By Frank Lotierzo
Terence Crawford is the WBO super-lightweight/junior welterweight title holder. He stands 5-foot-8 and has a 70 inch reach. He has fast hands and is equally effective fighting as a stand-up-and-use-the-ring boxer or, if he chooses to do so, he can fight as the attacker and force the action behind his long range and accurate punching. Crawford 28-0 (20) isn't a puncher on the level of a Thomas Hearns, but he's an explosive puncher and once his opponents engage with him, they usually pick their spots to do so again a little more judiciously.
Crawford fights, at least in the early going of his bouts, at his opponent’s speed and pace and then picks it up when they're settled in and believe they have a read on him. He approaches his bouts like the star he's becoming and seems to always be in command. Crawford is a very patient and smooth technician without a noticeable flaw. He's as complete of a fighter that there is around today. I love how he's able to force his opponents to adopt a style they'd rather not and also one they're the least effective executing. And Terence is one of the rare fighters who can punch effectively and hard to the body from long range or when he's on the inside. If all that doesn't make him a huge pain in the rear end for his opponents, it must be noted that the orthodox fighting Crawford can transition to southpaw as smoothly and effectively as any fighter you'll ever see.
This past weekend Crawford defended his title against Hank Lundy 36-6-1 (13) from Philadelphia. Lundy is a cocky and confident fighter who likes to assume the role as the alpha presence in the ring. His five prior defeats before facing Crawford were all very close. He had never been taken apart nor had he been thoroughly outclassed in 42 prior bouts. Unfortunately for him, Crawford did what he's expected to do when he is confronted by a B-level fighter, and that's dispose of them quickly and in a memorable fashion. And that's exactly what he did to Lundy at the Theater in Madison Square Garden last Saturday night. After what amounted to a vigorous four round sparring session, Crawford exploded in the fifth with a perfectly placed one-two combination that he sweetened with a straight left hand behind it. Lundy was badly shaken and Crawford went in to finish him. Terence caught him with another left that put him down. The game Philadelphian beat the count but was in bad shape and the fight was stopped via another Crawford assault.
Like most of Crawford's last few bouts, this one wasn't devoid of action. Terence is an exciting and gifted fighter who seeks to win by knockout when he fights. What separates him from emerging stars Sergey Kovalev and Gennady Golovkin is that he's much more versatile and faster of hand and foot than either of them. He's more of a conventional boxer and much flashier; he just doesn't carry single shot altering power the way they do.
Aside from WBC flyweight title holder Roman Gonzalez 44-0 (38), Crawford is the most complete fighter in professional boxing. And like Gonzalez, Crawford longs for a career- defining bout against a marque opponent who can bring the best out in him. In the case of Gonzalez, he'll never be a superstar simply because great flyweights, even Hall of Fame all-time great ones, never have and never will be the standard bearer in boxing. However, more than a handfull of lightweights and welterweights have dominated the boxing scene.
For Crawford to really ignite public consciousness, he needs a bout that represents the passing of the torch as to who is the new must-see talent in boxing. In other words, Crawford needs the right foe that if he defeats, whatever questions may be lingering about his stature as a great fighter, will be answered. The problem is, despite the junior welterweight and welterweight divisions being stacked with talented fighters, there isn't one fighter out there who could be his Thomas Hearns to Sugar Ray Leonard, or the reverse.
As a fighter Crawford is every bit as physically gifted as Floyd Mayweather was as a junior welterweight. He may fall short defensively compared to Mayweather, but he is exponentially better offensively. In order for Crawford to become perhaps the biggest star in the sport.....he needs an opponent who is already a star and great fighter. There are only two fighters within his weight, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, who fit the description. A win over Pacquiao would be monumental and the next day Crawford would be the most talked-about and high profile fighter in boxing; a win over Mayweather would within hours vault Crawford into one of the most talked-about professional athletes in the world.
Yes, Mayweather is retired at the moment but everyone believes he'll return to the ring seeking his 50th consecutive win without a defeat. But fighting Crawford, 28, is too risky and makes no sense at all for Floyd. Not when he can go after undefeated Danny Garcia 32-0 (18) or Canelo Alvarez 46-1-1 (32). If he beat Garcia -- and he'd be a huge Vegas favorite to do so, even at age 39 -- he'd be the first fighter to defeat the 27-year-old budding star. In beating Alvarez again, he would become the first former junior lightweight title holder to capture the lineal middleweight title. Both of those fights fit Mayweather's itinerary perfectly. On the other hand, Crawford, because of his speed, skill and hunger, is a much tougher way to go. Yes, I'd pick Mayweather over all three. If father time has caught up with Floyd, he'd still be able to outbox Garcia and Alvarez to secure the win. But if he's not on his game and has slipped only moderately, Crawford could give him a fit and it's very plausible he could beat Floyd.
The fighter Terence Crawford needs to fight next -- since fighting Mayweather is unrealistic -- is Manny Pacquiao, assuming Pacquiao beats Timothy Bradley in their rubber match on April 9th. And you know what, there's a great chance a bout between Pacquiao and Crawford can come to fruition.
And here's why: If Pacquiao gets by Bradley, it'll be hard for him to walk away from a big money fight with Crawford. Everyone knows Pacquiao isn't the best money manager around and could always use another significant payday. And Manny probably sees himself as having too much experience for Terence and is certain that he can handle him. Add to that both Pacquiao and his promoter Bob Arum know the odds of getting a rematch with Mayweather are minuscule.
Arum knows he's coming to the end of the gravy train with Pacquiao and Manny is capable of losing to any upper-tier fighter on a given night at this point. Wouldn't it make perfect dollars and sense for that fighter to be one that he promotes and controls? If Pacquiao lost to Crawford, he'll be compensated for it in a big way and I'm sure a rematch will be an option. On the other side of the coin, beating Manny would propel Crawford into a star overnight. A mega fight between Pacquiao and Crawford is a win-win for all parties, and probably Crawford's safest and most sure path to stardom.
Terence Crawford has mega star boxing skills; all he needs is a super-star opponent to exhibit them against in front of a world audience.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Pic by Stacey Verbeek.
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