Crawford stops Kavaliauskas in ninth to retain title

Unbeaten welterweight world titleholder Terence Crawford got off to a rocky start against mandatory challenger Egidijus Kavaliauskas on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, but eventually settled in.

Crawford scored three knockdowns in a ninth-round knockout victory over "Mean Machine" Kavaliauskas to retain his 147-pound world title for the third time before an announced crowd of 10,101.

Although Crawford dished out a severe beating to Kavaliauskas, which included a knockdown in the seventh and two more in the ninth, Crawford also took his fair share of punishment.

In the third round Kavaliauskas buzzer Crawford with a right hand and then connected with a short uppercut that dropped the champion to a knee. However, referee Ricky Gonzalez ruled it a slip.

Crawford said he was not hurt from the right hand.

"I wasn't hurt at all," Crawford said. "I got up and went straight to him. I wasn't hurt by no means. I walked through everything he threw all night."

Crawford, who fights for Top Rank and on ESPN, has begged for a big fight, but his efforts have fallen short since all of the other elite 147-pound fighters are under Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions.

Crawford (36-0, 27 KO's), who turned pro in 2008, has won world titles at 135, 140, and 147 pounds, but has yet to have a major fight. Although he won the undisputed junior welterweight world championship in 2017, his opponent posed little threat.

But after his struggles on Saturday, perhaps some fighters will make their way out of the woodworks and be brave enough to call him out.

Crawford insisted he was trying to entertain the fans early on.

"I thought I had to entertain y'all for a little bit," Crawford said. "He's a strong fighter, durable, and I thought I'd give the crowd something to cheer for."

Kavaliauskas has more success in the fourth round as he tagged Crawford repeatedly with right hands that knocked him off balance. By the end of the round, Crawford’s right eye was beginning to swell.

Kavaliauskas knocked Crawford off balance again in the seventh round with an incredible right-left combination.

However, later in the round, Crawford dropped Kavaliauskas with a solid right hand behind the war that dropped him to a knee.

The tide officially shifted in Crawford's favor.

The 32-year-old Omaha, Nebraska native poured it on in the eighth. He hurt Kavaliauskas with a big right uppercut that forced the Lithuanian to clinch. Later in the round, Crawford wobbled Kavaliauskas with a series of crisp right hands.

Kavaliauskas (21-1-1, 17 KO's), 31, a dual Olympian who fights out of Oxnard, California, fought as brave and as poised as anyone ever has against Crawford, but even that was not enough. Crawford finished him off in the ninth round. He knocked Kavaliauskas back hard with a combination and then dropped the hammer with a right uppercut and a right hand to the head that sent him to the canvas for the second time in the fight.

Referee Ricky Gonzalez allowed the fight to continue, but the bout would not last much longer as Crawford floored Kavaliauskas again with a right hook and Gonzalez stopped the fight.

"The round before that, my coaches kept telling me stop loading up," Crawford said. "I was loading up a lot because the first couple of clean shots I landed, I knew I hurt him. I wanted to give the crowd a knockout. When I started letting my hands go, I started landing more fatal shots."

According to CompuBox, Crawford landed 128 of 382 punches (34 percent), and Kavaliauskas landed 118 of 391 (30 percent).

Since handing former junior welterweight titlist Viktor Postol his first professional loss in a July 2016 unanimous decision, Crawford has won his last seven bouts by knockout.

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