Terence Crawford will introduce himself to a broader segment of BoxingHeads when he sits in studio, during “Friday Night Fights,” and shoots the bull about the slate of fights unfolding for ESPN2 viewers, as well as his impressive win over Yuriorkis Gamboa a couple weeks ago, a scrap seen on HBO.
I was thinking I'd get a better handle on the man, what makes him tick, the who, what, when and why about the Omaha, Nebraska athlete who, some people tell me, is neck and neck with trillionaire business mogul Warren Buffett as most popular Nebraskan, on Thursday night. Top Rank set up an intimate meet 'n greet 'n eat in NYC, near Madison Square Garden, at a steak joint. I got there at 6:45 PM and babbled with pals Mitch Abramson, of the NY Daily News, and ace videographer Bill Emes. At 7:10 PM word dropped, sadly, that Crawford would be a no show.
This being boxing, I awaited the story. There is just about always a story when stuff like this goes down, and this one didn't disappoint. I call it “The Curse of the '87 Monte.”
Here's the quick version. Crawford (24-0 with 17 KOs), who is known by all in and around Omaha as “Bud,” in honor of Rudy's l'il pal “Bud” on “The Cosby Show,” the runaway sitcom hit from the 80s which spawned a tacky sweater craze, likes cars.
Not in the way Mayweather likes cars, though. His craving are of a saner variety.
He had his eye on a Monte Carlo, a 1987 edition, meaningful to him because he was born that year. He tracked one down. Co-manager Brian McIntyre told me he think he found it on Ebay. With some of the same focus he used to bear down on Gamboa, enroute to a KO9 win, Crawford traveled to Illinois to pick up the auto.
“He told me he was going, and I said, 'Just make sure you get to the airport on time,' McIntyre told me.
“I will,” Crawford, the 26-year-old WBO 140 pound champ, assured Mac, who helps train him.
Indeed, he had the best intentions, knowing he needed to make this media gathering in NYC, and then make the short air trek to CT., to make it to Bristol to make the rounds before the FNF hit. Then Johnny Law hit Crawford with a sneaky-quick combo. Crawford's pal was in the drivers' seat, with the boxer alongside, and they were making their way to Omaha when they got pulled over.
No insurance. No cuffs, but the car was impounded, and worse yet, Crawford missed a 1 PM flight to NYC.
Mac got a call on his cell on Tuesday morning, 3 AM. “Mac, it's me, Bud. I'm not gonna make that flight…”
“I swear to God, I thought I was dreaming,” Mac told me. “But he's flying here now. He'll land by 11:15, be in the hotel by midnight.”
Speaking of flying…McIntyre says Omaha is still buzzing like the water supply was dosed with MDMA. “The people are so happy. I think he's passed Buffet in popularity,” he declared.
Everyone's coming up to him, wanting to know when Bud's fighting again. November 8 seems a good bet, with foe TBD. Ray Beltran is in the mix.
I guess we'll have to check out that bout, to run on HBO, to see if there is anything to that “Curse of the Monte” concept…
You know I'm joking about the curse, though, right? Crawford's luck has actually been pretty good since he smartened up, compliments of a bullet that didn't finish the job. A few weeks after he went to 4-0, he found a dice game, in Omaha. One lucky night in September, of 2008. Did well in the dice game, and jetted. He was counting his moolah, in the driver's seat of his car, when a bullet was fired through a window, into his head. The reduced velocity from the meeting with the window probably saved his life. There's another story floating around that someone took a shot at Crawford sometimes after that, because he was mistaken for a another guy, wrong place and wrong time in a cousin vs. cousin beef. But it's funny how your luck changes when your attitude does, when you remove yourself from the cool but shady crowd, and you get down to the boring business of sticking to a regimen of running, and boxing, and eating OK, and paying attention to your kids–two sons and a step-daughter– and such…
Mac surely doesn't think there's a curse, surrounding the Monte or anything. Then again, he's biased. He told me he didn't think a star was born in the ring on June 28, but, in fact, many years before, during a Golden Gloves event. Bud got robbed, everyone who saw his fight against a guy named Mendez said, and when they got back to the dressing room, Team Crawford was belligerent. McIntyre, who fought pro, as a heavyweight tin the 90s and 2000s, was in a throwing-furniture kind of mood. Not Bud. “He was calm,” he said. That spoke to McIntyre; it told him the kid had the disposition to remain collected, not get rattled. He said Crawford also didn't lose his way when he didn't get the W at the Olympic Trials, ahead of the 2008 Games, losing to Sadam Ali and Miguel Gonzalez. “He was sort of blackballed,” Mac told me, because he wasn't good at the political side.
You can stink at politics, though, if you get 'er done in the ring. Ace manager Cameron Dunkin really didn't care about the personality traits of the fighter, as long as he kept on progressing as a pugilist. McIntyre, who has known the Crawford family forever, looked from coast to coast for a good co-manager for Bud, but was taken by Dunkins' resume, so they signed a pact, without having met each other, for the record, in 2007. Crawford was with promoter TKO, and doing fine, though there was some pressure to get him to dump the old crew, move to Vegas, where he could get that superior sparring. He nixed that idea, preferring to remain true to Omaha. At 12-0, he latched on to the Top Rank train. On March 30, 2013, he commanded attention with a win over Breidis Prescott, which came on 10 days notice for the Nebraskan. Next, he took down Alejandro Sanabria in Texas, underneath a Mikey Garcia-JuanMa fight. As per usual, Bud started slow, something McIntyre says is just Crawfords' way.
Expectations were high when Bud met Andrey Klimov Oct. 5, 2013, but the review from the UD10 win weren't stellar. To say the least. He snagged an HBO TV slot, under Miguel Cotto-Delvin Rodriguez, but didn't treat that with the respect it deserved. Or so said some snipers on Twitter. The boobirds chirped in the arena, in Tampa, too. HBO heard the reaction…and reacted. Guess who wasn't asked back to the next dance? Crawford…WEALTH showed his fight against Ricky Burns, on March 1, 2104, which means a relative handful of fight fans, the hardcore, really, saw him get the UD12 over the Scottish champ in Glasgow, snagging the WBO lightweight crowd for his trouble. The reviews were much better and McIntyre probably deserves some credit. He gave Bud the what for, he says, after the Klimov fight. “We talked about it,” he said. “HBO didn't pick up the fight, and I told him, 'It's because you weren't exciting.''
A win is a win is a win…except when it isn't…because boxing is in the entertainment realm, and if people are captivated, or at least a bit more than mildly interested in you when you fight, then you might fight opportunities to appear on big stages dwindling. Bud got it, Mac said. “The switch flipped in his head,” the co-helmer said. Which is why you saw Crawford, after a slowish start, in which he was finding his rhythm, getting his head, hands, and feet in concert, look to show a nasty side against Gamboa. The Cuban hit the mat in the fifth, the eighth, and twice in the ninth. Mac deserves a bit of credit there too, because he offered an honest assessment, after the fourth, that the rounds were close.
I told Mac I thought that if Gamboa hadn't been off for a year, this win would have resulted in even more buzz for Bud. “Gamboa was rusty,” was the response by some unwilling to anoint Bud. And I don't dismiss that critique. And neither did Mac. But he thinks Crawford is a pound for pound guy, right now, a top 20, maybe a top 15 sort.
Oh, and as for the Buffett vs. Crawford talk, promoter Bob Arum tried to get the moneyman to see Bud in action, and there's talk that could happen the next time Crawford packs the joint on Omaha. I dig the notion of them getting together and chatting. I think Buffett would be impressed by the fighting talent, and the man's modest taste as an auto buff. Floyd brags about all those Bugattis, while Bud goes batty over an '87 Monte. I think it speaks to his growth as a human being, his sense of restraint as a consumer; indeed, in this area at least, I dare say Terence Crawford rates higher on the pound for pound list than Floyd, as a judicious hobbyist, if nothing else.