Photos: Will Hart
By Nat Gottlieb
Terence Crawford had a sensational year in 2014, grabbing a world lightweight title on Ricky Burns’ home turf in Scotland and winning two tough title defenses on his way to receiving Fighter of the Year honors. In 2015, he's picking up right where he left off, with an impressive performance against another much-ballyhooed young contender, Puerto Rican Thomas Dulorme.
While Crawford was widely considered the more skilled boxer, there were questions about whether the 27-year-old Nebraskan, who was moving up from lightweight to the 140-pound division to take on Dulorme, could continue his dominance in the bigger weight class.
Questions asked. Questions answered. Emphatically.
Fighting with remarkable poise and focus, Crawford (26-0, 18 KOs), seemed to be measuring and sizing up Dulorme through the first five rounds. Then, in his corner before the sixth, Crawford’s trainer Brian McIntyre told him “to step it up.” And like a push-button machine, Crawford did just that.
Becoming suddenly aggressive, Crawford let his hands fly with bad intentions, knocking down Dulorme with a huge right hand just 28 seconds into the round. After that, with Dulorme fighting on shaky legs, the outcome of the fight seemed to be academic. Twice more Crawford sent the Puerto Rican plunging to the canvas before referee Rafael Ramos called the fight at 1:51 of the round.
The victory was of major importance to the rising star, both for him and the division. In dispatching Dulorme, Crawford put himself in line for several big fights in the loaded junior welterweight division, including a possible matchup against the participants of the second fight in the split-site double header between sluggers Ruslan Provodnikov and Lucas Matthysse.
Dulorme (22-2, 14 KOs), once hyped as the next great Puerto Rican fighter until he was knocked out by Argentine slugger Luis Carlos Abregu in 2012, had been solidly on the comeback trail. Crawford knocked him off the rails, and it's unlikely he'll fully recover his stature.
The super-patient Crawford seemed content in the early going to let Dulorme play the aggressor while he measured and studied him like a cat getting ready to pounce. Dulorme outworked Crawford, perhaps winning two of the first four rounds just on aggression, but his punches were mostly picked off by Crawford's gloves or dodged with superb body and head movement reminiscent of a young Floyd Mayweather. And then Crawford turned it on.
“My corner told me to pick it up,” Crawford told HBO’s Max Kellerman after the fight. “I felt bigger and stronger at 140 pounds.”
The ease with which Crawford dispatched Dulorme, who was coming down from welterweight and appeared to be the bigger man in the ring, was stunning to watch. Through five rounds Crawford didn’t waste a punch or take one of any significance. But it will be interesting going forward to see how Crawford deals with some of the biggest punchers in the division, including Matthysse and Provodnikov. He has the potential to become a pound-for-pound contender, but he has his work cut out for him before he can stake claim to that label.