By: Sean Crose
Madison Square Garden hosted an ESPN and Top Rank Promotions’ card Saturday night ; which featured undefeated WBO welterweight champ Terence Crawford. Omaha’s Crawford, 35-0, putting his belt on the line against California’s (by way of Lithuania) Egidijus Kavaliauskas, 21-0-1, in the main event of the evening.
In the first bout of the night, Ireland’s Michael Conlan put his 12-0 record to the test against the man who bested him at the 2016 Olympic Games, Russia’s 3-0 Valdimir Nitikin. Conlan was able to control the range in the first. Nitikin managed to have his moments in the second, when he was able to close the distance. The third saw Nitikin go down, though the referee ruled it a slip. The Russian went on to have his moments throughout the round, though it was Conlan who looked to land the cleaner shots. By the fourth, there was a clear pattern in play – Conlan would control the range, while Nitikin would lunge forward at times swinging wildly.
Conlan was the fighter in control. With that in mind, Nitikin came on strong in the fifth. The sixth round was close and perhaps hard to call for the judges. Nitikin was landing, but was he landing enough? The seventh ended in explosive fashion, with both men trading leather. Things were explosive again in the eighth, with each man firing away. The ninth was a high octane affair, though Conlan may have edged it. Nitikin continued to give it his all in the tenth, though Conlan looked to be the slightly sharper fighter overall. In the end, Conlan walked away with a UD win.
Next up, IBF Lightweight champ Richard Comey, (29-2), took on colorful rising star Teofimo Lopez (14-0)in a scheduled 12 rounder. The opening round was a very close, sharpshooting affair, which Brooklyn’s Lopez may have edged. Comey was sent down in thunderous fashion in the second, so thunderous that he actually stumbled across the canvas. The brave product of Ghana got to his feet, but Lopez, who was smelling blood, went in for the kill. The referee wisely stopped the fight a few seconds later. A unification bout with Vasyl Lomachenko was talked about immediately afterwards – and with good reason.
It was time for the main event. The first round was a tight affair, with Crawford starting out in the southpaw stance. By staying disciplined, Kavaliauskas was able to land hard on Crawford in the second. The third was quite exciting. Both man landed well. Crawford hit the mat at one point, though it was ruled a slip. Each man threw – and landed – hard in the fourth. Crawford also used a right jab to very good effect early on. While Crawford seemed to get the better of his man in the fifth, Kavaliauskas was nothing if not a live dog. It had become a close fight, the kind of fight no one had expected. Still, Crawford appeared to take control in the sixth.
The seventh saw Kavaliauskas go down thanks to Crawford’s crushing punches. The man got up, however, and was able to survive to the bell. Crawford came on strong again at the end of the eighth. Yet Kavaliauskas was able to survive another round. It didn’t matter. Crawford dropped the challenger hard in the early part of the ninth, then, after Kavaliauskas gamely got to his feet, dropped him once more. The referrer stepped in and stopped the bout.