By Jake Donovan
Terence Crawford made the first - and perhaps only- successful defense of his lightweight title, dropping Yuriorkis Gamboa four times en route to a 9th round stoppage Saturday evening in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.
An enthusiastic crowd of 10,943 was on hand at the CenturyLink Center in full support of Crawford, cheering the every move of Nebraska's first major titlist in nearly 100 years. It turned out to be well worth the wait, including Crawford's own late start in the fight itself, taking about four or so rounds to get going.
Gamboa landed the bout's first combination, connecting with a one-two upstairs midway through the opening round. The best Crawford could offer in the first couple of round was an occasional shoe shine, good enough to woo the local crowd but hardly enough to capture Gamboa's attention.
Extra curricular activity threatened to break out at the end of round two, but referee Genaro Rodriguez was immediately on top of the action. The third man's presence was required throughout a round three that featured frequent clinching and not a lot of clean punching until the end of the frame, when Gamboa had Crawford's southpaw style well-timed.
Round four featured less clinching and more punching, with Gamboa still getting the far better of the action. You wouldn't know that from crowd reaction, as the CenturyLink Center erupted every time Crawford threw a punch, even as most missed wildly. Meanwhile, Gamboa was scoring with clean right hands, darting in and out and making Crawford miss without ever having to move very far.
Then came round five.
Crawford turned the fight around in a big way, wading through a swarm of punches from Gamboa to connect with a counter left hook. Gamboa was dazed as he attempted to clinch, but instead was met with an overhand left to send him to the canvas. The crowd, already literally dancing in the aisles for much of the night, erupted into a frenzy, and Crawford tried his damnest to close the show. Gamboa barely survived the round, but was rocked again before clinching his way to the bell.
Now very much back in the fight, Crawford picked up the pace while fighting out of an orthodox stance after spending much of the bout fighting as a southpaw. The action wasn't as sustained, but enough to conceivably put Crawford back in the lead (depending on how you scored the opening round) or at the very least back in the fight.
Scorecards proved moot, as Crawford continued to exploit Gamboa's leaky defense and poor discipline. The pivotal point came in round eight, when Gamboa was rocked and dropped late in the round. The Cuban boxer never recovered, dropped twice more in round nine before the fight was halted.
The official time was 2:37 of round nine. Crawford moves to 24-0 (17KO), while Gamboa falls to 23-1 (16KO).
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox