Terence Crawford thrills hometown fans with win in Omaha

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Terence Crawford made his case for 2014 Fighter of the Year with his win in Omaha Saturday. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank
Terence Crawford made his case for 2014 Fighter of the Year with his win in Omaha Saturday. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank

SAN DIEGO, November 29, 2014 – With Omaha’s most famous resident, Warren Buffett, cheering him on, Terence Crawford gave his hometown fans another thrilling victory over Ray Beltran of Mexico to put an exclamation point on his best year in boxing.

Crawford (25-0, 17 KOs) is a technical boxing beast. He is skilled in all the fundamentals of boxing; footwork, reflexes, ring generalship, accuracy and defense. But Crawford doesn’t mind a real fight. Crawford is at his best against opponents exactly like Beltran, someone not afraid to come right at him.

Beltran (29-7-1, 17 KOs) scored against Crawford on several occasions, more so as the fight progressed and Beltran began to realize he needed to do something dramatic to get a win. But he wasn’t aggressive enough for long enough periods of time to be successful.

Midway through the fight, Beltran’s left eye and nose started to show the effects of Crawford’s right jab. Thanks to his reach and accuracy, he can land it at will with authority and make an opponent think twice about standing right in front of him.

View from Terence Crawford's corner as he steps into the ring against Ray Beltran Saturday in Omaha. Photo: Top Rank
View from Terence Crawford’s corner as he steps into the ring against Ray Beltran Saturday in Omaha. Photo: Top Rank

Still, Beltran is never entirely out of a fight. He landed several hard shots in the last four rounds. Crawford showed he has a tough chin to go with his skills and shook off all of them. Beltran simply didn’t do enough, especially when measured against Crawford’s output. The judges saw a lopsided result: Adalaide Byrd and Cesar Ramos scored it 119-109, Bill Lerch had it 120-108.

CompuBox numbers back them up. Crawford landed 243 of 639 punches, a 38 percent connect rate. Beltran landed just 96 of 366 punches thrown, a 26 percent connect rate. Of Crawford’s output, 206 of them were headshots, versus 71 for Beltran. Crawford landed 150 power punches; Beltran just 23.

Crawford had the crowd on their feet in rounds 10, 11, and again in the final round as he unloaded on Beltran. He could have cruised through the last few rounds safely to a victory, but he wanted to give his fans a knockout. The crowd of 11,127 at the Century Link Center loved every second of it. This attitude is what makes Crawford a boxer people want to see, and one legitimately on the short list as 2014 Fighter of the Year, challenged perhaps only by Sergey Kovalev.

Crawford confirmed after this fight it would be his last in the lightweight division before moving up to the 140-pound division where bigger name opponents await. Who will it be? Crawford said he doesn’t call out fighters, but we will: Adrien Broner, Lucas Matthysse, Danny Garcia, Chris Algieri and maybe Manny Pacquiao are waiting for him. None of them should be too anxious to volunteer.

Evgeny Gradovich (right) and Jayson Velez traded punches to a draw Saturday in Omaha. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank
Evgeny Gradovich (right) and Jayson Velez traded punches to a draw Saturday in Omaha. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank

The fighters in the televised undercard may be from Russia and Puerto Rico, but they both fight in the aggressive manner of Mexican fighters, always good news for fans. Evgeny Gradovich of Russia (19-0-1, 9 KOs) kept his title against Jayson Velez of Puerto Rico (22-0,-1 16 KOs), who escaped without a loss as the fight was scored a draw by the three judges. Tom Schreck scored it 117-111 for Gradovich; David Hudson had it 115-113 for Velez; and George Hill had it even, 114-114.

Most observers saw the fight going Gradovich’s way by the end of the fight after a strong start by Velez with excellent movement and a jab that kept Gradovich at bay. But Gradovich solved the puzzle, letting Velez keep coming and once he became to grow fatigued, started to throw with more authority and counter with strong right hand shots. Gradovich grinds out his victories, as he doesn’t possess the kind of sheer power that would end a fight against a tough customer like Velez.

The pair stayed busy throughout the fight. Gradovich landed 310 of 875 punches for a 35% connect rate; it was 278 of 1032 punches for Velez, a 27% connect rate. The pair landed their power punches at the same connect rate. Velez landed more body shots.

Velez gained valuable experience and his conditioning was good although not at the elite level yet. Gradovich now knows he has to make a more definitive statement to win on the scorecards. Trainer Robert Garcia warned him the judges might not score it his way, and he was right.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +

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