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Crawford keeps belt, wants Pacquiao next

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Unbeaten world champion Terence “Bud” Crawford stopped John Molina in the eighth round to end a dominating performance and a dominating year.

Crawford retained his WBO and WBC junior welterweight titles. Molina didn’t make the 140-pound weight Friday, and had Crawford been upset, the titles would have been vacated.

The fight was Crawford’s first since his lopsided win over former WBC champ Viktor Postal in Las Vegas. In the fight before that, he knocked out Hank Lundy in New York. Now Crawford is poised to be named fighter of the year for a second time in three years.

“I think I should get a lot of credit for what I did this year, especially tonight,” Crawford said. “I showed I could be a finisher.”

The 29-year-old Crawford (30-0, 21 knockouts) came out in an orthodox stance but quickly switched to southpaw. Molina was on defense early, with Crawford landing a left to the head and then a right that staggered him. Molina walked into a right to the head in the second.

“He’s a great fighter; he’s very fast,” Molina said. “He was very good at evading my punches.”

Crawford continues to hold out hope that he gets a shot at Manny Pacquiao before Pacquiao retires.

“Yeah, I’d like to fight him. I’m not chasing him,” Crawford said.

The 33-year-old Molina (29-7, 23 knockouts) upset Ruslan Provodnikov in his last fight but had been just 5-5 in his previous 10.

Meantime in Los Angeles, Abner Mares raised his hands in victory right before the final bell, and he dropped to his knees in relief moments later. A few months after his boxing career appeared to be in jeopardy, he was a champion again.

Mares knocked down Jesus Cuellar in the 11th round and hung on for a split-decision victory Saturday night to claim Cuellar’s WBA featherweight title.

“I’m so glad to be called a world champion again,” Mares said. “It means the world to me.”

Mares (30-2-1) earned his fourth world title in three weight classes with a resourceful performance against Cuellar (28-2). The powerful Argentine champion hadn’t lost in 11 fights since October 2011, but Mares punctuated his effort with a big right hand early in the 11th round, sending the champion sprawling onto his backside.

Cuellar, the Argentine veteran trained by Freddie Roach, attacked Mares from the opening round, but the champion’s predictability allowed Mares to pick his shots while edging several early rounds. Cuellar’s superior power showed up later and turned the fight in his direction — before Mares replied emphatically in the 11th.

Mares battered Cuellar on the ropes moments after the knockdown. Cuellar recovered, but Mares persevered through a solid 12th to win it.

“Cuellar was a little flat,” Roach said. “Abner had a good strategy. He moved and he held, and it worked. Abner was the better man.”