tend to ply their trade at 147. It’s just a question of whether the fights can be made, what with promotional and network allegiances. Crawford may have just arrived in the division, but there’s no need to wait to see him against the likes of Errol Spence or Keith Thurman.

We’re more likely to see Crawford take on the winner of July’s fight against Manny Pacquiao and Lucas Matthysse.

Horn is now 18-1-1 with 12 KOs.

Leo Santa Cruz Wins Abner Mares Rematch, Looks to Unify Against Gary Russell Jr.

Saturday night’s rematch between Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares was the kind of battle where you’d be tempted to say that there were really no losers, that both men would be elevated by their performances.

Unfortunately, that’s not completely true.

It was Santa Cruz who won the close, competitive fight and who gets to move on toward the next big thing, eyeing a unification bout with fellow featherweight titleholder Gary Russell Jr.

That leaves Mares looking for something else. He called for a third fight with Santa Cruz in a post-fight interview. He’ll have to wait.

That’s a similar position as to where both men were after their first meeting nearly three years ago.

Mares had fought valiantly back then, only to come up short. He bided his team against other contenders, staying busy and keeping himself in position for another shot. Santa Cruz, meanwhile, cashed in on the victory and transitioned into a two-fight series with Carl Frampton, losing their first collision but triumphing in their sequel.

Mares hasn’t had a victory against a top-tier opponent in some time, but he can’t be discounted from the title picture just yet. The rounds were close and often hard to score in their rematch. While all three judges had Santa Cruz winning — 117-111, 116-112 and 115-113 — they only unanimously agreed on a winner in five of the rounds. Santa Cruz is now 35-1-1 with 19 KOs.

As with their first fight, Santa Cruz again threw more than 1,000 shots, while Mares unleashed nearly as much. Santa Cruz out-landed Mares, though he also showed that he’s more than just a volume puncher. He’s added more nuance and strategy, as he demonstrated in the Frampton rematch.

He’ll need that for a fight with Russell, a fast and powerful boxer who’s lacked a true challenge for the past few years.

The last time Russell was in against a top-notch featherweight was years ago. He lost to Vasyl Lomachenko in a title fight in 2014, then went on to obliterate Jhonny Gonzalez for a belt in 2015. Russell’s done too little since then, fighting once in 2016 and once in 2017, making short work of the limited Patrick Hyland and then dominating fringe contender Oscar Escandon. Russell fought last month, defeating previously unbeaten contender Joseph Diaz Jr. by unanimous decision.

Whoever wins Santa Cruz-Russell will be positioned as the clear No. 1 fighter at 126.

Mares is now 31-3-1 with 15 KOs. He’s bounced back before, from a stunning one-round loss to Gonzalez in 2013, and from the first loss to Santa Cruz in 2015. There are plenty of good fighters at featherweight. He’ll be back in against one of them soon enough.

 

Diego De La Hoya Stops Salgado in Seven

Junior featherweight contender Diego De La Hoya notched his first win of 2018 on Friday night, winning a battle of attrition over Jose Salgado via seventh-round technical knockout.

De La Hoya-Salgado was originally supposed to take place last December, only to be called off at the last minute when De La Hoya came in extremely overweight. But De La Hoya was able to make 122 pounds for this bout, and he was quickly forced to shake off any rust that may have accumulated.

That’s because the naturally lighter Salgado was going to be there in front of him throughout to exchange punches. De La Hoya happily obliged.

Their mutual aggression brought a cut over Salgado’s right eye toward the end of the second round, a wound caused by a clash of heads. No matter the cause, De La Hoya wisely targeted it immediately afterward with three consecutive left hooks.

Though Salgado is taller, he was otherwise an opponent whose best days came two divisions below at junior bantamweight. There, in the 115-pound division, Salgado had come up short against the likes of Liborio Solis and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and he’d also been in a cut-shortened technical draw with Carlos Cuadras.

Salgado coming up to 122 meant that De La Hoya had little difficulty blocking the slower shots and absorbing the rest that made their way through. And in turn, De La Hoya’s punches, while not overly powerful, had more of an effect. So he could withstand an extended flurry like the one Salgado sent out at one point and then dish out a single thudding left hook in return, winning the exchange.

That’s the way the fight went. Salgado was game, but De La Hoya was bigger, stronger and better. He opened up a cut on Salgado in the fifth, this time the result of a punch, and continued to land enough that the fight was wisely stopped in Salgado’s corner after the seventh.

De La Hoya moved to 21-0 with 10 KOs. He’s only 23 years old, and it looks like he still needs more seasoning if he is to be competitive with some of the other top fighters at junior featherweight.

Salgado is now 36-5-2 with 29 KOs.

Shakur Stevenson Wins With Five Knockdowns in Five Minutes
Featherweight prospect Shakur Stevenson has been pro for barely a year, but he doesn’t want to develop at the gradual pace — some would say glacial — we often see with up-and-coming fighters.

He doesn’t feel the need to take his time, not with his career and not in the ring. He took Aelio Mesquita out in two rounds on Saturday night, scoring five knockdowns in five minutes for a dominant victory.

The bout started slowly. But once Mesquita got brave enough to attempt an assault on the far superior Stevenson, he quickly learned the error of his ways. Mesquita overextended himself on a right hand, got caught with a counter left, and soon ate four more shots that put him down. Stevenson patiently waited for his next opportunity, ultimately landing another left hand counter that dropped Mesquita again before the bell.

The second didn’t go any better for Mesquita, who was stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. He could either do little but cover up and wait for Stevenson to take him out, or he could try to attack and see if he could change what otherwise seemed inevitable.

Stevenson scored the third knockdown of the fight about 45 seconds into the round, beginning with a flurry to the body and then bringing his fast hands upstairs, putting Mesquita on his rear end. Mesquita gamely got up. He should’ve stayed down. It would’ve been less painful than the left hand that dropped him once more — and the illegal follow-up blow Stevenson landed while Mesquita was down on one knee.

The referee took a point from Stevenson. That didn’t matter. This fight wasn’t going to last much longer. Stevenson closed in once more, and the next barrage dropped Mesquita for the fifth and final time. The referee had seen enough.

Stevenson, who captured silver in the 2016 Olympics, is now 7-0 with 4 KOs. He turned pro only 14 months ago and is a couple weeks shy of his 21st birthday.

“I may be young, but I’m ready,” Stevenson told boxing reporter Sean Zittel of FightHype.com. “I want a guy who’s getting ready for their title shot. Let me knock them down.”

Mesquita is now 16-2 with 14 KOs.

David Greisman
About the Author:

David Greisman. David Greisman is an award-winning boxing writer based out of Washington, D.C., who has covered the sport since 2004. He is the senior staff writer and "Fighting Words" columnist for BoxingScene.com and a reporter for The Ring magazine. Greisman is the author of the book "Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing." Follow on Twitter @fightingwords2

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