By Jason Gonzalez
New York City --- Guess what folks? Terence Crawford is better than what we had thought. The unified (WBC/WBO) and Ring junior welterweight champion showcased his tremendous skillset against Felix Diaz, of the Dominican Republic, in the main event at Madison Square Garden Saturday night.
On the eve of what would have been the 45th birthday of the hip hop icon “Biggie Smalls”, it is appropriate that we quote the legend, when referring to Crawford. “Sky is the limit” for him.
To Diaz’s credit, he did put forth a valiant effort, in which he showed a lot of courage, but took a beating in the process. In fact there were stints in the bout in which the native of Omaha, Nebraska was just toying with the former Olympic champion.
But before the clock struck 12, Diaz’s trainer, Joel Diaz, prompted referee Steve Willis to call a halt to the bout. The end came at the conclusion of the 10th round, boosting Crawford’s ledger to 31-0, (21).
Crawford, who is flirting with superstardom, has successfully completed the fifth defense of his 140-pound titles. No matter the sport, “special athletes” are classified as such, when they make what is difficult, look easy.
It’s no secret that Diaz isn’t elite. However, Crawford does deserve to be in the squared circle dancing with the likes of Julius Indongo and Adrien Broner if indeed he does choose to stay at 140.
If he moves north, to 147, the legend Manny Pacquiao is there. A Crawford-Pacquiao contest is an easy one to make, being that both fighters are promoted by Top Rank. Realistically, inquiring minds would like know how much revenue would a Crawford-Pacquiao pay-per-view generate? Unfortunately, that would determine if the fight would ever materialize.
"I’ve been saying that for years now," Crawford said. "It’s not up to me. But everybody wants to know who’s the next guy that Terence Crawford wants to fight. I’ll fight anybody. It doesn’t matter who it is."
The ambidextrous Crawford fought the entire bout from the southpaw stance. Crawford’s right jab, hand speed, and left uppercuts were too much for Diaz. Crawford’s footwork, power, and ring intelligence allowed him to just do whatever he wanted in the ring.
"No excuses, I lost to the best guy at 140 pounds," Diaz, now 19-2, (9) said through his promoter Lou DiBella.
The short armed Diaz, who fought in a crouching style, couldn’t get within distance to land any telling blows. Diaz missed with a lot of wild shots. Crawford, on the other hand, was accurate, playing target practice with his 33-year-old counterpart.
As the fight wore on, Diaz buzzed Crawford with a leaping left hook in the seventh round, but as his face began to swell to grotesque proportion, it was obvious that it was just a matter of time before the plug was pulled.
The humane thing to do was to save Diaz from himself.
"I stopped the fight because I didn’t want him to take any more punishment," said Joel Diaz. "Enough was enough."
As per Crawford’s promoter Bob Arum, you can expect to see Crawford again in the summer against the dreaded “TBA”.
“To have someone with the talent of a Crawford sit on the shelf and not fight is a crime,” Arum said.
In the co-feature bout of the evening, Raymundo Beltran may have possibly earned the right to stay in the USA, as well as a title shot in the immediate future. Beltran put Jonathan Maicelo of Peru to sleep with one shot in their 135 pound eliminator.
A Beltran left hook put Maicelo flat on his back, in the second round at the 1:25 mark. Maicelo, who was conscious at the time, was removed from the ring on a stretcher.
Beltran, who improved to 33-7-1, (21), touched the canvas in the first round via an accidental head-butt. Referee David Fields mistakenly ruled it a knockdown. As a result of the clash of heads, both fighters sustained a laceration. Maicelo was cut on the scalp while Beltran was cut over his left eye.
Time will tell if Beltran will be granted a green card.
2016 silver medalist Shakur Stevenson of Newark, New Jersey improved to 2-0, (1) by stopping featherweight journeyman Carlos Suarez in the first round.
“It was amazing,” said the 19-year-old. “I came out and saw faces that I knew, faces that have been supporting me. I’ve been saying all week I was looking forward to getting a knockout on my record. I just told myself to stay focused and do what I had to do.”