It was as if Terence Crawford was running out of challenges in the 140-pound junior welterweight division, so he decided to invent one for himself against southpaw challenger Felix Diaz on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. Crawford switched from an orthodox righthanded stance to fight the entire bout lefthanded on his way to scoring a 10th-round technical knockout to defend his WBC and WBO titles.
It was a virtuoso performance by Crawford (31-0, 22 KOs), who likely will try to unify all four major 140-pound titles this summer against IBF and WBA champ Julius Indongo (22-0, 11 KOs), who was at ringside. When asked in the ring if he would like to fight WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao, Crawford said: “Of course I would like to fight Pacquiao. That’s the only fight out there I’m looking for.”
Then, recognizing his ringside guest, Crawford added: “Indongo came to my fight. I am ready to fight him also.”
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who also promotes Pacquiao, said he is eager to make both bouts happen and keep Crawford busy. He hopes to put together a unification bout against Indongo this summer and then a Pacquiao bout likely in November if Pacquiao successfully defends his title against Jeff Horn on July 2 in Australia.
Asked why he called out Pacquiao, Crawford said: “It ain’t necessarily calling him out. I’m just telling them that I’m ready for whoever. I’ve been saying that for years now. Everybody wants to know who’s the next guy that Terence Crawford wants to fight. I’ll fight anybody. It don’t matter who it is.”
Diaz (19-2, nine KOs) was expected to provide a tough test for Crawford because of his aggressive style and his power at 140 after mostly fighting at 147. He spent most of the night eating counterpunches. Judge Julie Lederman gave Diaz the second round, the only round he got from any judge. Newsday’s card had Crawford ahead 100-90 when trainer Joel Diaz stopped it at the end of the 10th round because his fighter’s right eye was swollen shut.
Crawford often has switched to fight southpaw in the middle of previous fights, but his decision to go the whole way in that stance was inspired. “That’s something that I wanted to do, jab with him,” he explained. “I knew my jab was more superior than his. So I thought I had the advantage with a jab contest . . . I’m all-around. I can go lefty, I can go righty. I’m strong with both hands, so it’s a plus for me.”
The CompuBox punch stats bore him out. Crawford landed 54 jabs to only 11 by Diaz, and that set up a huge 139-58 advantage in the power punches that eventually took their toll. “I barely got hit,” Crawford said.
So the question remains: Can anyone give Crawford a serious challenge? “I don’t know,” he said. “Before this fight, everybody was quoting and tweeting that this is my toughest fight to date.”