The stories are the same. Only the names of the opponents change. In April, when Terence Crawford was preparing to defend his WBO welterweight title in a pay-per-view bout in New York against Amir Khan, we heard that Manny Pacquiao wanted no part of him and that the Premier Boxing Champions would let none of its elite welterweights near him.
Crawford, as predicted at the time by everyone but those trying to sell the Khan bout as competitive, rolled over Khan and stopped him in six one-sided rounds.
Now, on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, Crawford will fight Egidijus Kavaliauskas in a WBO title defense that no one was asking for and no one really wants to see. Again, we’re hearing that Pacquiao flatly turned Crawford down and that promoter Al Haymon is the real villain for not agreeing to put either Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia or Shawn Porter in the ring against Pacquiao.
Kavaliauskas fought to a majority draw with Ray Robinson in March in a snoozer of a bout that only served to keep him unbeaten. He goes from that to fighting a guy many believe is the greatest pound-for-pound boxer in the world.
MGM Resorts has Crawford as a -1667 favorite to defeat Kavaliauskas. Odds of -1667 mean an implied win percentage of 94.3.
There is no doubt that Crawford is one of the world’s elite talents, and he’s one in a long lineage of great welterweights that goes from Henry Armstrong to Sugar Ray Robinson to Ray Leonard to Oscar De La Hoya to Floyd Mayweather.
Each of those fighters had a significant rival to be judged against. Crawford, though, hasn’t had nearly that level of opposition. There are great fighters in and around his division, but he’s not fighting them.
It’s an old, tired song and boxing fans are long past blaming fighters for the mess. They want fights, not excuses.
Crawford scoffs at the notion that promotional differences make these fights hard to make.
“Well, Deontay Wilder is about to fight Tyson Fury and you never hear [when that fight was put together] about any ‘sides of the street,’ ” Crawford said. “It’s just something people say when it comes to Terence Crawford. You don’t hear ‘wrong side of the street’ with any other fighter but Terence Crawford. Why do all these other fights get made, but when it’s Terence Crawford, it’s about the ‘wrong side of the street?’ ”
It’s a good point and it’s long past time that those fights should have been made.
The question that arises is whether Crawford will lose his focus and lose a fight he shouldn’t because he was looking ahead. That’s antithetical to the way he’s carried himself throughout his career, but boxing history is laden with examples of normally focused fighters who, for whatever reason, weren’t zoned in on a particular bout and lost to someone they’d normally have beaten going away.
Roberto Duran once lost to someone named Kirkland Laing. He’d go on to defeat Pipino Cuevas, Davey Moore and Iran Barkley, among others, after being upset by Laing and he nearly upset the legendary Marvelous Marvin Hagler in a middleweight bout.
If it can happen to Duran, one of the most ferocious and focused competitors in boxing history, it can happen to anyone. Crawford’s greatness comes in part because he’s been able to avoid any sort of even momentary letdown thus far.
He has managed to knock out distractions and keep his gaze only on what is immediately ahead.
“I’m not focused on no other opponent besides the opponent that’s in front of me,” Crawford said. “My goal is to make sure I get the victory come this weekend, and that’s the only person I’m focused on now. Anyone else is talk. It goes in one ear and out the other. He’s young, hungry and I’m not taking him lightly.”
Crawford is 32, which is certainly not old, but he doesn’t have the kind of résumé that the other all-time welterweights had when they were 32. Mayweather fought De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo twice and Arturo Gatti before he was 32. De La Hoya fought Julio Cesar Chavez twice, Felix Trinidad, Ike Quartey, Shane Mosley, Pernell Whitaker and Genaro Hernandez, among others, before he was 32.
Crawford has no names approaching those on his résumé, and it’s about time to make it happen.
It’s ridiculous that this is a conversation piece before every Crawford fight. He’s one of the greatest fighters in the world, perhaps one of the greatest who ever lived, and he’s fighting on the largest sports network in the world with a lot of money behind him. These are fights that need to be made.
Anything other than an announcement that’s he’s going to be fighting one of those elite welterweights next is noise, and just should go in one ear and out the next.
Boxing fans deserve those fights.
Most importantly, Terence Crawford needs them to validate what otherwise has been a brilliant career.
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