NEW YORK • Amir Khan may have been looking for a way out during Saturday night's frightful beating at the hands of Terence Crawford.
With one wayward left hand, Crawford gave it to him.
Khan, who was floored in the opening round and systematically broken down over the next four, absorbed a punch well south of the beltline early in the sixth.
The shot was ruled an accidental blow by referee David Fields and the Briton would have been given five minutes to recover under the unified rules of boxing.
Trainer Virgil Hunter, however, informed the referee after about 40 seconds that the boxer would not be able to continue, sparing him the gruesome denouement that appeared more inevitable with each passing minute.
Crawford, the three-division champion regarded by many as the world's best fighter regardless of weight, thus retained his WBO welterweight title by a technical knockout at the 0:47 mark of Round 6 in front of a crowd of 14,091 at Madison Square Garden.
The unbeaten American (35 wins and no losses) led by scores of 50-44, 49-45 and 49-45 in his second defence of the title he captured from Jeff Horn last year.
It was just a matter of time. I just took my time. I was disappointed the corner stopped the fight in that manner, but Virgil (Hunter, Amir Khan's trainer) is a great coach, and he was looking out for his fighter. I know he didn't want to go out like that.
TERENCE CRAWFORD, after Amir Khan's trainer told the referee his boxer cannot continue after the unintentional low blow.
"I could tell I was breaking him down," said Crawford, who earned a minimum purse of US$5.5 million (S$7.4 million), slightly more than Khan's US$5 million.
"It was just a matter of time. I just took my time. I was disappointed the corner stopped the fight in that manner, but Virgil is a great coach, and he was looking out for his fighter. I know he didn't want to go out like that."
It was an unsatisfying ending to a fight that proved a mismatch from the first round when Crawford, after two minutes of deliberate calculation, detonated a counter right on Khan's jaw that sent him clattering to the deck.
Khan beat the count, but was nearly put down a second time in the closing seconds before he was saved by the bell.
"We made sure this whole camp that we was going to start fast," Crawford added. "We made it a point because Khan's a faster starter. We didn't want to give him no confidence out the door."
Crawford's rare blend of power, speed and tactical aptitude was on full display in the second as he followed up with more sharp punches.
The Omaha native added another wrinkle when he switched from an orthodox to a southpaw stance in the third and started picking Khan apart with pinpoint accuracy.
Then came the fourth when Crawford connected with a left hook and a counter right to back Khan up and then began stalking the Briton around the ring, unloading with punishing combinations to the body.
The end came less than a minute into the sixth after Crawford's left hand landed low.
Confusion prevailed for more than a minute as it was unclear whether Khan would take the allotted five minutes to recover or whether Crawford was in danger of a disqualification if somehow the punch had been ruled intentional.
"I saw Amir Khan's face and he was shaking his head and I was getting disappointed because I knew that he was looking for a way out," said Crawford, who landed 88 of 211 punches (42 per cent) according to CompuBox's punch statistics, twice the output and nearly twice the connect rate of Khan's 44 of 182 (24 per cent).
"Not the way that I would have liked to finish the fight."
Khan, whose face was badly marked up when he arrived at the post-fight conference, said the final shot landed in his groin area but that it was Hunter who made the call to stop the fight.
He insisted numerous times he did not quit.
"I am a warrior," he said. "I would never give up in a fight like this. I would rather get knocked out."
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE