Undefeated three-division champion Terence “Bud” Crawford emphatically stamped his place in the history books with a ninth-round TKO over the previously unbeaten Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr. to become the first undisputed welterweight champion of the four-belt era in the SHOWTIME PPV main event Saturday night from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions.
“It means everything because of who I took the belts from,” said Crawford. “They talked bad about me. They said I wasn’t good enough and I couldn’t beat these welterweights. I just kept my head to the sky and kept praying to God that I would get the opportunity to show the world how great Terence Crawford is. Tonight, I believe I showed how great I am.”
“He was just better tonight,” said Spence. “He was using the jab. My timing was a little bit off. He was just the better man tonight.”
In addition to adding the WBC, WBA and IBF titles to his WBO belt, Crawford became the first male fighter to become an undisputed champion in two weight classes, having previously won all four belts at 140-pounds. In a fight where Spence had already been down three times, Crawford’s ninth round onslaught of hooks forced referee Harvey Dock to wave off the action 2:32 in the frame.
After years of build-up, Spence came out aggressively in the opening round, jabbing and attacking Crawford’s body. Crawford, who is known for fighting from both the southpaw and orthodox stances, fought primarily as a southpaw and scored his first knockdown in round two with a powerful right cross that caught Spence off balance and sent him down for the first time in his career.
“We practice that,” said Crawford. “Normally in camp we do a flick and jab. But we knew that wasn’t going to work with Errol Spence because he’s durable, he’s strong. So we had to practice a strong firm jab. The jab hit him and stopped him in his tracks.”
“He was just throwing the hard jab,” said Spence. “He was timing with his jab. His timing was just on point. I wasn’t surprised by his speed or his accuracy. It was everything I thought.”
Spence came out in round three determined to turn the tide after the knockdown, throwing big shots, including a left hook that landed cleanly early. However, Crawford was able to withstand the attack and showed his precision by landing a clean counter right that again staggered Spence.
“Errol Spence is a tremendous talent and he’s got a great jab,” said Crawford. “We were worried about the jab coming in because that’s how he sets up all of his shots. Our main focus was the jab. You take away his best attribute. The rest is history.”
In round seven, Crawford dropped Spence twice, once with a clean right uppercut early on and again late in the round with a right hook. Crawford led 79-70 on all three cards at the time of the stoppage and dominated the CompuBox stats with an 185 to 96 advantage in punches landed and an astounding 50% connect rate.
Post-fight, Crawford showed his respect for Spence stepping up to the plate and making the super fight happen and spoke to the historic nature of the matchup, while Spence expressed his interest in a rematch later this year.
“We gotta do it again,” said Spence. “I’m going to be a lot better. It’ll be a lot closer. It’ll probably be in December and the end of the year. I say we gotta do it again.”
“Like I said before, I only dreamed of being a world champion,” said Crawford. “I’m an overachiever. Nobody believed in me when I was coming up, but I made everybody a believer. I want to thank Spence and his team because without him none of this would have been possible.”
In the co-main event, hard-hitting Mexican contender Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz (25-2-1, 17 KOs) edged out the previously unbeaten Giovanni Cabrera (21-1, 7 KOs) via split decision to emerge victorious in their WBC and WBA Lightweight Title Eliminator. Cruz, who was deducted a point in round eight due to headbutts, won the bout with scores of 115-112 and 114-113, with one judge scoring the action 114-113 for Cabrera.
“I was superior tonight, but I do respect all of my opponents, and he was very good today,” said Cruz. “I was frustrated a little. He thought it was my birthday because he was hugging me all night.”
The typically aggressive Cruz started patiently as the southpaw Cabrera used his height and jab to try to keep Cruz from getting into position to land his power shots across the early action. Cruz began to find his offense in rounds three through six, landing numerous strong hooks, including a counter left that gave Cabrera problems time and time again.
“Cabrera’s height didn’t frustrate me as much as the fact that I was coming off a considerably long period of inactivity,” said Cruz. “That’s not an excuse though, and I still won.”
“In the middle rounds I was pulling back and he was catching me with punches that were turning my head around,” said Cabrera. “He’s a ‘Pitbull’ and we gave the fans a good fight.”
Cabrera was able to adjust in the later rounds and nearly pulled off the upset by winning at least two of the last three rounds on all three cards. Cruz held a significant edge in power punches landed (152-55) and was the more accurate fighter overall by landing 31% of his shots compared to 13.5% from Cabrera.
“I waited a little too long waiting to see how much he had,” said Cabrera. “Then I started turning up my punches when I saw that was all he had. I thought I took control at the end of the fight, but I don’t make any excuses.
Cabrera expressed his belief post fight that he had done enough to earn a career-best victory, while Cruz reiterated his intention to seek a rematch against unbeaten superstar Gervonta Davis after losing a competitive decision to Davis in December 2021.
“I really thought I did enough in the early rounds and the closing rounds,” said Cabrera. “It was a close fight. His energy started going down toward the end of the fight and I was tagging him with uppercuts.”
“I respect Gervonta, and at the same time I’m sure that I will have the opportunity to redeem myself,” said Cruz. “When that opportunity comes, I’ll be ready.”
The pay-per-view also saw Mexico’s Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs) use his superior speed to out-point future Hall of Famer Nonito Donaire (42-8, 28 KOs) and capture the vacant WBC Bantamweight World Championship after 12 rounds of action with scores of 116-112 twice and 15-113.
“It is so hard to explain this moment right now,” said Santiago, who became the 90th fighter to compete on SHOBOX: The New Generation® and later become champion. “All the work we put in for just this moment. It’s amazing just to win this title.”
“I’m disappointed,” said Donaire. “This is a blessing to do this for a very long time. I feel good still. Congratulations to Alexandro. He deserves it. He is a tough guy.”
The 27-year-old Santiago came in as the underdog against the four-division champion Donaire, but consistently beat Donaire to the punch with a variety of jabs, straight rights and left hooks. Donaire was able to land his signature power left hook at several moments throughout the fight, but Santiago hung tough and never showed any sign of being hurt.
“I was trying to counter so much and put so much power into it,” said Donaire. “I tried to fight like a warrior, which was something we didn’t train to do.”
The two fighters each landed 130 punches over the 12 rounds, with Santiago owning a slight edge in power punches landed (62-53). Donaire actually out-landed Santiago in each of the first six rounds before Santiago took control of the second half of the fight. Santiago won each of the last six rounds on one card, five of the last six on another and four of the final six on the third card.
At 40-years-old, Donaire had been looking to break his own record as the oldest fighter to ever win a bantamweight world title, but will now regroup as he considers if he’ll continue his illustrious career.
“I love the sport so much,” said Donaire. “We just have to go back to the locker room, talk about it, and see where we go from there. There were just some times there where I didn’t pull the trigger. That was my biggest problem.”
An emotional Santiago broke down in tears after he was announced as the winner and received words of encouragement from the defeated Donaire.
“It has been an honor to fight such a legend like Nonito Donaire,” said Santiago. “He said thank you for giving me this great fight and I appreciated him saying that.”
Opening the pay-per-view, top prospect Yoenis Tellez (6-0, 5 KOs) announced himself as a 154-pounder to watch with a sensational third-round knockout over Spanish contender Sergio Garcia (34-3, 14 KOs).
“Right now my goal is not defined, but I want to face the best 154-pounders that are out there,” said Tellez, who recorded the stoppage 2:02 into the frame.
The early action saw the significantly more experienced Garcia press forward from the outset as he looked to close down the distance on Tellez and wing power shots from the inside. He appeared to fluster the Ronnie Shields-trained Tellez over the first two frames, as Tellez had more success from distance.
“My strategy didn’t change once the fight started,” said Garcia. “My goal was to tire him out, and I didn’t get the opportunity to do so. He got me with a good shot and screwed the fight up for me.”
In round three, Tellez was able to adjust to the pressure and land a brilliant right-left combo that staggered Garcia, who miraculously was not sent to the mat from the shots. Tellez stayed alert and landed a straight right moments later that sent the determined Garcia to the canvas.
“My trainer Ronnie Shields and my whole team behind me – we worked on this during training camp, especially the right hand, and it came out just the way it was supposed to come out,” said Tellez.
Garcia was able to rise to his feet, but Tellez showed poise to keep the pressure on and deliver a series of powerful blows that eventually forced referee Robert Hoyle to jump in and call the fight.
“I’m so disappointed,” said Garcia. “I told the ref that I could keep going, but I guess that’s his job and they are there to stop the fight when they feel it’s right. As a fighter, I’m always going to want to continue and persevere.”
“The finish was the assassin instinct that us Cubans have,” said Tellez. “As soon as I saw him hurt, I knew it was time and that he was done, so I went for it.”