LAS VEGAS — The welterweight division has just been put on notice.
Terence “Bud” Crawford has arrived at 147 pounds, and he isn’t messing around.
Crawford thoroughly dominated WBO champion Jeff “The Hornet” Horn over eight one-sided rounds, then dropped the previously unbeaten Australian and finished him in a ninth-round technical knockout.
Referee Robert Byrd stepped in to stop the beating at 2:33 of the ninth before a crowd of 8,112 at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Crawford (33-0, 24 knockouts) became a three-division world champion with the victory. The unbeaten Omahan is just the sixth fighter ever to win titles at lightweight, junior welterweight and welterweight, joining Barney Ross, Pernell Whitaker, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Adrien Broner. He also became only the fifth boxer to claim a WBO championship belt in three weight divisions.
This was Crawford’s night from the opening bell. Early on, he tagged Horn as the champion tried to charge his way in. By the third round, Crawford was punishing the Aussie with vicious power shots.
Through six rounds, ESPN had Crawford landing 83 percent of his punches thrown at Horn’s head. The WBO champion nearly went down at the bell to end the eighth. Crawford scored a knockdown with a left in the ninth, then finished Horn with his follow-up barrage. He landed 48 percent of his power shots.
CompuBox had Crawford landing 155 total punches to Horn’s 58.
“Like I said before, I was the stronger guy,” Crawford said. “I’m stronger than him. I just had to get in the ring and prove it. You saw what I did in there. Now, I want all the champions at welterweight.”
Whether he gets those matchups remains to be seen, but other champs will take notice of his victory.
Horn, who claimed the WBO title by upsetting Manny Pacquiao last summer, wasn’t really in the fight with Crawford at any point. He landed only six punches per round, on average, through the first four.
His situation didn’t really improve much after that. Never was Horn (18-1-1) on the verge of winning a round.
“He was hard to tag and he just kept me guessing,” Horn said. “He’s a classy fighter who fought a great fight.”
Crawford first became a world champion in March of 2014, when he traveled to Scotland to dethrone longtime WBO lightweight titlist Ricky Burns on his home turf. He defend his belt twice in Omaha later than year, knocking out previously unbeaten Yuriorkis Gamboa in a star-making performance before dominating top-ranked challenger Raymundo Beltran to become the lineal champion at 135 pounds.
The following April, Crawford moved up to junior welterweight to capture the WBO title by stopping Thomas Dulorme in Texas. After two successful defenses, he outdistanced WBC beltholder Viktor Postol here at the MGM Grand in July 2016 to unify those titles and become the lineal champion at 140. Last August, the Omahan became the third undisputed champion in the four-belt era when he KO’d fellow unified titlist Julius Indongo in Lincoln. It was Crawford’s sixth knockout win in seven title bouts at 140.
The decision to move up to welterweight had already been made prior to that historic feat. Crawford had nothing left to prove at junior welterweight, and there were big-money fights on the horizon at 147.
Because Crawford was the WBO champion at 140, he immediately became the mandatory challenger for Horn’s belt once he declared he was moving up in weight. The bout was tentatively scheduled for April but was pushed back two monthsafter Crawford suffered a bone bruise on a hand during training.
The Horn camp was, understandably, upset about the postponement as it affected their preparation schedule leading up to the bout. According to the Australian media, the champion’s team also had issues with Horn’s accommodations, the temperature in the Top Rank gym and Crawford’s gloves for the fight.
And Horn accused Crawford’s promoter, which was also his co-promoter for this bout, of trickery with the scales after he initially failed to make 147 by a half-pound at Friday’s official weigh-in. In essence, the former Australian Olympian felt the entire promotion was skewed to favor his American opponent.
The bout itself played out the same way. It was a complete domination by Crawford, who only enhanced his status as one of the top fighters in the world. Now, he has a new weight class in which to prove it.
“I told you I was strong,” Crawford said. “Y’all didn’t believe me. You didn’t give me enough credit, so I had to show you.”