LAS VEGAS -- Terence Crawford, already a two-division world titleholder and the 2014 fighter of the year, has been hailed by many as America's next big boxing star.
He went a long way toward living up to those lofty accolades after taking apart Viktor Postol in a masterful performance. Crawford won by unanimous decision and unified two junior welterweight world titles before 7,027 on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Crawford and Postol, both undefeated titleholders in their primes, were universally regarded as the two best 140-pounders in the world coming into the fight. With the victory, Crawford staked his indisputable claim to division supremacy and set himself up for much bigger business, possibly against Manny Pacquiao.
Crawford, who scored two knockdowns in the fifth round, won going away on all three scorecards: 118-107, 118-107 and 117-108. ESPN.com also scored the fight 118-107 for Crawford, who figures to rise on the mythical pound-for-pound list with this performance.
"I just stick to what I know, boxing," Crawford said. "Everybody kept saying I was running from him, but that wasn't true. I asked for the fight.
"I feel like I get better every fight. Viktor Postol is a great champion and he was dodged for a reason, but I ain't the type to duck and dodge anyone."
The victory was huge for Crawford (29-0, 20 KOs). Going into the bout, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said the winner would be one of two leading candidates, along with welterweight titleholder Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs), to land a pay-per-view main event against Pacquiao, who is coming out of a brief retirement, on Nov. 5 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Postol had no answers for Crawford on Saturday.
"I thought it was a good fight between two technicians, but he was quicker than me," Postol said through a translator. "He is one of the best fighters in the world. I just didn't have the answers for him."
Freddie Roach, Postol's trainer, said: "He was just too fast for us. I was surprised how fast and how good he was. I'm very impressed with his talent."
Crawford took time to gloat over the win, praising his trainer, Brian McIntyre.
"Freddie Roach and Postol said that Freddie would outcoach my coach, but you tell 'em who got outcoached tonight," Crawford said.
Added McIntyre: "The game plan was to keep Postol's legs moving, and that took away his jab and right hand. And they told me I wasn't on Freddie Roach's level. ... I had the better fighter."
The fight began slowly as both men looked to get a sense of each other. But Postol, who is 5-foot-11 and held a 3-inch height advantage, appeared to tower over Crawford, who struggled to find his range early. Crawford, 28, of Omaha, Nebraska, fired plenty of jabs, but virtually all of them missed because he could not get inside the longer Postol.
After three technical rounds, the action heated up in the fourth, when Crawford seemed to hurt Postol, 32, of Ukraine, with a hard left hand to the head, bringing to life the pro-Crawford crowd, which began to chant, "Omaha! Omaha!"
Crawford, who retained his title for the third time, appeared to have figured out Postol by the fifth round. He landed a left hand that forced Postol (28-1, 12 KOs) to touch the mat with his right knee for a knockdown. Later in the round, Crawford landed a powerful left hand that sent him into the ropes and forced him to touch his gloves to the mat to keep his balance; referee Tony Weeks called another knockdown.
After the round, McIntyre told Crawford, "He ain't got no legs no more, he ain't got no legs after that knockdown."
The fifth round was the turning point of the fight. Before that round, all three judges had the fight 38-38. Then Crawford won all but one round on one card the rest of the fight.
"I caught my rhythm and I knew everything I would do from there on (after the fifth round)," Crawford said. "He's the type of fighter that has to be set to punch, so I kept his feet moving, kept him off balance. Every time I connect with a solid shot, I was hurting him."
Crawford, who switched from right-handed to southpaw early in the fight, rocked Postol with a left hand in the sixth round -- another clear round Crawford won.
"I went southpaw and took his jab away," Crawford said. "I jabbed over his jab. My right hand caught his jab."
Crawford continued to dominate at the start of the eighth round, when he landed a clean right hand to drive Postol back. Later in the round, he knocked Postol off balance with a hard jab and then landed another flurry of shots, including a left hand, that nearly dropped him.
Crawford nearly dropped Postol again in the ninth round with a left hand.
A frustrated Postol, who made $675,000, resorted to rabbit punching in the 11th round. He nailed Crawford with a right hand behind the head, for which Postol was penalized one point, merely adding to Crawford's overwhelming advantage.
As Crawford, who earned $1.3 million, toyed with Postol in the 12th round, he taunted him, stuck his tongue out and also lashed him with hard punches, eliciting roars from the crowd as the fight ended. HBO will replay the pay-per-view fight next Saturday at 10:15 p.m. ET/PT.
Crawford was going for a knockout in the final round as he strafed Postol, who knocked out Lucas Matthysse in the 10th round to win a vacant title in a big upset in October and was making his first defense.
"He told me 'come on,' so I said, 'Let's go' and he retreated," Crawford said.
After the fight, talk quickly turned to the possible showdown with Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs), the Filipino great and boxing's only eight-division titleholder.
"If Bob Arum wants that fight and my coaches want that fight, that's something we'll talk about later," Crawford said. "I let my coaches handle that. I am a fighter and I will fight anybody. I'm happy and I'm about to go on vacation. We not worried about Manny Pacquiao right now."
But Crawford made one thing clear -- if the fight happens, he will insist that Pacquiao, who has been fighting as a welterweight for years, come down in weight to challenge him for his title belts at junior welterweight.
"It will be at 140," Crawford said.