WBC and WBO champion Terence Crawford (31-0, 22 KOs) staged a boxing clinic against very game southpaw challenger Felix Diaz (19-1, 9 KOs) Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. As if he needed an extra challenge, Crawford chose to switch from an orthodox style to fight the entire way as a southpaw before finally scoring a 10th-round technical knockout.
WBA and IBF champion Julius Indongo (22-0, 11 KOs) was seated at ringside, but Crawford said in the ring at the end of the HBO show that he would like to face Manny Pacquiao.
A ringside doctor checked to see if Diaz still could see out of his swollen right eye before allowing him to come out for the 10th. When Crawford saw that, he spent the 10th banging Diaz with hard lead left hands that his opponent couldn’t see coming. Near the end, Crawford landed a multiple-punch combo that included a right that stood Diaz up. The game Dominican tried to respond, but just after the bell, his father Joel, who is his trainer, ended the bout.
“Enough is enough,” Joel Diaz said. “I didn’t want him to take more punishment. I gave him one more round, and I didn’t like what I saw.”
Promoter Bob Arum said Crawford’s performance “was brilliant. He fought a really tough guy, and he handled him with ease. Crawford gets better and better and I was very proud of him tonight.”
Arum said his plan is to have Crawford face Indongo to unify four belts and then Pacquiao is on the radar.
Crawford said he chose to fight lefthanded the whole fight because he felt he could out-jab Diaz fighting that way. “I’m an all-around fighter,” Crawford said. “I can fight lefthanded or righthanded. I have power with both hands.”
At the final news conference on Thursday, Diaz, who was an Olympic gold medalist for the Dominican Republic in 2008, promised to “make it a war” with Crawford. Promoter Lou DiBella said of Diaz, My guy gave it his all. The guy (Crawford is really good.”
Crawford opened in a lefthanded stance and stayed that way in a cautious first round that he controlled with his jab. In the second, Diaz tried to rush in but Crawford mostly kept him at the end of his jab until late in the round when a Diaz right landed flush and he mugged.
Diaz came determined to fight and continued to rush in headfirst, but Crawford began to time him and catch him with hard right-left combinations to dominate the third round. The fighters spent much of the fourth clinching as Diaz tried to get close, but when Crawford found room near the end, he rocked Diaz with a right followed by a sharp combination.
Wit Diaz keep his hands high in front of his face, Crawford ripped a left uppercut to begin the fifth and then proceeded to back up and counter beautifully as Diaz continued trying to stalk him down. By the middle of the sixth, Crawford clearly was in control, even mugging at Diaz and inviting him to keep coming forward. Diaz did and was drilled with another left uppercut near the end of the round.
When Crawford banged Diaz with a hard three-punch combination early in the seventh, the Dominican decided to take a chance and tried a wild flurry of punches. Mostly, it just set him up for more hard counters by Crawford. Near the end of the eighth, a Diaz right finally found it’s mark, but Crawford responded with a hard shot of his own and smiled at the bell.
The toll from Crawford’s punches became obvious in the ninth when Diaz suddenly was the one in reverse as Crawford walked him down, pinning him in the corners and firing away with deadly accuracy. From there, it was a matter of time.
Notes & quotes: In a lightweight IBF title elimination bout, Ray Beltran (33-7-1, 20 KOs) of Phoenix went down from a head butt in the first round but scored a stunning KO at 1:25 of the second round with a lead left to the jaw of Peru’s Jonathan Maicelo (25-3, 12 KOs). Maicelo was responsive but left the ring on a stretcher and was taken to Bellevue Hospital . . . Newark’s Shakur Stevenson (2-0, 1 KO), a 2016 Olympic silver medalist, scored a first-round TKO over Argentine Carlos Suarez (6-4-2, 1 KO) in a featherweight bout.