While UFC 245 was going on, Top Rank on ESPN wrapped up its 2019 with a tripleheader at Madison Square Garden in New York. Michael Conlan got things started with a decision win over Vladimir Nikitin, the man who controversially eliminated him from the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The main attractions were the two title fights, and we saw fireworks.
Lightweight sensation Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) had what was supposed to be a tough test in the form of IBF champion Richard Commey (35-3, 29 KOs). It didn’t even go two rounds, and Lopez is now a lightweight titleholder at just 22 years old. Up next is likely a unification bout with Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs), and that has huge fireworks potential whether or not you think Lopez is ready for him.
Meanwhile, Terence Crawford (36-0, 27 KOs) had a tougher time than expected with Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas (21-1-1, 17 KOs), who hurt him in the third round and should’ve been credited with a knockdown. Ultimately, Crawford found his range and timing and defended his WBO welterweight title with a ninth-round TKO. Mean Machine was a game opponent but slowly but surely he was getting picked apart, and Crawford is as great a finisher as there is in boxing. That uppercut was violent.
Crawford hopefully is lined up for big fights in 2020, but that seems very dependent on whether or not Top Rank and PBC can play nice beyond just Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder.