OFFICIALLY, Terence Crawford was ahead entering the 10th round of his fight with Shawn Porter at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. He was leading on the scorecards of judges Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld 86-85, and Max DeLuca 87-84, but could not have been too satisfied.
Crawford had waited too long for a fight of this magnitude to come away from it by just getting through. His showing against Porter would be compared with those of the other elite welterweights his opponent had fought, notably Errol Spence Jnr, who sat ringside.
Crawford needed a dominant performance that would not only separate him from the rest of the welterweight division, but would also keep him running neck and neck with Canelo Álvarez when the pound for pound lists were discussed. However, unlike Canelo, who has no shortage of opponents due to being the biggest attraction in the sport, Crawford had struggled mightily to get a high profile fight, much as Marvelous Marvin Hagler did for many years.
At the end, the nine nip-and-tuck rounds would be replaced by one sensational session in which Porter would go down twice before his father, and chief second, Kenny Porter threw in the towel. It was the first time in Porter’s illustrious career he had been stopped. Afterwards he paid tribute to Crawford as the best opponent he had ever fought. No small compliment when you explore Porter’s record.
Porter, 34, announced his retirement afterwards. The boxing world should celebrate all he had given it, but this was Crawford’s night, one he had waited patiently for years. Crawford’s career is no longer about winning all the belts, he has already done that at super-lightweight, or even keeping hold of the WBO welterweight strap that was on the line here. It was about finally turning the corner to mainstream status, having his name mentioned by all sports fans, not just boxing ones. Maybe Crawford is not all the way there yet, but he has crossed midfield and is not likely to turn back.
Adding to Crawford’s appeal is the fact he will soon be a free agent and has given no hint whether he’ll continue with Top Rank, who has promoted him his whole career. Doubtless the other big name promoters will bid heavily on his services proposing a mega fight at the end of the rainbow. At 34, Crawford has certainly waited long enou-gh for the boxing community to fawn over him and now, at the top of his game, keeping himself free from long-term deals with promoters – like Canelo – might be the best way to move forward as he deserves.
The pressure will now be put on Spence to step up and face “Bud” in a contest for welterweight supremacy. Spence has long circumvented this bout by throwing out financial parameters that were unacceptable. Those days are over. Who is the better fighter would be conclusively answered inside of the ring, but what is now apparent is that Crawford is the bigger attraction, one Spence can’t dictate terms to as he tried to do before.
The expected all-action fight turned out to be a fast-paced tactical one instead. There were moments, such as in round two, where they went punch for punch, but the exchanges did not last long. Nevertheless it was entertaining. Despite the closeness of most of the rounds, the judges were in accord in all but one, a refreshing display of uniformity.
Porter would rush Crawford to the ropes and harass him a bit, but lacked the power to do more than take him out of his comfort zone. Crawford would move away, reset and try to time Porter with big blows.
The mind games started in the third round as Crawford started talking to Porter, who looked like he might have been dropped from a left hook to the body, but referee Celestino Ruiz ruled it a slip.
It was Porter who led 48-47 on all cards through five, before Crawford gently turned things in his favour. Hard body blows on the inside were slowing Porter down in the sixth. And although southpaw Crawford suffered a cut by the right eye from a head-butt, he was the more active of the two, Porter doing his fighting more in spurts.
Crawford switched things up in the seventh, jabbing and moving, giving Porter a different look, which he had difficulty adjusting to, but Porter might have outworked him in the eighth, the only round of the match where the judges were split.
The ninth was a turning point, though it was not obvious at the time. Crawford’s chopping right hands and quick left hooks were quietly finding a home on Porter’s chin. Although Shawn stood up well under the punches, the mere force of the blows set the stage for the dramatics of the following round.
Close to 15 seconds into the 10th, a left uppercut dropped Porter. He got up quickly, not looking as if he was in imminent danger, but Crawford, a spiteful man when he has a sniff of blood on his nostrils, pounced. Porter held his ground and briefly retaliated, but Crawford would not be denied. A fusillade of blows topped by a chopping right dropped Porter again, who strangely pounded his gloves on the canvas in frustration. He regained his feet and looked dismayed when the towel came flying in. Ruiz called a halt, the time being 1-21 of the round.
If this is indeed the end for Porter, he exits the sport with his head held high.
For a time it had appeared that Crawford’s prime years were being wasted. Now the thought is they may have just begun.
The undercard was below average. The main support being the middleweight clash between Brazil’s Esquiva Falcão and Montreal’s Patrice Volny. It ended unsatisfactorily when Falcão, after a good start, began to falter a little before a clash of heads cut him in the sixth round of the scheduled 12. Falcão had no desire to continue, going to great lengths to make clear the distress he was under. As a result, the medics pulled him out and they went to the scorecards, where he won a split technical decision by margins of 58-56, 57-56, and 56-58.
The Verdict Crawford shows his class in a terrific bout and Porter, as always, shows his ability to push the elite to new levels of success.