BOXING

Crawford, Russell and Beltran Each Triumph With Knockouts

Terence Crawford Toys With Felix Diaz, Stops Him in 10

Felix Diaz wanted a fight with Terence Crawford. He’d called Crawford out repeatedly, seeking the opportunity and the payday that came with it.

He didn’t know what he was getting into.

Diaz was clowned for the better part 10 rounds, barely able to land a thing of consequence, all while Crawford alternated between toying with Diaz and punishing him. The end came mercifully. Diaz’s right eye was swelling shut. And his trainer had seen enough.

Crawford easily out-boxed Diaz, using his length, speed and skill to land punches from a distance, peppering Diaz with jabs and pummeling him with heavier artillery, all while keeping Diaz at bay and avoiding incoming fire.

Diaz did score with an overhand left early in the second and a right hook later on in the round. The clean punches Diaz landed tended to stand out because of how rare they were.

That led to Diaz approaching recklessly in the fifth, leaving himself open for an uppercut. That also left Diaz demoralized. In the sixth, Crawford approached and then stopped, waving Diaz forward, taunting Diaz to see if he could actually do something. Crawford soon teased Diaz further, pawing jabs and leaving then out there in front of Diaz’s face. In the seventh, Crawford landed well while Diaz was in the corner. Diaz waved Crawford in, but Crawford just stood still, stuck his tongue out and shook his head.

All the while, the punishment kept accumulating. There was a good left hand that hurt Diaz in the ninth. After the round, a ringside physician checked on the swelling around his eye. In the 10th, Crawford again stuck his right jab out and kept it there, this time literally tapping the top of Diaz’s head repeatedly. As insulting as that was, it hurt less than the actual punches Crawford landed, including a three-punch combination later on in the round.

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Through 10, Diaz had landed just 69 of 346 punches, a 20 percent connect rate, according to CompuBox, while Crawford was 193 of 520 (37 percent), including an incredibly accurate connect rate with his power punches — 139 of 235, or 59 percent. The fight wasn’t going to change in the final two rounds. Diaz’s trainer made the right call to end it when he did.

Crawford, one of the best boxers in the world, improved to 31-0 with 22 KOs. He made it look easy against an opponent who won gold in the 2008 Olympics. He makes it look easy against a lot of opponents.

It’s possible that Julius Indongo will be next. Crawford has two world titles at 140 pounds. Indongo, who knocked out Eduard Troyanovsky and outpointed Ricky Burns, has the other two. But Crawford also is seeking even bigger fights against welterweights, in particular Manny Pacquiao (who faces Jeff Horn in July) and Keith Thurman (who is injured and out for the rest of the year).

Diaz is now 19-2 with nine KOs. His other loss came by majority decision to Lamont Peterson in 2015.

Gary Russell Jr. Aims For Unification, Revenge After Dispatching Escandon

There are four fights, and only four fights, that Gary Russell Jr. wants to be next.

Russell, who has a world title at 126 pounds, either wants one of the three other titleholders, or he wants the one and only person who beat him in the pro ranks.

That’s an appropriate desire, because we’ve seen precisely what Russell can do against opponents who aren’t on his level. The latest demonstration came against Oscar Escandon, who was broken down and stopped over the course of seven rounds.

Although Russell is the better boxer, he was content with working on the inside, relying more on his hand speed instead of foot movement. Escandon wanted to put his chin down and work from in close as well. That allowed Russell to score with several uppercuts and fast flurries in the first round, though Escandon landed on occasion as well.

The second round brought exchanges, a rat-a-tat of punches as one man would throw a few, then the other would respond. The third round was far more one-sided. Early on in the round, Russell threw a right hook as Escandon threw a left. The shot put Escandon down. He got up too soon, stumbling toward the ropes as he tried to steady himself. There was plenty of time left, more than two minutes to try to survive. Russell proceeded to hammer Escandon around the ring for most of it.

Escandon was steadier in the fourth, able to go back to work in close quarters. But the punishment continued to accumulate. Russell was able to land accurately, hitting fast, hard and often. In the sixth, for example, came a flashy combination of two left uppercuts, then a right, then a hook.

And in the seventh, the end came as the result of a six-punch combination of hooks and uppercuts. Escandon was hurt, tried to throw back, and then Russell caught him with a counter that shook him worse. The referee wisely stopped it. There was no need to allow more punches to land, no matter how willing Escandon was to take a beating.

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Russell is now 28-1 with 17 KOs. After the fight, he called out Leo Santa Cruz, Lee Selby and Oscar Valdez, all of whom own title belts at 126. He also called out Vasyl Lomachenko, who defeated Russell by majority decision back in 2014.

Escandon is now 25-3 with 17 KOs.

Ray Beltran Earns Another Title Shot With Scary One-Punch KO

There was a lot on the line for Ray Beltran. His visa allowing him to live and fight in the United States had expired. A win over Jonathan Maicelo could perhaps lead to him receiving a green card reserved for professional athletes with “extraordinary ability.”

Whether that will happen is still unknown. What is certain, however, is that Beltran will get a fourth shot at a world title in the 135-pound division. He earning that title shot emphatically, scoring a highlight-reel knockout that came abruptly — and viciously — in the second round.

Beltran actually was the first to visit the canvas. That moment came about a minute into the first round. Maicelo led with his head and threw several punches. Nothing but Maicelo’s head landed, and it crashed into Beltran’s face. Beltran went down. He complained rightly that he’d been butted, but the referee wrongly called it a knockdown.

The butt also opened a cut above Beltran’s left eye. Soon another clash of heads happened, and this time it was Maicelo who was bleeding from a gash just above his hairline.

Beltran quickly learned to punch Maicelo as he was coming in. Just after the bell rang to end the first round, Beltran landed a few punches that hurt Maicelo, putting him down on one knee. It wasn’t an official knockdown, but it was a message.

Maicelo responded to that message in the first minute of the second round, landing five or so good shots. And then Beltran retorted with one great shot of his own.

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The end came shortly after Beltran feinted with a left jab. Maicelo parried the nonexistent punch with his right hand, leaving the right side of his head vulnerable. Beltran threw a left hook. Maicelo went down hard. His lights were out. He was ultimately taken away from the ring on a stretcher and brought to the hospital for precautionary reasons.

Beltran moved to 33-7-1 with 21 KOs. The longtime sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao learned on the job and improved after suffering a handful of losses. He’s only been beaten once in the past five years.

His first shot at a world title came against Ricky Burns in 2013. The fight was ruled a draw, though many watching believed Beltran deserved to win. His second shot came against Terence Crawford in 2014. Crawford beat him clearly by a wide unanimous decision. Then Beltran got his third world title shot — at the vacant belt Crawford left behind to move up from lightweight to 140. But Beltran came in overweight, which meant he didn’t earn a belt for his second-round technical knockout of Takahiro Ao. That result was later overturned, changed to a “no decision” because Beltran had tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

Beltran is now the mandatory challenger to titleholder Robert Easter.

Maicelo is now 25-3 with 12 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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