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.”