SAN DIEGO, Calif., April 19, 2019 – The mere mention of former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson’s name could instill fear in any opponent’s heart. Tyson’s heir apparent might be the man from Omaha, Terence “Bud” Crawford.
Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) appears in his first pay per view main event against a man who’s been there many times, Amir “King” Khan of Great Britain (33-4, 20 KOs). Crawford’s WBO welterweight title is at stake. The PPV televised card airs starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on ESPN-PPV.
Crawford has settled right in the top tier of the welterweight division after just two fights. He began collecting belts last June, the first one from improbable WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn of Australia. Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman, and Errol Spence Jr. stand in his way. None are eager to get in the ring with Crawford, with good reason. He is a destroyer of dreams, and takes pleasure in doing so.
Khan burst into prominence as Great Britain’s 2004 Athens Olympics lightweight division silver medalist at age 17. He scored victories against the likes of Paul Malignaggi, Marcos Maidana, and Zab Judah. He has also suffered losses to Breidis Prescott, Lamont Peterson, and Danny Garcia. In 2016, he took on unified middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Khan made a shockingly good showing early in the fight, winning on two of three judges’ cards after five rounds. But he suffered a catastrophic knockout loss in the sixth round.
Crawford has never faced a serious challenge as a professional. Even his decision wins have been blowouts. Moving up one weight class let potential opponents think they’d have a shot at Crawford. So far, Crawford continues to mow down anyone in his path.
Amir Khan not afraid of challenging himself
Criticize the matchup all you want, but give Khan credit for his track record of stepping up to take challenges like Crawford when others shy away. “I’ve got balls, I don’t give a damn who I step in the ring with,” said Khan after the weigh-in.
Khan’s speed and work rate have always served him well. When his defense is working, Khan gives himself every chance to win. Khan has a reputation for having a glass chin. It’s not entirely deserved. While he has three KO losses, he’s also survived knockdowns in three career fights and come back to win, including his last fight against Samuel Vargas in September.
No doubt, it’s a career crossroads fight for the veteran Khan in his 15th year as a professional. He hopes to turn back the clock by returning to his former trainer Virgil Hunter.
“Every fight with Virgil, I’ve learned something from, win or lose, and he’s brought the best out of me,” said Khan. “I needed to get back with someone who could bring that respect back for the sport of boxing and also make me work harder.”
Khan says it’s all about being smart. “It’s all about sticking to the game plan. My trainer has given me a great game plan, I have to stick to it. We’re just going to be smart in there, and do what I’ve been told to do.” Khan says whether Crawford fights from an orthodox or southpaw stance, he will be ready.
Khan understands his good fortune getting another title fight opportunity at this stage.
“It’s just amazing for me to be in this position once again. That itself is a great motivation for me, to know that I’m fighting the best out there once again … This is a dream come true, and hopefully on Saturday, a dream will come true, where I get my opportunity to fight for another world title and be one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.”
Crawford: Seek and destroy mission
Khan will need to stay focused. He cannot afford a single mistake against Crawford, who pounces on any opponent’s momentary weakness. He cuts no one any slack. Crawford isn’t content unless he dominates his opponent. Every fight is a seek and destroy mission.
It does no good for anyone to try and rattle Crawford’s cage. It’s the boxing equivalent of getting too close to the gravitational force of a black hole, or pouring gasoline too close to a lit flame. It’s bound to backfire and burn you.
Crawford uses his words with the same economic precision as his punches. He gives Khan credit for being fast and boxing well on good legs. But this is where the acknowledgements stop.
“When you look at the fighters I’ve fought, most of them haven’t been the same after they’ve fought me,” said Crawford. When he wins, Crawford said “It will be joyful. I want to put on a great performance. I’m ready to go out there and display my talent.”
Crawford plays down any discussion of his status as boxing’s best pound for pound fighter. “That’s not important. It’s important to myself to put on a great performance. It’s me telling myself I’m a great fighter.”
Fight prediction: Crawford virtually a sure thing
Step by step, fight by fight, Crawford and longtime trainer Brian McIntyre have turned him into a versatile power punching machine. Like many great fighters, he marshalls a selective mean streak in the ring. It works long before the opening bell sounds. Crawford beats opponents mentally before he beats them physically.
In the ring, Crawford is composed, surgical in his precision, and patient. His confidence is built on his preparation. He is patient and takes his time. Crawford has scored a knockout before the fifth round only once in a fight scheduled 10 rounds or more. When he is ready to unleash his offense, he is fast and accurate.
Khan’s best opportunity is to try and strike early while Crawford is assessing him, using his speed to roll up points and nibble away at the margins. Once the fight gets into the middle rounds, Crawford will start taking over. Depending on how he feels, he’ll start inflicting punishment, just because he can.
Like many experts, we are calling the fight for Crawford via an attrition type stoppage in the last third of the fight. Call it an eighth round TKO. Khan will put up his very best effort and no shame in losing to the world’s best pound for pound fighter. Delivering a entertaining fight and beating expectations by lasting into the later rounds would be its own kind of victory for Khan.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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