Already the only bonafide rival to Andre Ward as the best active fighter from the US, could meek Terence Crawford be set to inherit the Earth? Glynn Evans investigates.
The Nuts ‘n’ Bolts
Crawford certainly has pedigree. Formerly the number one rated amateur lightweight in the US, his CV in a singlet lists wins over Danny Garcia and Mikey Garcia. However, he vaulted to the pros in 2008, after a contentious loss to Cleveland southpaw Miguel Gonzalez in the Olympic Trials.
In the paid brigade, he has racked up 27 straight victories – the last five in WBO sanctioned world title fights – with 19 wins by stoppage. In 2014, he was voted Fighter of the Year by both the ESPN network and Boxing Writers Association of America.
The man they call ‘Bud’ comes with the obligatory ‘hard knock life’ story. Raised in a north Omaha ghetto, the mustard tempered youngster was scrapping long before he started boxing, aged seven. He fell into the protective custody of old timer Midge Minor who continues to train him today.
Crawford finally ditched his ‘bad boy’ ways on Labor Day 2008 when, shortly after being maced and evicted by security from the city’s September Fest, he was shot behind the right ear after a craps game went ‘belly up’. He somehow drove himself to hospital, survived and had his fifth pro gig two months later!
But Who’s He Beat?
Crawford exploded onto the scene in March 2013, with a short notice masterclass win over Khan conqueror Breidis Prescott. Mexico City’s Alejandro Sanabria had lost just one of 36 when blitzed in six in a WBO eliminator three months later while unbeaten Russian Andrej Klimov barely won an exchange, never mind a round, in October 2013.
Ricky Burns was unbeaten in nine straight WBO title fights when ‘Bud’ boxed him dizzy in his home city and ex Olympic champion Yuriorkis Gamboa was a multiple world titlist unbeaten in 23 when he fell at Crawford’s balletic feet in 2014. Credible contenders Ray Beltran (Pts 12), Thomas Dulorme (rsc6) and Dierry Jean (rsc10) were all effortlessly dispatched in world title action.
What Does He Bring?
Crawford is to boxing what Sir Garfield Sobers was to cricket; the consummate all-rounder.
The Nebraskan is smooth, sharp, evasive, and carries the power and timing to turn a fight with one clean strike. He overcame Prescott’s bombs, the pressure of Burns and Beltran, the sizzling speed of Gamboa and systematically destroys those a fraction beneath elite level.
Mentally there are no evident chinks. Already, he has captured a world title overseas – something Mayweather never achieved - and, far from being daunted by Scottish hostility, he went out of his way to ‘put it on’ Burns at the presser and weigh-in.
In the Wings
Presently, all Crawford appears to lack is profile. Nevertheless, don’t expect his blue chip back up team to allow that to go unaddressed for much longer. He is affiliated to Bob Arum’s Top Rank organisation which helped make megastars of Ali, Duran, Hagler, Leonard, De La Hoya and Mayweather to name just a few.
While ex-pro Brian McIntyre maintains a local link, co-manager Cameron Dunkin has previously elevated the likes of Kelly Pavlik, Nonito Donaire and Brandon Rios. With influential broadcasters HBO on board and billionaire local business magnate Warren Buffett a regular ringsider, Crawford is unlikely to remain a secret to the wider sporting world for too much longer if he continues to win and woo.
Every king needs a castle and TC has made the 18,320 capacity CenturyLink Centre in his native Omaha an impregnable fortress for three of his last four title fights.
Competition for the Nebraska sporting dollar is low and the good folk from the cornfields get mighty rowdy each time ‘Bud’ does battle there.
Though world heavyweight king Max Baer shares Crawford’s city of birth, he’d migrated to California by the age of 13, and Crawford is already the state’s best ever fighting man by some distance.
Who Could Turn The Star Into A Superstar?
The 28 year old has a genuine thirst to compete against the elite in either the 140-147lb divisions. Now let’s pray the deal makers can fix the matches that could vault him to superstardom.
In the former, it would be difficult for him not to shine in title defences against natural born-thrillers Lucas Matthysse or Ruslan Provodnikov. Unbeaten Ukraine ironman Viktor Postol – the reigning WBC champ - would present a serious test of his talent while a unifier with vilified Adrien Broner appears winnable and would send his popularity into orbit.
Seven pounds north, megamatches await with the likes of Bradley, Thurman, Brook, Khan, Porter, Garcia and Spence. Success there would guarantee fame and fortune.
The Task at Hand
However, such schemes will end up in the shredder if Crawford slips up in Saturday’s second defence of his WBO 10st belt against Henry Lundy.
The 32 year old Philadelphian boasts meritable wins over world champions Richar Abril and David Diaz but appears cherry picked for Crawford to sizzle before live TV audiences in both the US (HBO) and UK (BoxNation).
As it’s long been his dream to headline at the fabled Madison Square Garden, motivation shouldn’t be an issue. Expect a performance laced with both style and spite that will catapult him yet higher up the pound-for-pound listings.