NEW YORK — Omaha native Terence Crawford knocked down Egidijus Kavaliauskas three times before stopping him in the ninth round Saturday night to remain unbeaten and defend his welterweight title.

Kavaliauskas had never been knocked down as a pro, and Crawford said this week he couldn’t recall even seeing him hurt. But Crawford dropped the challenger once in the seventh round and twice more in the ninth before referee Ricky Gonzalez stopped it at 44 seconds of the round.

Crawford (36-0, 27 KOs) absorbed perhaps more shots than usual but seemed to enjoy getting to show he has power, too, letting out a big smile as Kavaliauskas returned to his corner looking frustrated after one round late in the fight.

“I thought I had to entertain you 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 (21-1-1), a Lithuanian who was the mandatory challenger for Crawford’s WBO belt, had some good moments in the first few rounds before Crawford took control midway through the fight and then poured it on late.

Crawford fought cautiously at the outset, and Kavaliauskas showed why there was reason to when he landed a big right early in the third round and then a couple more punches inside as Crawford tried to hold on. Crawford ended up going to a knee, but Kavaliauskas wasn’t credited with a knockdown, the referee apparently determining Crawford had been pushed down.

Crawford, said afterward that he wasn’t hurt by that shot, and it wasn’t long before he was the one doing more damage.

Kavaliauskas kept throwing big punches that drove Crawford backward when they landed, but Crawford used his speed advantage to slip out of the way of many of them while landing his own combinations.

Crawford took a hard shot early in the seventh but then began answering and finally caught Kavaliauskas with a looping right near the ear that sent him to the canvas.

Crawford finished it two rounds later, first using a three-punch combination to set up a right uppercut that sent Kavaliauskas to the canvas. He got up, but Crawford then threw a right hook that returned Kavaliauskas to the canvas, and the fight was immediately waved off.

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