It’s an old cliché, but in this past weekend’s WBO welterweight title bout both champion Jeff Horn 18-1-1 (12) and challenger Terence Crawford 33-0 (24) were exactly who we thought they were prior to them touching gloves: Horn, a tough and gritty mauler who upset a legend in his next-to-last bout and Crawford who is the most complete and versatile fighter in boxing. And when those two dynamics clash, the result is predictable as we saw – Crawford, the former unified 140-pound champion, thoroughly outclassed Horn at every turn and ultimately stopped him at 2:33 of the ninth round.
As a fighter Terence “Bud” Crawford has everything and is about as complete a fighter as you’ll ever see. He’s now a three division champ and his arrival into the welterweight division will make for some great unification bouts down the road if the promoters allow it. And if Crawford’s performance against Jeff Horn is an indication of what’s to come, it’s possible we’ve not seen his best work yet.
What Crawford exhibited against Horn was sublime. No, I’m not going to try and convince anyone Jeff Horn is Carmen Basilio, but he was the biggest and strongest fighter Crawford had ever been in with. Before the fight, it was assumed that Horn’s vast difference in size (and the fact that he’s known as a strong guy) meant that he’d be physically stronger than Bud. Clearly that turned out to not be the case. And when interviewed after the fight, Horn admitted that Crawford was the stronger guy.
Horn knew his only chance to win was to apply his presumed physicality on Crawford, and hopefully bring Terence down to his level — something that worked sporadically for maybe the first two rounds. Against Manny Pacquiao, Horn was able to bully him like a linebacker and that blunted Manny and took away any chance he had to establish his punching range and set up his offense. Horn tried to bum rush Crawford during the first two rounds and found he ran into a buzz saw and paid a price.
Terence used the first two rounds to adjust and process Horn’s limitations and then proceeded to beat him up using his arsenal of skills and imaginative offense. During rounds one and two Crawford smashed Horn with a few lead lefts from his southpaw stance which visibly rattled Horn to the point that from the middle of the third round on, Jeff was a little more measured with his desperation rushes, trying to force Crawford to fight off the ropes. And the few times he was able to get Crawford there, he was raked by some beautiful uppercuts and hooks and allowed Terence to tie him up. Once they were separated, Crawford kept Horn mostly at center ring where his entire repertoire was on display, and it was something to behold.
By the fourth round, due to Crawford making Horn pay for almost everything he attempted in his effort to force it on the inside, the dynamics shifted. Horn was suddenly forced to try and think of a different way to get in on Crawford, and once he was forced to think and try to process his avenue of attack, it was all over but the shouting because in those fleeting moments he was searching for an answer. Crawford owned every facet of the fight, leading and countering and ripping him to the body with low looping lefts from his southpaw stance. Once he was feeding Horn a steady diet of that, Crawford switched to orthodox mid round and began timing him with right leads, leaving Horn totally bewildered. By that time the only thing Horn could do was make sporadic runs and they were futile. Crawford’s lateral movement had Horn following him like a hungry Rottweiler chasing a milk-bone as he slammed him to the face with lead shots Horn never saw coming.
Horn, to his credit, tried everything. At times he tried lead rights, a few grazed Crawford, only for him to answer back with another barrage Horn couldn’t escape. Then Jeff tried to give him some feints and head movement, resulting in Crawford reading them perfectly and meeting him with a punch where he figured Horn would end up instead of where he was at the onset. To make things worse for Horn, the few times he had a moment of success making contact, Terence answered back with another flurry and pivoted to his next position to get off again.
Crawford was just too sharp and did what he wanted whenever he wanted. Horn was trying to make it ugly but after the second round could never get anything going to make Terence uncomfortable or fight under duress. In the eighth round Crawford staggered him and at the end of the round buckled his knees with a left cross to the jaw. In the ninth Horn was dropped and shortly thereafter the referee stopped it after a barrage of punches from Crawford with Horn still on his feet. Crawford had won every round up to that point and had completely outclassed Horn.
Most knew prior to the fight that Crawford was too skilled for Horn, and that may also apply to the rest of the welterweight division including feared IBF title holder Errol Spence. But I think there’s something else everyone, including myself, overlooked. And that is that Horn probably shouldn’t have said before the fight that “Crawford has never really been tested.”
In previous articles, I noted that Terence Crawford has a mean streak in him much to the manner of Sugar Ray Leonard….which I no longer believe is one of the best kept secrets in boxing. Crawford knew no later than the third round that he couldn’t lose, but seemed to enjoy punishing Horn as the fight progressed. Looking back it appears that Crawford drew even more motivation from Horn’s words.
Moreover, I don’t think it applied expressly to Horn. No, I think Terence Crawford, once he’s challenged and in the heat of battle, really enjoys working his opponents over and beating them up. With the risk of sending the Floyd Mayweather fans off the cliff and turning their world upside down, I believe Crawford is more skilled and is a more stylistic chameleon than Mayweather was, not to mention he fights with more of a chip on his shoulder when challenged. As great as Floyd was, I never sensed that he actually liked to fight as I sense with Crawford. It’s not just about the money with him. Like Leonard when he was nailed, Crawford becomes that much more driven to pay you back two-fold. Mayweather, as was often the case with Muhammad Ali, would rather show you up and embarrass you….not Crawford, he wants to hurt you and make you wish you never signed up to fight him. And sometimes it’s that killer instinct and mental hardness that drives greats or near greats to go on to become all-time greats.
Terence Crawford’s one-sided destruction of Jeff Horn showed what a multi-faceted and resourceful fighter he is and showed without a doubt that he’s ready for any welterweight on the planet. At the moment he’s the overall greatest fighter in the game. Crawford may not be the eye candy Vasyl Lomachenko is, and his skills may be a little more difficult for some to appreciate, but I think he’s more diverse and fascinating to watch and the number-one must-see fighter in boxing. Opponents have an idea of what to expect from Lomachenko. Not so with Crawford because he sometimes morphs stylistically from round to round.
Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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