By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Terence Crawford couldn’t have seen too much from Alexander Besputin on Saturday night that would concern the WBO welterweight champion about a future fight between them.
The Russian southpaw is a powerful puncher, but he showed some offensive limitations and defensive vulnerabilities against Juan Carlos Abreu in their physical, foul-filled fight on the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Jose Pedraza undercard. Crawford watched from a ringside seat as Besputin scored two knockdowns and beat Abreu by unanimous decision – 100-88 on all three scorecards – in a 10-rounder in The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
“He fought a very uncomfortable, dirty fight, but I dominated,” Besputin said. “I am ready for a world title fight next.”
The unbeaten Besputin has just 12 professional fights. Like Crawford, however, he is promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. and could become a realistic option for Crawford either late in 2019 or at some point in 2020 if Arum cannot make the 147-pound title unification fights Crawford wants with champions represented by Al Haymon.
Crawford has been assured he’ll fight three times in 2019. The Omaha, Nebraska, native’s first fight of next year is scheduled for March 23 at Madison Square Garden.
The 27-year-old Besputin (12-0, 9 KOs) appeared headed toward a quick knockout of Abreu on Saturday night. He drilled the Dominican veteran with a straight left hand in the first round, but Abreu recovered and got back in the fight by the third round.
Late in the fourth round, Abreu appeared to buzz Besputin with a right hand that caused Besputin to hold him so tight that they eventually crashing to the canvas, along with referee Shada Murdaugh.
In the fifth round, it was Abreu that used questionable tactics that could’ve cost him a point. Abreu shoved Besputin to the canvas by his head and then grazed him with a right hand to the middle of his forehead, while Besputin attempted to get up.
Murdaugh gave Besputin time to recover, but didn’t deduct a point from Abreu, perhaps because Besputin was spared a point deduction during the previous round.
In the eighth round, Besputin blasted Abreu with another left hand that knocked him into the ropes. Murdaugh counted it as a knockdown because the ropes held up Abreu.
The 31-year-old Abreu (21-5-1, 19 KOs, 1 NC) didn’t come close to winning Saturday night, but he took a potential opponent for Crawford all 10 rounds in a second straight bout.
Abreu went the distance with unbeaten welterweight contender Egidijus Kavaliauskas in his previous fight. Abreu took Kavaliauskas’ best shots throughout that 10-rounder July 7 in Fresno, California, yet lost a unanimous decision (97-93, 97-93, 96-94).
Lithuania’s Kavaliauskas (21-0, 17 KOs) was in line to challenge Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) on March 23.
Luis Collazo and Amir Khan have since been offered a shot at Crawford’s WBO welterweight title that night. Kavaliauskas could fight on the undercard when Crawford fights next to showcase him as a potential opponent for Crawford later in 2019.
As of Saturday night, Khan hadn’t decided whether to accept Top Rank’s offer of a $5 million guarantee. If England’s Khan (33-4, 20 KOs) doesn’t accept the Crawford fight, the three-division champion is expected to box Brooklyn’s Collazo (38-7, 20 KOs).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.