WBO welterweight champion Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford 36-0 (27) turned back the challenge of a very tough and determined Egidijus ‘Mean Machine’ Kavaliauskas 21-1-1 (17) with a ninth-round knockout to successfully defend his 147-pound belt for the third time at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
What was supposed to be a routine defence against a mandatory challenger turned into a war in the early rounds before Crawford pulled away in the middle rounds to deliver a punishing stoppage at 0:44 of round number nine.
It was a patient performance from Crawford, who had to survive some rocky moments early on before he found his groove.
“I thought I had to entertain y’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.
“I’ll fight anybody. I’ve been saying that for I don’t know how long. I’m not ducking anyone on the PBC side or Top Rank platform.
“I want to fight all the top guys.”
Late in the third-round the 31-year-old Lithuanian cracked Crawford with a hard right hand, causing the champion to attempt to clinch before falling to the canvas. Referee Ricky Gonzalez rule it a slip.
“I wasn’t hurt at all,” Crawford insisted. “I got up and went straight to him. I wasn’t hurt by no means, I walked through everything he threw all night.
“The round before that, my coaches kept telling me stop loading up. I was loading up a lot because the first couple clean shots I landed, I knew I hurt him.
“I wanted to give the crowd a knockout. When I started letting my hands go, I started landing more fatal shots.”
With the fight even after four frames, Crawford started to get the upper hand in the fifth. The 32-year-old southpaw from Omaha, Nebraska began finding success to the body and while Kavaliauskas was willing, he was coming off second best in the exchanges.
In the last minute of the eighth, Crawford uncorked a peach of a right hook that sent Kavaliauskas to the canvas. It took a tremendous show of will from the challenger to survive the round, but the writing was on the wall.
Kavaliauskas was still on wobbly legs to start the eighth and Crawford wasn’t about to let him off the hook. The champion methodically walked him down, punishing him again just before the bell.
In the fatal ninth Crawford nailed Kavaliauskas with a three-punch combination that sent him back on his heels before drilling home a right uppercut that sent him down near the ropes.
Kavaliauskas beat the count but Crawford, smelling blood, went in for the kill. A single right hook sent Kavaliauskas down for the second time in the round and referee Gonzalez immediately waved off the contest.
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