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Crawford unifies titles with third-round KO

LINCOLN, Neb. — Terence Crawford, with one crushing left hand to the body, became the undisputed junior welterweight champion of the world on Saturday night.

Crawford, fighting just outside of his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, knocked out Julius Indongo in the third round in a history-making victory at the Pinnacle Bank Arena, electrifying the crowd of 12,121.

Crawford also knocked Indongo down in the second round.

With the resounding victory, Crawford made his case for pound-for-pound No. 1 status and became only the second male boxer of the four-belt era to unify the four major sanctioning organization titles.

The only other time came in 2004, when then-middleweight world champion Bernard Hopkins put his three belts up against Oscar De La Hoya’s one and knocked him out in the ninth round to unify the 160-pound division. Hopkins went on to defend all four belts in 2005, retaining them by outpointing Howard Eastman and then lost them later in the year by decision in his first fight with Jermain Taylor. By the time Hopkins and Taylor met in an immediate rematch, politics intervened, and Taylor had been stripped of a belt.

So four-belt fights are very rare, but Crawford (32-0, 23 KOs) came into the fight as the owner of two of the 140-pound titles, as did Indongo (22-1, 11 KOs). But it was Crawford who left the ring with all the hardware and a big smile on his face.

“I’m just blessed to be in this position,” said Crawford, a former lightweight world champion. “I have to thank [promoter] Bob Arum and Top Rank. I’m blessed and humbled to be the undisputed champion of the world. It means everything.

“I’m the only one who can say I am the undisputed champion of the world, and that’s big. There’s nobody else who can say that they are undisputed in their weight division.”

And Crawford made it look easy.

As the fight began the crowd immediately began chanting “Crawford! Crawford!” But Indongo, a southpaw with a two-plus-inch height advantage and a longer reach, was not at all intimidated. He gave as good as he got as they traded solid punches in an exciting fight.

With about 40 seconds left in the second round, Crawford landed a left hand followed by a hard right hand that dropped Indongo. Indongo got up quickly and was wobbly, but he was able to make it out of the round.

But then Crawford, 29, ended it spectacularly in the third round. He landed a crippling left hand to the body and a lesser right hand, and Indongo went down in agony. Referee Jack Reiss counted him out at 1 minute, 38 seconds as the crowd went wild.

“We knew the body would be open, being that he swings so wild, and we could catch him in the middle of his punches,” Crawford said. “I had tall guys in the training camp, so I was used to it and adapted to it. I feel great. I feel like I hadn’t even fought.”

“He hit me hard to my body. I couldn’t breathe, it hurt so bad. When he hit me that hard, not only did it hurt, it took my mind away. I couldn’t think.”

Julius Indongo

Brian McIntyre, Crawford’s trainer and manager, said they worked on attacking the body throughout training camp.

“The whole plan for this fight was to hit him to the body — start with a body attack right away,” he said. “Take his legs away to take away his height.”

Indongo, 34, of Namibia in Africa, said he didn’t even know what hit him.

“He hit me hard to my body,” he said. “I couldn’t breathe, it hurt so bad. When he hit me that hard, not only did it hurt, it took my mind away. I couldn’t think.”

The loss ended a meteoric ride for Indongo over the past eight months, when he went from obscurity to winning two world titles in his opponents’ home country and then getting a chance at the undisputed title — on the road again — in the main event of Top Rank’s ESPN card.

“Indongo has had a great career so far, and I am sure he will come back and be even stronger after this,” said Frank Smith of Matchroom Boxing, Indongo’s co-promoter. “But Crawford was unbelievable. He was brilliant.”

Said Arum: “This kid is getting better. He is getting better every fight. You couldn’t ask for anything better than the way he fought against a really tough guy, and look how he took care of him. Usually Terence Crawford spends five rounds feeling out his opponent, but he figured him out right away, and you saw what happened.”

Although Crawford unified all the junior welterweight titles, they won’t stay that way for long, with mandatories due and Crawford likely to move up to welterweight. He said he might consider staying for one more fight at junior welterweight, but there will be much bigger business at welterweight, something he acknowledged.

Arum plans to bring Crawford to Australia in November to sit ringside for the rematch between welterweight titlist Jeff Horn and former champion Manny Pacquiao.

“Hopefully, we will match Crawford with the winner of the fight,” Arum said.

It’s a plan Crawford said he likes.

“I been making history for Omaha, Nebraska, since I started boxing professional, and it just keeps going and going and going,” he said, adding of potentially facing the Horn-Pacquiao II winner, “I’m all for it. When you start boxing when you’re seven years old, that’s your dream, to become world champion, and after that you want to become something bigger than world champion.

“You just don’t stop there, you go to the highest level possible. I need that 147-pound belt. That’s my next accomplishment.”

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