There were no knockdowns this time, but he was just as destructively good.

Pitching a Near Shutout

WBO lightweight champion Terence Crawford pitched a near shutout and cruised to a masterful unanimous decision victory over a game Ray Beltran in front of a  packed Century Link Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Crawford, who fought at his hometown of Omaha for the second consecutive time, brilliantly boxed around the hard hitting Beltran to win by scores of 119-109,119-109 and 120-108 and retain his belt in dominating fashion.

Crawford was coming off a star-producing nine round destruction over former featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa last June 28. During that fight, Crawford put Gamboa down four times, including the fight ending knockdown which dealt Gamboa the first defeat of his professional career. On Saturday night, Crawford did not score a single knockdown, but Beltran’s puffed up face at the end of the bout was just as bad as getting knocked out.

The Real Deal

Ray Beltran represented a true challenge for Terence Crawford. He was robbed of the same WBO lightweight belt last year against Ricky Burns before Crawford took the strap away from the Briton. Beltran used to be Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao’s chief sparring partner when the Pacman fought in the lighter weight classes. He was a legitimate lightweight who had good size and credible punching power. But none of those worked against Crawford.

The undefeated 27 year old champion showed lightning quick speed and pinpoint accuracy throughout the 12 round affair. He used his length to keep Beltran at bay and frustrated his challenger by repeatedly popping his head back with laser-like jabs. Those jabs were the key to the fight as Crawford began to redden Beltran’s face as early as the third round. When Crawford switched to the southpaw stance, the right jab targeted Beltran’s left eye and had it almost half-closed midway in the fight. What made matters worse for Beltran was that he was unable to launch a full attack because he was baffled by Crawford’s skillful switch-hitting abilities. In the end, Beltran had no answers and Crawford left no questions unanswered.

Moving Up in Weight

The win was Crawford’s third impressive victory of the year and it should put him as one of the front runners for Boxer of the Year. After the fight, Crawford gave the crowd a glimpse of his boxing future:

“This is it (at lightweight)” said Crawford. “This is it–like Michael Jackson.”

If Jackson was the King of Pop, Crawford is the undisputed King of lightweight. Aside from retaining his WBO belt, Crawford earned the Ring’s lineal lightweight title. But if indeed that was it for him at 135 pounds, it was the perfect way to go out: Big superstar status win in front of a big crowd at home.

Crawford was said to have weighed around 153 pounds on fight night, putting on nearly 20 pounds after the weigh in. Moving to light welterweight lines him up for bigger money fights with bigger named foes. Although he refused to call out anybody after the fight, Crawford was previously being mentioned as a possible future opponent for Manny Pacquiao, who is coming off a 144-catchweight title defense last week. Pacquiao is reportedly dead serious about moving down to light welterweight if he won’t land a Floyd Mayweather Jr. bout.