Terence Crawford makes history, unifies 140-pound titles with third-round knockout

Terence Crawford has made 21st century boxing history.

The unbeaten Nebraska native delighted his Cornhusker fans in a big way on Saturday night in Lincoln, defeating previously pristine slugger Julius Indongo by third-round knockout to capture the Namibian's IBF and WBA 140-pound title belts atop a Top Rank-promoted card from the Pinnacle Bank Arena.

The end came at 1:38 of the third round after Indongo was dropped with a left hand to the body and writhed on the canvas -- but made no attempt to rise -- as referee Jack Reiss counted him out.

"We've been practicing body shots all camp," Crawford said. "Everything that we worked on in camp, it came out today in the fight."

Crawford (32-0, 23 KOs) entered the ring as the WBC and WBO junior welterweight champion, meaning the victory makes him the first undisputed champion in any weight class since Jermain Taylor reigned at middleweight in 2006. Crawford, along with Taylor and the man he had dethroned (Bernard Hopkins) are the only fighters to have unified all four widely recognized title belts in a weight class.

"It feels great. It's like a dream come true," Crawford said. "Belts matter. I'm the only one who can be labeled as champion at 140. That's a big deal to me."

The 29-year-old won a championship at lightweight and defended it twice in 2014, earning Fighter of the Year honors from the Boxing Writers Association of America. Crawford then won the WBO's crown in his junior welterweight debut the following year and has followed with six straight wins.

Crawford captured the WBC title in 2016 and is slotted first in the weight class by the Independent World Boxing Rankings, which rank all fighters regardless of the belts they hold.

And now that he's unified the 140-pound ranks, many expect Crawford to dip into a talented pool at 147 pounds that includes unbeaten champions Keith Thurman and Errol Spence, as well as Top Rank stablemate Manny Pacquiao. He refused, however, to immediately elaborate on future plans.

"I'm going fishing next," Crawford said. "I'm going to rest up with my family. My coaches and my managers will see what's next for me."

Indongo (22-1) had been ranked third at 140 by the IWBR.

Crawford landed the bout's first meaningful punch, a counter left hand, about a minute into the first round and looked more comfortable than the frenetic Indongo, who was bolting in and out but not connecting on any shots. Crawford also landed a few lead rights to the body in the first as well, then landed another in the second that was followed by a left hand that dropped Indongo for the first time. He rose and survived the round but never established an offensive rhythm.

Overall, Crawford landed 26 punches to Indongo's 13, including a 17-10 edge in power shots.

The decisiveness of the win solidifies Crawford's position on most prominent pound-for-pound lists, including the one at Boxrec.com, where he's ranked No. 3 in the world behind former two-division champ Canelo Alvarez and reigning light heavyweight kingpin Andre Ward.

"Andre Ward, he's one of my favorite fighters," Crawford said, "but I have to top him on this one."

Ward, who was doing color commentary at ringside, didn't exactly disagree.

"I love how he takes on these big moments," Ward said. "He's just been consistent. He's 32-0. He's beaten everyone they put in front of him, and I just hope he gets the respect he deserves."

Elsewhere on the undercard ...

Regional cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk, a bronze medalist in the 2012 Summer Olympics, won his 14th straight bout with a sixth-round TKO of Texan Craig Baker.Gvozdyk, ranked in the top five by all major  sanctioning bodies and on track to get a world title shot in the near future, landed 127 punches to Baker's 39 overall -- and 13 of 20 power shots in the sixth. Baker fell to 17-2.

Also, 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson won his third straight bout as a pro with a unanimous six-round featherweight decision over Argentine import David Paz. The 20-year-old Stevenson, who scored the fight's only knockdown with a straight left hand in the fifth round, swept the scorecards with three counts of 60-53. He also out-landed Paz, 113-21, including an 85-19 edge in power punches.

CBS Sports mirrored the judges with a 60-53 card. Paz fell to 4-4-1.

Other winners on the undercard included former 140-pound title challenger Mike Alvarado (KO-4 Sidney Siqueria), two-time heavyweight challenger Bryant Jennings (TKO-2 Daniel Martz), highly-regarded British-based heavyweight Dillian Whyte (TKO-3 Malcolm Tann) and prospects Mike Reed (Robert Frankel), Steve Nelson (UD-6 Cesar Ruiz) and Kevin Ventura (KO-3 Baltazar Ramirez).

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