Terence Crawford looked a little surprised by the speed of Yuriorkis Gamboa to start the night, but once he got the timing down, he turned the tide and took over tonight's HBO Boxing After Dark main event in front of a raucous hometown crowd in Omaha, Nebraska, knocking Gamboa down four times en route to a ninth round stoppage to retain his WBO lightweight title.
Crawford (24-0, 17 KO) may have lost the first four rounds (BLH gave Gamboa three of the first four), but in round five he decked Gamboa (23-1, 16 KO) hard, and took over the fight from there. To his immense credit, Gamboa never gave up on himself, and perhaps feeling that he was wearing down and being overpowered by a very good, physically bigger man, he went for broke, swinging for the fences, which fight fans always ask to see out of guys who don't look like they're going to win.
In the end, Gamboa was dropped three more times, once in the eighth round and twice in the ninth, leading to referee Genaro Rodriguez stopping the fight.
"I was warming up, getting used to his style in the first couple of rounds. I just wanted to test him out," Crawford told HBO's Max Kellerman of his moderately slow start. He added, "My coach told me to keep my hands up and catch him coming in. He was coming in wild and I was just lazy. I wasn't reacting as fast as I normally do."
Asked why he switched to a full-time southpaw stance about halfway into the fight, Crawford said, "I felt like I could make an adjustment with my jab, because he's always dropping his left hand. I thought I could get him with my jab in the southpaw stance."
Crawford drew 10,943 fans officially in Omaha for the fight, a very loud and emotionally invested crowd that made a terrific fight even better with their reactions. "It means a lot," Crawford said about fighting at home for the first time as a world champion. "This is what they've been waiting on since I turned pro. It's been a long time. Everybody's been waiting on me to come back (since 2006)."
The fighter gave the typical non-answer when asked what he'll do next, saying he'll leave it up to Cameron Dunkin, Brian McIntyre, and Top Rank, but the belief is he'll be moving up in weight after this.
Gamboa offered no excuses for his first pro loss, telling Kellerman, "We were just two warriors in the ring trying to get the victory, and he won." He said that as the fight went on, Crawford got better, and was able to deal with his punches.
He did say that he wanted to keep fighting, which is believable given how he kept getting up and trying to storm back after knockdowns. "I think we could have continued the fight. But the official decided to stop the fight and we respect that," he said.
For the fight, Crawford landed 146 of 348 punches (42%) compared to Gamboa's 82 of 345 (24%), which accurately sums up what turned into a pretty dominant performance for him. The official time of stoppage was 2:53 of round nine.