LAS VEGAS — With a bevy of punches in the ninth round, Terence Crawford solidified his case as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world.
Crawford dropped Jeff Horn with 50 seconds left in the ninth and sent him into the ropes with a slew of punches, ending the fight and winning the WBO welterweight title on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time).
Referee Robert Byrd stopped the fight with 28 seconds left in the round.
"Like I said before, I was the stronger guy," said Crawford, who landed 48 percent of his power shots, according to CompuBox. "He did everything we expected him to do. He came in there with the intentions of roughing me up and getting aggressive. But the thing he didn't understand was how strong I was. I think they underestimated me a little bit.
"I'm stronger than him. I just had to get in the ring and prove it. You saw what I did in there. Now I want all the champions at welterweight."
Crawford (33-0, 24 knockouts) moved up to the 147-pound division and became the sixth fighter in boxing history to win titles at lightweight, junior welterweight and welterweight. Considered by many as boxing's best pound-for-pound fighter, Crawford relinquished the four major belts he held in the junior welterweight division to move up to a stacked welterweight division.
The 30-year-old from Omaha, Nebraska, improved to 11-0 (eight knockouts) in world title fights, the most wins by an active American fighter.
The 30-year-old Horn (18-1-1, 12 knockouts) struggled to make weight one day prior to the bout, hitting 148 pounds on his first try at the weigh-in Friday. He originally won the belt by decision from Manny Pacquiao last July in his hometown of Brisbane, Australia. He fought once since, stopping Gary Corcoran in Brisbane in December to retain his title.
He wasn't so fortunate against Crawford, who out-landed Horn 155-58, according to CompuBox. Horn landed just 6.4 punches per round. Crawford's previous 10 opponents landed 7 per round.
"He was hard to tag, and he just kept me guessing," Horn said. "He's a classy fighter who fought a great fight."
And while Horn's trainer Glenn Rushton said Crawford was sharp by remaining patient for counter punches, he didn't think it was as dominating a fight as everyone else.
"When you're away from home, you have to win your rounds more clearly. I thought there were some close rounds in there, and it was definitely a premature stoppage," Rushton said. "Terence would just get that odd shot, just that little bit more. He got hit harder by Pacquiao."
Crawford, a traditional right-hander who fought southpaw most of the bout, dominated from the start, using both hands to pepper Horn throughout. Effortlessly, Crawford absorbed the hard-charging Horn the entire fight, while dodging the big blows and countering effectively to wear down his opponent. A big left in the second round by Crawford got things going, while an impressive right cross to Horn's left temple in the third round showed his keen ability as a tactician.
Though he never appeared frustrated, Horn couldn't find a rhythm against Crawford, who chuckled in the middle in the fourth, the same round he opened a small cut on Horn's left eyebrow. As slick and surgical as Crawford was, he showed his power in the fifth round, using a thunderous left uppercut to Horn's jaw, and moments later landing a left hook to the body.
The sixth round was as close to a winning round that Horn would see, but Crawford continued to serve a shutout by blocking punches and countering with stinging jabs to the face.
Crawford's skills came to life in the eighth round, as he went upstairs-downstairs near the end of the round, working the head and the body before closing the round with a monster right that staggered Horn.
The two fighters were originally scheduled to meet April 14, but Crawford injured a hand in training, which resulted in the fight being postponed. Though it's been close to one year since Crawford has been in the ring, when he fought at 140, he looked every bit the part of a hard-hitting welterweight.
"I compare him, and it's the highest praise that I can give a fighter ... that he reminds me of Sugar Ray Leonard," promoter Bob Arum said. "And that to me is a great, great compliment because I always thought that Leonard was the best. And this guy is equal if not better than Ray was. The future is unlimited."
The fight marked the first attempt to attract boxing fans to ESPN's new $4.99 per month app, which allowed them to watch the bout from the MGM Grand Garden.
In the co-main event, Jose Pedraza defeated Antonio Moran by unanimous decision for a regional lightweight title. With the win, it opened the door for Pedraza to challenge WBO lightweight world champion Ray Beltran in August.