By Terence Crawford
Two world title fights ornamented Bob Arum’s pre-Christmas show at Madison Square Garden. In the main go, Terence "Bud" Crawford stopped brave but ultimately out-gunned Egidijus Kavaliauskas in the ninth stanza. The official time was 0.44. Crawford (36-0, 27 KOs) was making the third defense of the IBF welterweight title he won from Jeff Horn.
Kavaliauskas (21-1-1) had some good moments early and stung Crawford with a looping right hand in round three that generated an apparent knockdown that was ruled a slip. But Crawford, with his superior hand speed, ultimately assumed control, knocking his Lithuanian foe to the canvas in round eight and then again in round nine. The fight ended with Kavaliauskas on his feet but clearly beyond the point of no return.
In the co-feature, Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) turned in another spectacular performance, stopping Richard Commey in the second round to snatch away Commey’s IBF lightweight title.
Lopez and Commey launched right hands almost simultaneously, but Lopez’s punch got their first. Commey got up in a hurry after landing on his right knee, but his legs were spaghetti and he reeled about the ring like a drunken sailor. Lopez then pummeled him against the ropes, landing a slew of unanswered punches to force the referee to waive it off. Heading in, Commey was 29-2 with both losses by split decision.
Lopez has been calling out Vasiliy Lomachenko and it appears they will meet in April.
In the TV opener, Northern Ireland’s Michael Conlan (13-0, 7 KOs) scored a unanimous decision over former amateur rival Vladimir Nikitin (3-1). Russia’s Nikitin held two wins over Conlan at the amateur level, most famously a terrible decision in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The scores were lopsidedly in favor of Conlan (100-90, 99-91, and 98-92). While he was the rightful winner, the fight wasn’t as one-sided as the scores suggested. There were no knockdowns, but Conlan suffered a bad cut over his right eye in the eighth round, the best round of the fight.
Fast rising super middleweight Edgar Berlanga, a 22-year-old New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent, did it again, scoring his 13th first round knockout in as many fights. Berlanga scored two knockdowns, the first with a left hook and the second with a body shot, before the ref interceded to save Cesar Nunez from further punishment. A 34-year old Spaniard, Nunez entered the contest with a misleading 16-1-1 record.
Australian junior welterweight George Kambosos Jr improved to 18-0 (10) with a 10-round split decision over former world lightweight titlist Mickey Bey (22-4-1). The scores were 97-92, 96-93, and 94-95.
Kambosos sealed the win with a big 10th round, knocking Bey down with a right-left combination and pummeling him when the action resumed. It was a case of youth being served. At age 26, the heavily tattooed Australian was the younger man by 10 years.
Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank
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