NEW YORK — Terence Crawford got a tougher-than-expected test from mandatory challenger Egidijus Kavaliauskas on Saturday night.
When "Mean Machine" got mean, however, "Bud" only got meaner. The end result was Crawford delivering a ninth-round TKO of Kavaliauskas to retain his WBO welterweight title at Madison Square Garden. Crawford got the job done by dropping the Lithuanian fighter three times before the referee had seen enough, but it was far from easy.
Kavaliauskas caught Crawford with a glancing left hook that dropped the champion during the third round. Although it was ruled a slip, the replay seemed to show that Kavaliauskas should have been awarded a clean knockdown.
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"I wasn’t hurt at all. I got up and went straight to him," Crawford said following the fight. "I wasn’t hurt by no means, I walked through everything he threw all night."
The sequence only made Crawford more rugged. He used his razor-sharp punching to land a knockdown of his own in the seventh round. Two rounds later, the arguable pound-for-pound best caught Kavaliauskas with a flurry of punches that dropped "Mean Machine" again. Smelling blood, Crawford charged at Kavaliauskas and made him taste the canvas a third time. The referee didn't let the bout continue a second longer as he waved it off.
"I wanted to give the crowd a knockout," Crawford said. "When I started letting my hands go, I started landing more fatal shots."
Kavaliauskas definitely earned the champ's respect and made him feel his power, but Crawford ultimately was just too mean, too sharp and too good for the Lithuanian. Crawford (36-0, 27 KOs) can turn the page to 2020 unscathed.
That's how a champ is supposed to handle a mandatory challenger — businesslike, yet with emphasis.
In the card's co-main event, Teofimo Lopez Jr. destroyed Richard Commey with a second-round TKO to become the new IBF lightweight champion. Lopez badly hurt Commey with a right hand flush to the face that had the Ghanaian fighter stumbling all over the ring. After Commey beat the count, Lopez charged and finished the fight with pure firepower. He anointed himself the new king of the ring — one who's sure to test Vasiliy Lomachenko in 2020 in a mega unification bout.