By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Felix Diaz didn’t do anything that a faction of boxing fans and media thought he could accomplish against Terence Crawford.
The undefeated Crawford boxed exclusively out of a southpaw stance and mostly befuddled and battered Diaz during their 140-pound title fight Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Crawford won by technical knockout when Joel Diaz, Felix Diaz’s trainer, told referee Steve Willis to stop the fight following an especially one-sided 10th round. The 29-year-old Crawford, of Omaha, Nebraska, improved to 31-0 and produced his 22nd knockout.
Crawford also retained his WBC and WBO super lightweight titles before a crowd of 8,026. He was ahead by huge margins on the scorecards of all three judges – Glenn Feldman (100-90), Julie Lederman (99-91) and Steve Weisfeld (100-90) – when the fight was stopped.
Crawford was a 25-1 favorite according to most Internet sports books Saturday night. Diaz was more competitive at times than the odds suggested, but Crawford clearly showed why he is widely viewed as one of the best boxers, pound-for-pound, in the world.
Diaz, who won a gold medal for the Dominican Republic at the 2008 Summer Olympics, lost for just the second time as a professional and lost inside the distance for the first time.
Before Saturday night, Diaz (19-2, 9 KOs) had lost only a majority decision to WBA welterweight champion Lamont Peterson in a 12-round, non-title fight in October 2015 in Fairfax, Virginia. That loss might’ve been debatable, but there was nothing questionable about Crawford’s win Saturday night.
“I knew he was frustrated,” Crawford said. “He was eating a lot of jabs, his eye was swelling and he was getting desperate in there.
“He was trying to set me up by going to the ropes, so he can lunge in. But I wasn’t going for that.”
A ringside physician examined Diaz’s badly swollen right eye before the 10th round, but allowed him to continue. Crawford continued his assault in the 10th round by landing combinations and mocked Diaz by patting him on the top of his head, which drew a warning from Willis.
By then, Joel Diaz had seen all he needed to see to stop the fight.
“Enough’s enough,” Joel Diaz said. “I didn’t want him to take any more punishment. I had given him one more round. I didn’t like what I saw, so I stopped the fight.”
Crawford buzzed Diaz early in the ninth round with quick left uppercut that sent Diaz backward, into the ropes. Diaz kept trying, but Diaz couldn’t contend with the defending champion’s movement, speed and intelligence.
Diaz hit Crawford with a right hand with more than two minutes to go in the seventh round. Crawford fired back, but also held a little bit to re-establish himself.
Later in the round, Diaz waved Crawford forward, which made Crawford mock him and stick out his tongue as Diaz failed to hit him.
A very confident Crawford began taunting Diaz during the sixth round. Crawford’s showmanship made Diaz pursue him and Crawford connected with a straight left hand that moved Diaz backward.
Crawford drilled Diaz with a flush left uppercut early in the fifth round, which marked the third time in the fight that he shook Diaz with that punch.
“We knew [the uppercut] was gonna work,” Crawford said. “Watching the Lamont Peterson fight, he leans in a lot and he stays there. So we knew the uppercut was gonna be the key in the fight.”
Willis warned Diaz for an intentional head-butt early in the fourth round. That didn’t stop Diaz from pressuring Crawford and trying to smother Crawford’s fast hands.
Diaz landed a left hand later in the fourth round that made Crawford smirk, but Crawford came right back with a left uppercut that snapped back Diaz’s head.
Crawford landed a flush left uppercut early in the third round and hit Diaz with a combination that awakened the crowd just prior to the midway mark of the third. Crawford drilled Diaz with another combination soon thereafter, but Diaz kept coming forward.
Diaz landed a solid left hook less than 30 seconds into the second round, but Crawford took it well. Diaz went to the canvas soon thereafter, but it was the consequence of an entanglement, not a punch, and Willis ruled it as such.
Crawford connected with a solid right hand later in the second, but Diaz’s subsequent right hand got Crawford’s attention.
There were questions before the fight about how much Crawford, naturally a right-handed fighter, would box out of a southpaw stance against a southpaw. Crawford answered those questions immediately, as he began the bout boxing left-handed.
The former lightweight champion remained in that southpaw stance throughout the fight.
“I came out southpaw because I do what I want in there,” Crawford said. “It’s my ring.”