Terence Crawford has his hand raised in victory after defeating...

Terence Crawford has his hand raised in victory after defeating Lithuania's Egidijus Kavaliauskas by TKO in the ninth round of a WBO welterweight boxing match, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, Credit: AP/Michael Owens

Terence “Bud” Crawford is widely considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, but he looked like anything but that for the first three rounds against Egidijus Kavaliauskas at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

But after a near knockdown, Crawford rallied and put his ample skills on display. He scored two knockdowns in the ninth round, prompting the referee to stop the bout at 44 seconds. Crawford was ahead on all three cards, 79-72 twice and 78-73. 120> “I thought I had to entertain you all for a little bit,” Crawford said. “He’s a strong fighter, durable, and I thought I’d give the crowd something to cheer for.”

It was Crawford’s third defense of his WBO welterweight title and 14th straight title-fight win. Crawford (36-0, 27 KOs) is a three-division champion. Kavaliauskas is a two-time Olympian from Lithuania.

Kavaliauskas (21-1-1) scored what looked like a knockdown in Round 3. A straight right hand hurt Crawford, who fell into Kavaliauskas and grabbed him. Crawford’s knee hit the ground before he regained control, and referee Ricky Gonzalez called it a slip. It served as a wake-up call for Crawford.

“I wasn’t hurt,” said Crawford, 32, from Omaha, Nebraska. “As you could see, I got up and went straight to him. He caught me with a good shot.”

An overhand right dropped Kavaliauskas late in the seventh round and another right almost put him away. Crawford sneered and shook his head at his opponent after the bell. The seventh was a strong round for Crawford, who had been fighting southpaw for most of the bout. But in the middle of the seventh, he switched to an orthodox stance and found a home for his right hand.

“I was loading up a lot because the first couple clean shots I landed, I knew I hurt him,” Crawford said. “I wanted to give the crowd a knockout. When I started letting my hands go, I started landing more fatal shots.”

The crowd began chanting “Craw-ford, Craw-ford!” in the eighth as he continued to pepper Kavaliauskas. Crawford - who continued to switch from lefty to righty - carried the momentum into the ninth and ultimately overwhelmed Kavaliauskas.

The opening portion of the card showcased a pair of Bob Arum’s younger stars. Brooklyn’s Teofimo Lopez scored a sensational second-round knockout of Richard Commey to win the IBF lightweight title. Lopez dropped Commey with a right cross, and although Commey got up quickly, he was overwhelmed with a barrage of punches. The referee stopped the fight at 1:30 of the round. “I’m at a loss for words right now,” Lopez said. “This a dream come true. [Commey] is a bad man. His shot could’ve done the same to me if he hit me with that shot.”

Moments after his win, Lopez put on a Joe Burrows LSU jersey and struck a Heisman pose.

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