If you’re stuck in your ways, you’re stuck in your ways. He might do it for a little bit [Floyd Sr.’s defensive techniques] in the beginning. But once the fight heats up, he’ll go back to his old ways. – TERENCE CRAWFORD
OMAHA, NEBRASKA — With over 10,000 of his hometown fans cheering him on, Terence Crawford solidified himself as an in-ring and box office force within the lightweight division by knocking out previously undefeated Yuriorkis Gamboa. The highly competitive fight had momentum switches, high-level boxing, dangerous exchanges and a definitive ending, making it one a the few times we see a fight where the loser is also elevated.
THE SMALLER MAN STARTS STRONG: Although I had the fight even (2-2) after four rounds, Gamboa had already succeeded in nullifying Crawford’s long reach and height with quick, potshot right hooks upstairs, and straight lefts and rights to the body. The rounds that Crawford won was when he was able to match Gamboa’s output and keep the speedy Cuban on the end of his long left jab. Nonetheless, the more telling shots were coming from the Cuban.
THE MOMENT THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING: Crawford started switch-hitting in the third to offset Gamboa’s speed and tendency to keep his left hand low. Initially, the tactic was a mixed bag. While Crawford was able to clip Gamboa with solid right jabs, but also allowed himself to get clocked easier by Gamboa’s right hooks.
In retrospect, Crawford was simply biding his time for the perfect opportunity. That came when Gamboa leaped in and was stung by a perfect counter right hook. Gamboa stumbled and was punched flat on his stomach in short order. Gamboa’s machismo took over and he tried to brawl to even up the round. That strategy left him out of on his feet as Crawford hurt him with a left hand to close out a dominant fifth.
DEFENSIVE WINS AND LOSES CHAMPIONSHIPS: As Crawford predicted, Gamboa would go back to his old ways once the fight began heating up. Gone was the patient but explosive boxing that Gamboa had shown over the first four rounds. Now he was coming in unbalanced with telegraphed haymakers.
Outside of surprising Crawford with a few hooks in the opening minute of the sixth, the defending champion coolly outboxed Gamboa from the southpaw stance. The repeated right jabs and straight lefts began to swell Gamboa’s face. By the eighth, he was on the canvas again, this time after pinning Crawford on the ropes and forcing an exchange of power shots.
GAMBOA’S LAST STAND AND A ROUND OF THE YEAR HOPEFUL: Gamboa dug deep for one last hurrah in the ninth. A hook during an inside exchange hurt Crawford badly and had him stumbling backwards. Wisely, Crawford was easily able to tie up Gamboa repeatedly, utilizing his long arms to grab and smother all of Gamboa’s attempts to follow up. When he eventually recovered, he turned Gamboa’s desperation against him for a third knockdown, this time off two smashing left hooks.
Bravely, Gamboa reached his feet and went right back into the lion’s den. That aggression ended his night via a counter right uppercut for the fourth and final knockdown.
CRAWFORD’S SKILL SET: There can be no doubt now that Terence Crawford is the real deal. This fight was a beautiful display of all the assets he holds. He not only punches with power, but with pinpoint accuracy. During wild exchanges, this proved invaluable as he landed cleaner and more often. He doesn’t panic when hurt and knows how to hold effectively. He can also adjust tactics round to round to keep opponents guessing. And most importantly, he has the frame that will allow him to move to the higher and more lucrative weights (he was 152 in the ring last night).
GAMBOA STILL A FORCE: Gamboa was overwhelmed, but his heart has several people already calling this a Fight of the Year contender. The shots he landed normally puts guys out at the lower weight, but the lightweight division appears a jump too steep for a man of Gamboa’s physical stature. Going back down five pounds to super featherweight gives him a list of good opponents. The Mikey Garcia fight might be easier to make now. The Juan Manuel Lopez fight, although years too late, would still generate interest and be action-packed. Javier Fortuna, or the winner of next month’s Argenis Mendez-Rances Barthelemy rematch, would be good options as well.
OMAHA IS ON THE MAP: Boxing promoters, take notice. The great crowd you saw in Omaha is what happens when you put cards where the fighter’s fans are over random casinos. Crawford is now a proven attraction at the gate, meaning potential foes will likely have to make that Nebraska trip. This gives Crawford a lot of negotiating leverage which will serve him well when he campaigns at 140 and 147.