It was back in April when Terence Crawford declared his favorite fighter to be Floyd Mayweather Jr. and that he was ready to fight "whoever they put in front of me."
Crawford proved that during Saturday night's ninth round stoppage of previously unbeaten Yuriorkis Gamboa, whom he floored once each in the fifth and eighth rounds and twice more in the ninth in defense of his WBO lightweight title before 10,943 boisterous hometown fans at CenturyLink Center in his native Omaha, Neb.
The switch-hitting Crawford (24-0, 17 knockouts), 26, fought mostly out of the southpaw stance against Gamboa (23-1, 16 KOs), against whom he finally displayed the versatility he always desired.
Crawford recalled the Gamboa fight during a Wednesday interview with RingTV.com.
"I showed that I can take a punch. I showed that I can keep my mind focused. I showed that I can not get frustrated, that I could come from behind, that I can trade, if need-be," said Crawford, who stands nearly three inches taller at 5-foot-8 than the 5-foot-5 and a half Gamboa, and out-landed his 32-year-old rival, 146-to-82 overall.
"I showed that I could be a crowd-pleaser. I think that I showed a lot in there and not just one thing. I showed multiple things. I just felt like this was a long time coming like I've always said. When everybody asked me when they were going to see more out of Terence Crawford, I always told them, 'Just put me in there with somebody.' That's what they did on Saturday and I was able to show that I can do a lot of things in the ring like I always said that I could do."
During his previous experience at the venue when it was called the Qwest Center in the spring of 2006, Crawford lost an amateur bout to Jesus Mendez III in the 132-pound final of the National Golden Gloves.
"I wasn't thinking about Mendez. I was just focusing on Gamboa and beating him and I was going to walk through fire to get that win," said Crawford. "I just went out there and boxed him to see where he was at during those first couple of rounds. I just felt him out until the end of the third round and then I just started picking it up. In the fourth round, I picked it up a little more."
The drama was building, however, as Gamboa got out to an early lead over the first three rounds. Crawford admitted to being troubled initially by the elusive Gamboa, who boxed effectively at first.
"He had caught me with a lot of clean shots in the third round but I felt like I had been pushing the action from the middle of the third round on. I started to get some clean body shots in on him and I was closing the distance a lot more. So I felt like I was getting a little bit closer to making my mark. I had it in my mind that I was going to get him and that when I did, I was not going to let him off the hook," said Crawford.
"In that fifth round, I was close enough to land the good shot and to drop him that first time. In the ninth round, when I dropped him that first time, that's when I was like, 'I'm about to get this over with.' I knew that I had hurt him and I said, 'Well, we're going to go out, guns blazing,' because I knew that I could get him outta there. So I just started to control myself when he started coming forward again and I threw that left hook and the right uppercut that caught him."
Crawford was coming off a unanimous decision that dethroned Ricky Burns as WBO beltholder on Burns' turf in Glasgow, Scotland, in March.
So what's next for Crawford - a rise in weight or a title unification?
"I definitely see myself moving up but for the time being, I'm at lightweight right now," said Crawford, who stands 5-foot-8. "But that's up to my manager and [Top Rank Promotions]. If they want me to stay at lightweight or they want me to move up, I'll leave that up to them," said Crawford, whose response was similar in regard to which opponent he would like to fight next. "I can't answer that question because I don't make my fights. My manager and them, they make my fights and I'll leave it at that. They make my fights and I don't ask any questions. I just fight."
Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank Promotions