By: William Holmes
The Century Link Center in Omaha, Nebraska was again the host site for Terence Crawford’s WBO Lightweight title defense. This was the second time HBO was in Omaha, Nebraska in 2014, and Crawford is establishing himself as a major draw in the Midwest.
HBO first showed a replay of Manny Pacquiao’s six knockdown performance against a clearly overmatched Chris Algieri from Macau, China before televising the first live fight of the night.
The “Mexican Russian” Evgeny Gradovich (19-0) opened up tonight’s live telecast with an IBF Featherweight Title defense against Jayson Velez (22-0).
Both boxers fought out of an orthodox stance and Velez was the taller of the two boxers. Velez was active with his jab early in the first and was able to stay out of the range of Gradovich’s punches. Velez stayed accurate with his jab in the second round and was tagging Gradovich with a counter left hook.
Velez started off the third round aggressively, but Gradovich was beginning to land more of his power punches and was effective when he went to the body. Gradovich was walking through Velez’s punches by the fourth round and was able to come in tight and fight his type of fight.
Velez looked like he was starting to wear down in the fifth round and Gradovich was the first to the punch in the middle rounds. Velez looked to be the more active fighter, but his punches weren’t bothering Gradovich while Gradovich’s punches were moving Velez.
Both corners told their fighters they lost the last round before the start of the eighth, and Velez responded the best. Gradovich, however, did better overall in the final four rounds by doing more damage on the inside, and had Velez visibly hurt two times, once in the end of the eleventh and again with a vicious right hook in the crowd-pleasing final round.
It was a tight fight to score that probably should have went Gradovich’s way, but the judges scored it 117-111 Gradovich, 115-113 Velez, and 114-114, making the fight a draw, while allowing Gradovich to keep his title.
The main event of the night was between Nebraska native Terence Crawford (24-0) defending his WBO Lightweight title against Raymundo Beltran (29-6-1). The fans at the Century Link Center were strongly behind Terence Crawford.
Both fighters used the first round to feel each other out. Crawford clearly had the quicker hands with a long reach, and he showed the ability to land a counter straight right in the first.
Crawford started off the second round in a southpaw stance and showed he had a very crisp right jab. He switched consistently from a southpaw stance and an orthodox stance and landed accurate counters from the outside of Beltran’s range.
There was a good exchange in the third round when Beltran connected with a hard right hand and Crawford answers with a hard combination of his own. Beltran’s eye started to swell in the fourth round and Crawford kept up the steady throwing of his jabs while out-maneuvering his slower opponent in the fifth and sixth rounds.
Beltran picked up the pace in the seventh round and was able to land a few straight right hands that woke up the crowd, but Crawford was able to answer with slightly quicker and more accurate counter shots of his own.
Crawford snapped the head of Beltran backwards in the eighth round with a lead straight left hand from the southpaw stance. Beltran did connect with two hard left hooks in the ninth round, but Crawford took the punches well and out-boxed Beltran.
Beltran started to get a little more reckless in the ninth round, but Crawford made him pay with accurate counters and a near-knockdown that was ruled a slip. However, Crawford ended the round with Beltran trapped in the corner and attempting to slip the combinations of Crawford.
Beltran got battered by Crawford in the eleventh round and found himself trapped in the corner again as the round came to an end. Beltran needed a knockout in the final round, but Crawford closed the fight out strong and took risks despite being ahead by a wide margin on the cards.
Terence Crawford retained his title with scores of 119-109, 119-109, and 120-108.