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Crawford ready for the big time

When Terence Crawford returned to his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska after winning a lightweight world title from Ricky Burns in Scotland in March, he received a warm reception. There were interviews, slaps on the back and autograph requests.

But it was nothing like the past few days since his tremendous ninth-round knockout victory against Yuriorkis Gamboa on Saturday night at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Crawford's first pro fight in his hometown.

The city embraced the event -- nearly 11,000 packed the building -- and it saw a serious fight of the year candidate in Omaha's first world title fight in 42 years. And now Crawford is reveling in the great victory, one in which he scored four knockdowns against Gamboa, the former unified featherweight titleholder.

"It has been way different from when I came back from Scotland because the fight was here in Omaha," Crawford told ESPN.com on Tuesday.

Crawford, who was wearing a sling on his sore and swollen right forearm after the fight, said he couldn't believe the reception he received on Sunday when he and his family went out for a bite to eat .

"I went to take my family out to eat Sunday and everyone in the Golden Corral was clapping for me when I came in, saying 'Good job, champ.' Everyone was asking for pictures and autographs. I signed autographs and took pictures with all the fans. It was great," he said.

"I can't even explain what it meant [to fight in Omaha]. It was something I was asking for since Day 1. So for me to finally get to fight at home and for me to put on a show like that, I'm at a loss for words."

Even when Crawford, 26, showed up at his gym to hang out and assist with young amateurs who train there, he was met by fans that had been at the fight.

"There were a couple of guys who were waiting for me at the gym for me to sign their programs," Crawford said. "I went to the gym for the kids. I help out as need be, give some instruction. The kids were in there working hard. I motivated a lot of these kids."

After the fight, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said he wanted Crawford's fall fight to be in Omaha. Crawford said he was glad to hear that because he wants to fight at home again.

"That's what's up! I'm real glad HBO and Top Rank enjoyed themselves in Omaha and experienced a good moment like we had Saturday," he said. "It makes me feel real good that they are already thinking about coming back here that fast."

Crawford (24-0, 17 KOs) had problems with Gamboa (23-1, 16 KOs) during the first four rounds as he fell behind, but then he took over the fight. Crawford said he was not concerned at all in the early rounds.

"First couple of rounds I just wanted to see where he was at, see what type of power he got, what kind of speed he got," Crawford said. "And I was just inching myself closer to him.

"His power was good for a 126-pounder, even for a 130, even though he caught me with a real good shot in the ninth round. He kind of buzzed me a little bit but not to the point where he'd knock me down or knock me out. To say he don't have any power, that would be an understatement. But to be more effective with one-punch knockout power he might want to go back down to 130 or 126. His speed wasn't really a factor. I felt like I was just as fast. I was working on timing and slowing him down to the body."

When Crawford does fight in the fall the big question is whether he will defend his lightweight crown or move up to junior welterweight. Both are possible, and Crawford said he would leave that decision up to managers Cameron Dunkin and Brian McIntyre.

"If they suggest I stay at lightweight, I guess I'll be at lightweight. If they say 140, I guess I'll be at 140," he said. "But I don't have any problems making lightweight. I can make it a few more times if need be. I don't worry about things like that. I keep all my focus and attention on training and fighting. I don't call out fighters. I don't say I want to fight this guy or that guy."

But Crawford is a boxing fan. He watches fights on TV all the time and is certainly familiar with the top guys in and around his division. He knows what fights would get fans excited.

Crawford said one of them would be against junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia, even if that fight is hard to make given the promotional, managerial and network issues.

"You got people with big names at 140, undefeated fighters like Garcia," Crawford said. "That's something the fans would like to see. But I don't know what my managers want to do. But I'm ready for anybody."

Crawford was so impressive both in terms of his fighting ability and his drawing power, that Arum said, without question, he would be a candidate for a future fight with welterweight titleholder Manny Pacquiao.

"Bring him on," Crawford said with a laugh. "Like I always told everybody -- just put somebody in front of me. You make the fights, I fight them. For them to be thinking of me in the ring with Manny Pacquiao, it shows a lot about myself. It shows me a lot about what I have done and accomplished in a short period of time.

"But I don't know who I will fight next. I don't pick the fights, I just fight them. I leave it to Bob and my managers, but I would like to fight anybody who will take me to the next level."