NEW YORK — An Omaha-born world champion came to the Big Apple to defend his title belt against a challenger no one gave a chance, only to be stunned in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.
That isn’t the story of Terence “Bud” Crawford’s welterweight title defense against Amir “King” Khan on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. It’s the real-life tale, later made into a movie, of James J. Braddock’s historic victory over heavyweight champ Max Baer, who was born in Omaha but moved at a young age.
Shirts commemorating the “Cinderella Man” bout, which actually took place at the Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City, were available for purchase at the modern Garden this weekend. But Omaha’s first world champion was having no part of playing the role of the loser in another upset there.
Crawford dropped Khan with a right hand followed by a left in the first round and dominated from that point on. The fight was halted in the sixth after Khan couldn’t continue following an unintentional low blow by the champion. Khan’s trainer Virgil Hunter asked that the fight be stopped, resulting in a technical knockout.
With the win, Crawford improved to 35-0 with 26 knockouts. He’s stopped nine of his last 10 opponents, including his last six in a row. And the Omahan moved to 13-0 with 10 KOs in world championship fights.
“I could tell I was breaking him down,” Crawford said. “It was just a matter of time. I just took my time. I was disappointed the corner stopped the fight in that manner, but Virgil is a great coach, and he was looking out for his fighter. I know he didn’t want to go out like that.”
Crawford was well ahead on the scorecards of all three judges when the bout was stopped. He retained his WBO welterweight belt while handing the challenger (33-5, 20 KOs) his fourth career knockout loss.
The championship bout drew 14,091 people to the Garden, the most ever for a Crawford fight. This was his second showcase in the main arena here. His first bout with Felix Diaz had an attendance of 8,026.
The win over Khan added a big name to Crawford’s impressive résumé, which is trending toward an eventual spot in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He’s been a world champion for five years, claiming titles in three weight classes. He successfully unified all four belts as a junior welterweight.
Crawford aims to do the same at welterweight. But unification bouts with the other champions in the division will be tough to make with those fighters under a rival advisor and on competing TV networks.
That’s how Saturday’s bout materialized in the first place. Khan, an Olympic silver medalist as an amateur and a unified 140-pound champion as a pro, was the best opponent available for the spring for Crawford. The champ shunned a potential defense against Luis Collazo because it wasn’t big enough.
Crawford wants high-profile, big-money fights like his first ESPN pay-per-view on Saturday night. It wasn’t a victory of “Cinderella Man” proportions, but it was a nice step toward another major match-up.