If the professional boxing community didn’t know Terence Crawford before, it certainly does now.
The unbeaten Omahan neutralized Breidis Prescott in his HBO debut Saturday, scoring a one-sided unanimous decision at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas in the first 10-round bout of his career.
Crawford (20-0, 15 KOs) frustrated the taller, more experienced Colombian with lateral movement and an active jab. He never let the hard-hitting Prescott (26-5, 20 KOs), who once knocked out future world champion Amir Khan of Great Britain in 54 seconds, set up for his power shots.
In a tactical bout that didn’t feature a lot of action, the right-handed Crawford put on a dominant clinical performance while fighting almost exclusively out of a southpaw stance.
The 25-year-old has often switched styles to give his opponent different looks throughout his pro and amateur career. After the first round, he went back to a conventional stance on very few occasions.
But he was effective when he did. Crawford switched from the southpaw side briefly in the sixth round and nailed Prescott with a hard left to the body. In the ninth round, he landed a body-body-head combination after switching from lefty again.
Although well ahead on the card, the Omahan closed the fight in style by standing within striking distance of Prescott and unloading power shots in the 10th. In the final seconds of the bout, Crawford smiled at his opponent, then pumped his fist in front of his chest at the final bell.
His performance drew rave reviews from those in attendance. Super bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire, considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, tweeted from ringside that Crawford reminded him of retired former champion Pernell Whitaker, a slick left-handed lightweight who has been hailed as one of the best defensive fighters of all time.
Crawford is also a lightweight (135 pounds), although Saturday’s bout took place one division up at junior welterweight (140). Prescott’s original opponent, WBA champion Khabib Allakherdiev, pulled out of the televised bout due to an elbow injury. Crawford, already scheduled to appear on the untelevised undercard, took the fight and moved up a weight class on short notice for his first HBO appearance.
Taking the gamble of facing a bigger fighter — the 5-foot-11 Prescott is three inches taller than Crawford and weighed 157 at the time of the bout — was certainly a risk. But Crawford, who came in at 150, was up to the challenge and came through with a commanding performance on the biggest stage in his sport.
With unbeaten champion Adrien Broner scheduled to leave the 135-pound weight class, HBO analyst Max Kellerman said that “Crawford — still without a significant win at lightweight — is the class of the lightweight division right now.”
And prior to Saturday, he had never been in a bout scheduled to go beyond eight rounds.
As ring announcer Michael Buffer read the official scorecards after the bout, Crawford looked right into the HBO camera and put the boxing world on notice.
“We comin’, baby,” he said. “We comin’.”