Crawford is Boxing’s P4P King. As for Number 2, Let the Debate Begin

I’ve been at this point for over a year now, and for the past five months on the Boxing Channel with host Miguel Iturrate, I’ve been making the case that Terence Crawford, not Vasyl Lomacheno, Andre Ward or Gennady Golovkin, is the most complete and best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing. After watching him dismantle former Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz, whose corner stopped the massacre after the 10th round, I am even more firmly convinced of it.

For 10-rounds Crawford 31-0 (22) did whatever he wanted to with Diaz 19-2 (9), who weighed 161 pounds on the night of the fight. Two fights prior to taking on Crawford, Diaz lost a highly disputed decision to former welterweight title holder, Lamont Peterson 35-3-1 (17). Peterson, a two-division title holder, is a tough out for anyone between 140 & 147 and has only lost to the best of the best – Timothy Bradley, Lucas Matthysse, and in his last bout before facing Diaz, a loss by majority decision to then undefeated Danny “Swift” Garcia in a bout contested at the catch-weight of 143. After the fight it was being written that Peterson deserved the decision and exposed Garcia. And there were more than a few observers who had Diaz beating Peterson. Bernie Campbell of ESPN tweeted after the fight……”I’ve got it 116-112 for Felix Diaz over Lamont Peterson. He was slick and he was tough. Impressive performance.”

I’m sure those reading this would agree that Lamont Peterson could live with almost any active welterweight in boxing, and there’s a plausible case Diaz got the better of him. Yet this past Saturday night, with the exception of a brief flurry during the 7th round, Crawford overwhelmingly won every other minute. It wasn’t even close and the more Diaz fought and tried, the more of a thrashing he took.

Prior to the bout it was said in this space…”The problem with Diaz is his short and stocky frame. For him to score or get anything going offensively, he’ll have to get inside. Normally, Diaz attempts to force the action, something that won’t be easy for him to do against Crawford who is so good at fighting on the move from different angles. To make things worse for Diaz, Crawford has the strength and punch to stand his ground and better him trading one-for-one….and in most exchanges, Crawford will most likely be dealing more than one punch at a time. Stylistically its plausible Crawford can win by trying to potshot his way to a win, but he’s also capable of backing Diaz up, thus forcing Felix to defend more than having a chance to score. Diaz is a tricky guy but only a decent puncher. It’s impossible to envision him getting in on Crawford to mount any kind of a charge without paying a high price, and even if he were able to, trying to crowd Crawford to the point where he isn’t beaten to the punch inside and up the middle will be difficult.”

The thing that sets Terence Crawford apart from the field is the depth of his stylistic versatility. When you compare him stylistically to the other fighters mentioned among the top pound-for-pound elites, each one of them, with the possible exception of Andre Ward, has a style vulnerability or, as is the case with Vasyl Lomachenko (nine pro bouts), hasn’t fought enough fighters with varying styles to provide a useful sample.

The Ring Magazine’s top-7 fighters (a list I vehemently disagree with, but will use for argument’s sake) are 1-Gennady Golovkin, 2-Andre Ward, 3-Vasyl Lomachenko, 4-Sergey Kovalev, 5-Roman Gonzalez  6-Terence Crawford, and 7-Canelo Alvarez.

I’ve addressed why Lomachenko is too high due to his limited amount of fights and the one time he faced a rough guy who made it ugly, he lost despite everyone focusing on the final round when he was fighting with more urgency, sensing that the fight had gotten away from him. Andre Ward is versatile but not as versatile as Crawford. And we saw against Kovalev that he was somewhat neutralized by a good boxer-puncher who could fight inside and outside. Crawford is more athletic and stylistically more versatile than Ward and he’s legitimately undefeated in combat. That leaves Golovkin, Kovalev, Gonzalez and Canelo.

Golovkin wasn’t exposed by Daniel Jacobs, because that suggests he was overrated based on his knockout streak. Instead, Jacobs showed that GGG isn’t at his best when he has to catch and corner a fighter who is punching at him while on the move. He was great at cutting off fighters with no wheels, but he is vulnerable to lateral movement and isn’t the same puncher if he has to continually pick up his feet. Nearly half of those who saw him fight Jacobs, thought that he lost so, like Ward, he still has an “0” in the loss column, but it’s a little tainted. Kovalev is more versatile than he gets credit for being. However, he was befuddled by the different looks and feints that Ward presented him – and in turn he hesitated just enough to enable Ward to be more effective with his sneaky jab. Sergey is really an outstanding fighter but when it comes to being complete, he’s not in Crawford’s league.

As for Chocolatito Gonzalez, he’s a human dynamo and the angles he punches from in close are something to see and behold. He is the consummate worker and volume puncher and like many who saw his last fight against Wisaksil Wangek, I too felt he won and should still boast an undefeated record. But as terrific as Chocolatito is, he is the type fighter that if he cannot overwhelm his opponent physically, he’s not nearly as effective backing up and fighting in retreat. Canelo is number-seven on the list, and when comparing him to Crawford it’s really almost laughable. He was completely undressed by Floyd Mayweather, who gave him only a little movement, which is a Canelo vulnerability. Yes, he’s improved since then, but we’re not talking significantly and he’s not going to get any better. Also, he was one of Floyd’s easiest fights as a welterweight or junior middleweight. Canelo is not versatile and looks as if he has two left feet if he has to pursue an opponent who doesn’t plant himself in front of him. Miguel Cotto, who isn’t a mover stylistically, had no trouble keeping Canelo turning and forcing him to reset over and over. Canelo has power and is a good counter-puncher, but he is nowhere near the pound-for-pound fighter/boxer Crawford is.

Terence Crawford is as complete a fighter that there is in boxing. He can do everything; he can adjust to any style and is just as effective fighting left handed or right handed. Stylistically, he can morph into whatever it takes in order to shut down his opponent. His mind processes styles and finds his opponents’ weakness quickly and then he immediately implements the changes needed to win rounds. It’s plausible he processes things in the ring faster than Mayweather did. And as his last three opponents, Viktor Postol, John Molina and Felix Diaz found out, the more you try to go after him and fight him – the more you get beat up. The reality is there’s no competition for him in the junior welterweight division. He’d take Julius Indongo apart and if he fights Manny Pacquiao, he’ll do what Mayweather couldn’t do to an injured Pacquiao – stop him.

The challenges for Crawford reside in the welterweight division. It’s just a matter of when he gets there. Some have questioned his power fighting as a welterweight, which I find perplexing. I’d be willing to bet those observers questioning whether Crawford punches hard enough to fight at welterweight raised the same question about Mayweather – and I would bet those same people would favor Floyd over every active welterweight in boxing right now. And from what I’ve seen, my intuition tells me Crawford is a harder puncher at 140 than Mayweather was and will be a harder puncher than Floyd was at 147.

Since his power is in no way based on size or weight, it’ll come up with him wherever he ends up. He’s not one of those fighters who’ll go his whole career without being knocked down. He’s always looking for ways to hurt you, which puts him right in the middle of whatever he’s doing on a second by second basis, so he’ll get caught once in a while. In many ways, Crawford is Lomachenko’s stylistic opposite: nothing is ever done for display, and not one extra move ever takes place. At this stage, there’s no comparison (and I don’t think there ever will be).

Terence Crawford is the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing but is fighting on a network that has no clue how to market him and make him a crossover star. Fighting as a junior welterweight I’m more impressed with Crawford’s style, versatility and physicality than Mayweather’s at the same weight. I know that’s blasphemy to a certain segment of fans ….and to that I say, let’s talk in a few years.

As of this writing, I don’t believe we’ve seen the best of Terence Crawford.

 

Frank Lotierzo can be reached at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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five months