LAS VEGAS — There is a memorabilia store called The Art of Music down one of the MGM Grand hallways. It features a small booth near a front window used for appearances by special guests.
Pete Rose was in that booth late Saturday afternoon, peering out the window at passing tourists.
“Stop on in,” a man in a Rose Expos jersey shouted down the hallway. “He’s still the hit king.”
For $100, a person could take a picture with MLB’s hits leader and get an autograph. Or for the same price, two could watch the new hit king, Terence “Bud” Crawford, fight around the corner.
Rose sat alone in that booth as the one-way traffic sped to the Garden Arena. There, those folks saw Crawford show again why he is on the fast track to a place that Rose may never get to — the hall of fame.
In the latest of his growing list of star-making performances, the man many think is the best fighter in the world today dismantled an unbeaten champion over nine one-sided rounds. Crawford’s technical knockout of Australian Jeff Horn for the WBO welterweight title made him a three-division world champ.
The Omahan, 33-0 with 24 knockouts, was making his debut at 147 pounds. He had given up his status as the undisputed 140-pound champion to challenge for Horn’s WBO title.
Being able to call himself a world champion again seemed to be his biggest takeaway Saturday.
“Coming into this fight, I was the challenger,” Crawford said. “I, too much, didn’t like that. I wanted a title again.
“Now that I’ve got that, I can rest and assure you I’ll be back stronger and better next time.”
Better? That’s a tough one, because he was supremely good against Horn.
Crawford entered the bout as the best in the business at not getting hit. According to CompuBox, his previous 10 opponents landed an average of seven punches per round against him.
Horn averaged 6.4 Saturday, landing 58 punches in nine rounds. Crawford, meanwhile, hit the former champion 155 times and connected on 48 percent of his power shots, exactly on his average.
And the new champion did that against a full-fledged welterweight with an awkward fighting style.
“He came in there with intentions of roughing me up and getting aggressive,” Crawford said. “But the thing he didn’t understand was how strong I was. I think they underestimated me a little bit on that.”
Hall of fame promoter Bob Arum gave his 30-year-old fighter a rave review of his welterweight debut.
“I’ve told everybody I compare him — and it’s the highest praise that I could give a fighter at welterweight — that he reminds me of ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard,” he said. “And that, to me, is a great, great compliment because I always thought that Leonard was the best.
“And this guy is equal, if not better than Ray was.”
Let that sink in for a moment. Bob Arum thinks Terence Crawford may be better than Ray Leonard.
Dean Lonergan, Horn’s promoter for Duco Events in New Zealand, came away impressed with Crawford. He thinks the only thing keeping Crawford from being a household name is his reluctance to talk.
“If he would perform regularly in the media, because I actually think he’s good at it, I think he could become a superstar very quickly,” he said. “He’s one hell of a fighter and (headed) to the hall of fame.”
Crawford did to Horn what he has done to so many other really good fighters — made them look below average. The Aussie was the fourth unbeaten current or former world champion to take his first loss to the Omahan. Yuriorkis Gamboa, Viktor Postol and Julius Indongo suffered the same fate as Horn.
Those four were a combined 91-0-1 heading into their bouts with Crawford. In 33 rounds, the quartet combined to win five — at most — on the scorecards.
Horn didn’t take one Saturday, though he was still in the fight when it was stopped at 2:33 of the ninth round. He showed up for the postfight press conference with 26 stitches to the areas around his eyes, but insisted that he was never hurt. He did say Crawford can punch.
“The power was there,” Horn said. “I definitely didn’t want to get hit by him.”
In his first defeat, Horn did get hit by Crawford, cleanly, over and over. Kind of like the 4,256 MLB pitches Rose made contact with to reach base during his storied career.
Though he was widely ignored at the MGM on Saturday, baseball’s hit king was one of the best to ever do it.
As it looks now, the new hit king — the one fighting around the corner, the one named Crawford — may be, too.