HBO Boxing unofficial scorer Harold Lederman discusses Andre Ward vs. Alexander Brand. Ward vs. Brand happens Saturday, Aug. 6 live on HBO beginning at 10:35 pm ET/PT.
HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney break down Terence Crawford's dismantling of Viktor Postol at the MGM Grand.
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
Viktor Postol was supposed to be Terence Crawford’s toughest test, and while it was one he was favored to pass, the expectation was that it would be a challenge, that the Nebraskan would be forced to dig deep and answer questions that had not to this point ever been posed to him in the ring.
In the end, Crawford not only passed the examination, he aced it, dominating Postol over 12 increasingly one-sided rounds that left the Ukrainian looking lost long before the torture reached its eventual end.
This was not because, as some sought to suggest in the immediate aftermath, Postol was overrated, that his career-defining victory over Lucas Matthysse had flattered him because the Argentinian was nearing the end of a career of tough fights. The man from Kiev was – and remains – a legitimate quality boxer, one with a lengthy jab and an awkward style that would prove at worst an ordeal for pretty much any other opponent in or around the 140-pound division.
The fact that Postol could barely lay a glove on Crawford was not because he was in some way inadequate. It was because Terence Crawford proved at the MGM Grand on Saturday night what his recent performances had more than suggested: that he is a very special talent indeed.
Not that the first few rounds offered much indication of the quality of either man. Both fighters are known for a tendency to start slowly, and so it proved here. There was much bouncing of toes, much circling and feinting but little of any consequence landing for either man. Postol’s vaunted jab was not landing, but the mere fact that he was pawing his lengthy left hand in Crawford’s direction was enough to keep the American at range. The exploratory punches that Crawford (29-0, 20 KOs) did send in Postol’s direction fell short, but he was always probing, constantly moving, measuring the distance, testing Postol’s responses, gathering information, setting himself up for the rest of the fight.
In the fourth, he showed that he had accumulated much of the knowledge that he needed, and that now he was ready to put that knowledge to work. A straight left from the southpaw stance landed on Postol’s jaw, as did another. Postol reached with a right hand and Crawford cracked him with another left. The Crawford gameplan was now evident: force Postol to throw a right hand and then counter him with his faster punches.
At the start of the fifth, however, Crawford didn’t wait for Postol to throw first. He came flying out of the corner, landing a cuffing right hand that pushed the Ukrainian briefly to a knee for a knockdown. Postol shook his head in frustration at receiving a count from referee Tony Weeks, but there was no doubt about the next knockdown in that round, which came after Crawford feinted in response to a Postol right and landed a hard left that forced Postol (28-1, 12 KOs) to touch his glove to the canvas. Crawford’s constant movement had Postol utterly befuddled and unable to find a target for his jab; at the end of the sixth, Postol even dropped his hands to his side in frustration.
By the seventh, Crawford was completely comfortable, even beating Postol to his jab, attempting to bait him on to counters, rarely exciting but utterly dominating, turning in a performance that was increasingly – for all the positive and negative connotations that implies – Mayweatheresque. At times, even the strongly pro-Omaha contingent among the announced 7.027 crowd booed the lack of action, only for Crawford to spy an opening and flash a left hand that buckled Postol’s knees and had the fans cheering anew.
Again and again, the pattern repeated: Postol, too slow physically and increasingly broken emotionally, followed Crawford around the ring, afraid to commit to punches, but occasionally falling victim to his natural impulses, launching a hopeful right hand anyway and promptly being punished by the hard counter that he knew would be coming. Adding insult to injury, one brief Postol attempt to show some aggression in the eleventh resulted in his landing a pair of rabbit punches that earned him a point deduction from Weeks.
He opened up finally in the twelfth, knowing by now that he was hopelessly behind on the scores; Crawford’s response was to stick his tongue out at him, dare Postol to hit him, and then land a right hook and a left hand, and then another, tearing into his utterly beaten opponent as the final bell sounded, at which point the Nebraskan raised both hands to the sky and beamed the smile of a clear victor.
If anything, the judges’ scorecards – 118-107 twice, and 117-108 – might arguably have been a smidgen generous to the dominated, and no longer undefeated, Ukrainian, who had no excuses afterward.
“He was too fast,” Postol admitted. “He surprised me.”
“They said he had the best jab in the game, in the division,” sneered Crawford, “and I took his jab away. It wasn’t my toughest fight at all.”
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
Argentina’s Matias Rueda entered his featherweight contest with Oscar Valdez Jr with an impressive 26-0 record; but given that all but one of his fights had been fought in his native land against mostly anonymous opposition, there was some question as to how good he really was. The answer, as it turned out, was not very – or at least, to be fair, nothing like good enough to cope with Valdez, a former Mexican Olympian who now has a title belt to go along with his prodigious talent and potential.
From the opening bell, Rueda stood too tall, his erect head an inviting target for left hooks from Valdez (21-0, 18 KOs), who cracked his opponent repeatedly in the first round, following up with a couple of right hands that had Rueda rocking early. It was more of the same in the second, although the end came when Valdez switched his attention to his foe’s body. A left hook to the midriff caused Rueda (26-1, 23 KOs) take a half step back and then drop to a knee. Although he beat the count, he was immediately in trouble again, as Valdez swarmed him and dropped him with another body shot, prompting referee Russell Mora to wave off the contest at 2:18 of the round.
Jose Benavidez Jr managed to simultaneously look frustrating and unimpressive, score a wide and deserved unanimous decision win to remain undefeated, and be booed by the MGM Grand Garden Arena crowd. At least from the safety and comfort of a ringside seat, it appeared that Benavidez could have won his welterweight bout with Francisco Santana with something to spare had he boxed differently, but far too often in the early rounds he retreated to the ropes and allowed Santana to rip him with a seemingly never-ending fusillade of punches.
That said, he clearly won the first two rounds, by countering Santana up the middle with some hard uppercuts; a couple of times he actually appeared to have Santana badly hurt. Perhaps falling in love with that approach, however, he spent the next two rounds with his back against the ropes, looking for openings to land counters that didn’t materialize, as Santana (24-5-1, 12 KOs) scored more effectively with his relentless offense. Benavidez (25-0, 16 KOs) began to find a better distance in the fifth, and to land at least some shots from mid-range in the center of the ring; by the sixth, fatigue was clear in both men, which enabled Benavidez to keep Santana at bay somewhat more easily, even if the crowd responded to Santana’s less effective flurries.
It was much the same over the second half of the bout: a fatigued Santana chuntering repeatedly forward, and an almost equally fatigued Benavidez attempting to keep him at bay with spearing jabs but occasionally continuing to retreat to the ropes, and making the bout seem closer than it was. Judge Adalaide Byrd’s score after ten rounds of 100-90 for Beavidez, giving Santana absolutely no rounds, was ludicrous; but the other two scores of 98-92 and 96-94 were more accurate, however much those in the arena were displeased.
Oleksander Gvozdyk recovered from a shock first-round knockdown to break down and beat up former title challenger Tommy Karpency en route to a sixth round knockout in the opening bout of the pay per view.
Halfway through an opening round in which he was landing repeated, but soft combinations, the highly-rated Gvozdyk left himself open for a counter and Karpency obliged, dropping his left shoulder and launching a southpaw right hook in close that dropped Gvozdyk to his back. The Ukrainian (11-0, 9 KOs) looked on shaky legs as he rose and was less than convincing in the second round, even as he sought to regain the initiative. By the third, though, he was once more boxing and moving, turning Karpency repeatedly even if he showed no sign of the power that he has flashed so far in his professional career. But as Karpency (26-6-1, 15 KOs) slowed down, Gvozdyk became increasingly comfortable with his timing and the distance, and landed progressively heavy leather.
By the fifth round, Karpency’s nose was bloodied and possibly broken, and in the sixth, a seemingly innocuous right hand to the face produced a shout of pain from the American, who dropped to one knee after a tame follow-up right to the body, and stayed there as referee Kenny Bayless tolled the ten count.
Watch the Crawford-Postol untelevised undercards live beginning at 7 PM ET.
HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney report in moments after the Crawford-Postol weigh-in at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
It has been a fairly quiet week in Las Vegas, without too much of the noise and fury that sometimes accompanies pay-per-view boxing events in Sin City. A lot of that, frankly, is likely due to the demeanors of the two men in the main event: neither Terence Crawford nor Viktor Postol is renowned for being brash or boastful; outside of some needle with Hank Lundy the last time he fought, Crawford has rarely flashed pre-fight anger toward his opponent, and Postol seems rarely to change the timbre of his voice, no matter what the subject of his conversation.
The Ukrainian did allow himself a hint of a smile when, after weighing on at 139.5 lbs., half a pound inside the junior lightweight limit, he discussed the fact that his wife gave birth to twin boys two days ago, relieving him of the concern of entering the biggest fight of his life while worrying about his pregnant wife. It also, he admitted, gave him extra motivation: each baby, he promised, would be receiving one of the two title belts at stake in his battle with Crawford.
But Crawford, who tipped the scales right on the weight limit of 140 lbs., flashed to life as he noted that this was a clash between two undefeated fighters in their prime, and he smiled as he told fans not to blink during the main event.
As he spoke, the crowd in the MGM Grand Garden Arena screamed and cheered. It seems that Crawford’s hometown Omaha, Nebraska fans have arrived in force. The volume in Vegas may be about to get a lot louder.
Weights from Las Vegas:
Terence Crawford 140 vs. Viktor Postol 139.5
Oscar Valdez 126 vs. Matias Rueda 125
Jose Benavidez, Jr 146.5 vs. Francisco Santana 148
Oleksandr Gvozdyk 175 vs. Tommy Karpency 174.5
Watch the official Crawford-Postol weigh-in live beginning at 5:30 PM ET.