“He’s a throwback to Sugar Ray Leonard, that’s the fighter I compare him with,” said Bob Arum. “Is he better than what Leonard was? That’s hard to say, but certainly he’s on that level. He’s just absolutely been spectacular.”
That certainly grabbed the attention of many boxing fans this week waiting to see how former undisputed junior welterweight champ Terence Crawford’s bid for the WBO welterweight title in his maiden bout at 147 turns out. His opponent is Jeff Horn 18-0-1 (12) who won the title last July via a controversial 12-round unanimous decision over Manny Pacquiao (I scored it for Pacquiao).
Back to Arum’s quote pertaining to Terence Crawford 32-0 (23)……yes, Arum is the master of the overstatement and hyperbole and that applies ten-fold if he’s talking about one of his elite fighters. The promoter who was lying yesterday but telling the truth today sure has said some outlandish things in his 52 years as a boxing promoter. However, his remark comparing Terence Crawford to Sugar Ray Leonard isn’t at the top of the list and is more of a misstatement that he’s not even aware of.
I’ve drawn comparisons between Crawford (pictured with his trainer Brian McIntyre) and Leonard on occasion with two correlations that I’m sure Arum wasn’t thinking of. For starters, Crawford reminds me of Leonard in that he’s an assassin in the ring. Ray didn’t let many of his opponents hang around long once he had them in trouble, and neither does Terence. Neither ever showed mercy to a beaten opponent with their brand of mercy being “I’m going to finish you right now so you don’t have to absorb a terrible beating.” Both were/are two of the best finishers I’ve seen in 55 years of following boxing.
Something else they share is that both were/are great problem solvers. With the exception of the first Duran fight, Leonard figured out his opponent’s weakness and forced him to mostly fight from it. Yes, Duran forced Leonard to fight him on the inside and Leonard wrongly believed, although it was close, that he could beat Roberto there because he was the naturally bigger man. But Leonard seldom fought the wrong fight strategically and, to date, Crawford never has. The ability to be a problem solver requires a fighter to be versatile and Leonard and Crawford have that in common. Leonard, when he needed to, was very capable of bringing the fight to his opponent and also knew when to back off and box or counter….that was part and parcel of Sugar Ray’s greatness.
Crawford has the same attribute and has made huge adjustments during the heat of battle. In three of his last four bouts — against Viktor Postol, Felix Diaz and Julius Indongo — he turned the table two or three times during the course of the match.
Against the undefeated Postol, Crawford fought as a southpaw and used the ring. Fighting on his toes, he consistently changed direction while Postol, searching for an answer, lunged and missed with most of his shots. Crawford’s mobility and timed attacks totally befuddled the rangy Postol and when he turned aggressive during the fifth round he managed to drop Postol twice and won every round after that on his way to an overwhelming unanimous decision.
Against Diaz, he boxed early and utilized his speed and reach but Felix wouldn’t really commit to anything thing more than punching when he felt it was safe. As the fight went into the later rounds, Crawford went out and mixed it up with Diaz, with the purpose of forcing him to let his hands go. That forced Diaz to make a stand with Crawford now looking to overwhelm him instead of boxing him. And like Leonard, Crawford was clipped a few times in the process but it was worth the trade-off. Diaz’s corner put an end to it after the 10th round, saving Diaz from being completely shellacked.
Against Indongo, he went out and touched him real good early, and then drifted back knowing Julius would have to stay with him in order to score. That set him up for a fight ending body shot.
When Crawford faces Horn this weekend he’ll be confronted by the biggest and strongest opponent he’s yet faced. Horn will do his best to make the fight a back alley brawl with the hope of reducing Crawford to his level.
“I tell everybody Jeff Horn is a real crafty type of guy,” says Crawford. “On the outside, you look at him and you don’t think much of him. But then, when you’re inside the ring with him, he’s strong, he’s durable, he’s off rhythm and he’s got a different type of fighting style that can beat anybody on any given day. You have to be prepared for anything from him come fight night.”
Crawford is mostly correct. Horn is really strong, really big, and a dirty fighter. Technically, he’s nothing special but that doesn’t mean he’ll be a day at the beach for Crawford. Actually, Horn has the potential to make the fight difficult and although he’s no match scientifically, his rough-house tactics and physicality will test Crawford in a way we haven’t seen him challenged before. No doubt Crawford has the capacity to out-box Horn and make him look foolish at every turn, but if Jeff can stand up to his punch and is willing to pay the price, which he knows he’ll need to do, it could be interesting to watch how Crawford goes about breaking him down.
Based on what Horn’s head trainer Glenn Rushton has said – that he doesn’t believe Crawford’s chin has been properly tested and that Terence won’t stand up to Horn’s power – there’s no second guessing their strategy. And that type of mindset could be suicide against Crawford.
No doubt Terence will see everything Horn attempts to do. Crawford processes and applies ring data gathered on his opponent quicker than any fighter in boxing – meaning Horn may have to endure a real beating if his chin holds up as his last line of defense. Horn has projected confidence but Crawford is a better boxer, more versatile, quicker, more athletic and nastier in the ring during the heat of battle. Horn will look to hold and maul with his shoulders and perhaps his elbows and forearms being turned into weapons as well. But Crawford is too good to be beaten or unnerved by that! And I fully expect him to retaliate in kind if Horn tries to make it ugly.
Unless Horn can hit Crawford with something that rattles him or shakes his confidence, there’s no path to victory for him. Granted, Crawford is untested at 147, but his skills travel north and if he can’t put Horn away by consistently countering off of the many misses I anticipate, then he’ll pepper and tattoo Horn for 12 rounds and win by an overwhelming majority on the cards. (Actually, if Horn goes the distance with Crawford, losing every round, he’ll actually gain in stature.)
Crawford has been inactive for 10 months and probably isn’t happy about being surpassed by Vasyl Lomachenko in the pound-for-pound debate. Horn has gone out of his way to rile Crawford up, and that’s probably going to make it that much tougher for Jeff during the fight. Terence owns every advantage except size but he’s just too skilled and too good to be turned back by a fighter like Jeff Horn, especially with so many big fights for him down the road with the other welterweight title-holders.
Look for Crawford to survive a few close calls on the way to winning a third world title in his third different division.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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