His name is Terence Crawford. He's the WBO lightweight title holder and is undefeated in 24 professional bouts 24-0 (17). The last time he was seen in the ring this past June, he stopped the highly touted and polished Yuriorkis Gamboa 24-0 (16) to retain his title.
Crawford, age 27, came on starting in the fifth round after absorbing some of Gamboa's Sunday punches in the early rounds. Terence stopped Gamboa in the ninth round after dropping him in the fifth, eighth and twice in the ninth. The ending was abrupt in its finality and left no question as to who the superior fighter was. And here's the irony of the fight, Crawford isn't nearly as physically talented or gifted as Gamboa–not many are–but his defeating him tells us a lot.
Tonight, Crawford defends his title against Raymundo Beltran 29-6-1 (17) in his home town of Omaha, Nebraska.
Beltran, age 33, is tough and likes to slug it out. He's only been stopped twice but he does get hit a lot. Crawford is a tall order for any lightweight. He's patient, slick, rangy and he doesn't get rattled. Terence is a very intelligent fighter/boxer. He's conservative, technically sound, and has good power. He'll surely try to keep Beltran on the outside, but will also try to catch him coming in and won't neglect the body. He'll let Beltran make the fight and knows that Beltran has no choice but to try and push things, to be the busier guy, and to win by throwing lots of punches and winning over the judges. In other words, he is just the kind of opponent who'll make Crawford look really good. Crawford's quicker hands and better basics will cause Beltran a lot of problems as he tries to get inside and past Crawford's jab.
Crawford is a versatile switch hitter, he can box and hits harder and cleaner than Beltran. I've heard some imply that he doesn't deal well with pressure, but he had an answer and an extra gear to stem the tide whenever Gamboa tried to impose himself physically to seize the fight. Crawford is also terrific at deceiving his opponents into walking into his power. He'll sometimes step in with a jab and bait his opponent to react to what they sense as pressure. Then he'll take a half step back and nail them on the way in as they're looking to go on the offensive. He's disguises this tactic smoothly.
Crawford is one of those rare fighters that does everything well and he's physically stronger than he looks. He makes you pay for trying to crowd him, which is probably what Beltran will try and do, unless he is deterred by Crawford's power early in the fight. You can't appreciate Crawford and all the little things he does in the ring by just watching fight him once. No, he won't blow you away with physicality and strength like Roberto Duran and Shane Mosley did at lightweight. And he's not an attacker like Julio Cesar Chavez was and isn’t flashy like Floyd Mayweather. But he does have a little of all of them, with the exception of Chavez, in him.
You have to favor Crawford to win the fight. He just has too many ways and weapons to overcome Beltran, along with the means to deliver them, not to mention he does practically everything better. No, Beltran is not a no-hope challenger. The problem is he's just not versatile enough to better Crawford from outside and he'll pay a price that will take a toll on him if he tries to impose himself and beat him inside.
If Crawford wins, he's been talking about moving up to junior welterweight and eventually welterweight. This will make for some highly anticipated action-packed bouts.
“This is my last fight at 135 and then I'm moving up. I've been at this weight since I was 17, so that's 10 years. I just feel like it's in my best interest to move up. But right now, I'm focused on my next fight against Beltran. … From 140 all the way up to 147, there are a lot of exciting fights to be made in those weight classes. But 140 is next for me and after my fight with Beltran, I'm ready to see what I can do with that division.”
What's really intriguing about Crawford moving up is this: how will his style and body deal with the transition? As a lightweight, he reminds me of Shane Mosley some in his physicality. Mosley as a lightweight often looked like a man against children when he was confronted by the top contenders. As a lightweight his strength, speed and boxing ability dominated. However, when he moved up to welterweight he used his legs a little more to neutralize the bigger and stronger welterweights he fought. The fighters that beat Shane above 135, and he did skip 140, were able to impose themself on him and force him to have to fight them off instead of allowing him to box them. I have a feeling that when he moves up, Crawford will have to come up with a different approach than he's using now if he wants to win big fights. 147 may be too ambitious, and he may even have some problems at 140 because the division is stacked. Admittedly, Gamboa was a handful, but he was coming up in weight to fight Crawford, and he clearly got Crawford's attention in the early stages of the fight.
Crawford, like Mosley, is willing to fight the best in any division. There are some great bouts to be made for him between 140 and 147. No one can predict how it will go for him or how successful he'll be. But we can predict that we'll be treated to some really action-packed fights in which there will be some stimulating style clashes.
If Terence Crawford defeats Raymundo Beltran tonight, add his name to the list of fighters to watch in 2015, if it's not already there.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
— Photo Credit : Chris Farina – Top Rank