Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
At the end of a week that was contentious and frequently unpleasant, Terence Crawford settled the dispute that had festered between him and Hank Lundy in the only way that really mattered: he outboxed him, outfought him and stopped him in the fifth round of his New York City debut in front of 5,062 fans in the sold-out Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Philadelphia's Lundy (26-6-1, 13 KOs) had taunted Crawford from the moment the fight was announced, and by the time fight week rolled around, the barbs appeared to have nestled deep in Crawford's skin. At the final pre-fight press conference, the Omaha native landed a hard two-handed shove to Lundy's sternum, sending the Philadelphian staggering backward across the stage; and the hostility between the two camps erupted into shouting and even bottle-throwing in the hotel lobby.
While not intending to provoke any extracurricular violence, Lundy likely threw his verbal bombs with the intention of infuriating Crawford and drawing him into a scrappy slugfest. In the opening round, he had his wish, stepping forward and launching punches from an assortment of awkward angles, landing with right hands and lefts that caught Crawford's attention.
But that was as good as it would get for the veteran. In the second round, Crawford (28-0, 20 KOs), who switched to a southpaw stance about 30 seconds into the bout, kept Lundy at bay with a spearing right hand jab, preventing him from closing the distance to the extent needed to launch his unconventional assault; in the third, he dialed in his left hand, so that every time Lundy did attempt to step forward, he encountered the Nebraskan's power counter punches. By the fourth, Crawford was stepping in to his punches, but even as his more aggressive approach squared up his body and theoretically left it vulnerable to counterattack, the punches he was throwing kept Lundy on the back foot and prevented his opponent from taking advantage.
Not that Lundy stopped trying: he was constantly twitching, feinting, trying to find a way through. But it was not to be; Crawford was simply in a different class, and that class shown through with an emphatic finish in the fifth. A straight left behind a double right hand jab staggered Lundy, a follow-up left landed cleanly to increase the hurt, and one more left sent him crashing down hard. He somehow beat the count, but was clearly finished, and when a follow-up Crawford barrage underlined the point, referee Steve Willis stepped in to halt the contest at 2:09 of the round.
Crawford stuck out his tongue at Lundy when he knocked his foe down, and he leaned over Willis' shoulder to do so again when the fight was stopped; but then, suddenly, he thought better of his actions, hugged his fallen foe and touched gloves with each of his opponent's corner team.
"Much love," said Lundy to his conqueror, the two principals setting an example to their followers that what happens in the ring should stay in the ring. At the end of the day, it's all business, and anybody with shares in the Terence Crawford Business is likely feeling pretty good about their future right about now.
During his first two-and-a-half years as a professional, lightweight prospect Felix Verdejo annihilated his competition, mowing down 17 opponents and allowing just four of them to survive the distance. But last June, on his HBO debut at this same Theater at Madison Square Garden, he was taken 10 rounds for the first time, despite sending Ivan Najera to the canvas twice. On Saturday night, his second HBO fight was his second full-length ten-rounder, as previously unbeaten Brazilian Willian Silva (23-1, 14 KOs) was able to frustrate his vaunted foe even as the Puerto Rican racked up round after round in a unanimous decision victory.
Verdejo (20-0, 14 KOs) was good value for his victory, no question: he was more the offense-oriented, he landed the cleaner punches, and frankly for much of the fight he appeared to be the only one trying to win. But as he steps up a level, he is finding that talent alone won't be enough to dominate more experienced and skillful opposition: he relied too much on landing an overhand right behind a jab, and swung for the fences when perhaps he could have been more patient in building up an assault. That said, Silva presented a particular set of challenges: at 6'1" and with a long reach, he is huge for a lightweight, and by retreating for much of the contest, he made it all the more difficult for Verdejo to reach him. Still, learning to solve such puzzles will be an important part of Verdejo's development; his promoter, Top Rank, plans on keeping him busy this year, and it is only by presenting him with more such tests that they will be able to confirm whether he will be able to turn his immense promise into reality.