SAN DIEGO, July 23, 2016 – Think about it. When was the last time the number one and number rated boxers in a weight division, both undefeated, faced each other in a showdown for supremacy? Perhaps you have to go all the way back to the fight between Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard in 1981 for the WBC and WBA welterweight titles, which Leonard won.
So sit up and take notice when the number one and number two junior welterweights risk their undefeated records and titles to face each other as Terence “Bud” Crawford of Omaha and Viktor “Iceman” Postol of Ukraine are on Saturday.
Although oddsmakers have Crawford the favorite by nine to one, observers consider it much closer to a 50-50 matchup. Either man can win if he sticks to the game plan and executes it. Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach placed a bet on his man, Viktor Postol. Here’s who we think will prevail, and why.
Terence Crawford, the consensus 2014 Fighter of the Year, is riding a three-fight knockout streak. Crawford has plenty of power for his size, but he doesn’t rely on it to bludgeon his opponents. Instead, fans who aren’t used to Crawford’s style sometimes feel disappointed watching him in the first few rounds. Crawford uses the time to observe his opponent, measure distance, and test speed and reflexes. He is in no hurry and feels no pressure to act too quickly. He lets an opponent get comfortable, then switches to a southpaw stance, making his opponent start the settling in process all over again. It’s become his trademark and a not-so-secret weapon no one has figured out how to deal with.
Crawford backs up his switch with equal power from both sides. By adjusting his stance and keeping his opponent literally and mentally off balance, he waits until he can put his speed to work. After a few sleepy rounds, he strikes at will and punishes his opponent.
Viktor Postol shares Crawford’s sense of patience and pacing. Postol has tremendous technical boxing skills, aided by his height and reach as he’s tall for the division at 5-foot-11. He could simply outbox his opponents, outwork them and use his excellent defensive skills. This is exactly what Postol did in the earlier part of his career.
Then Postol asked Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach to work with him starting in 2014. Roach and assistant trainer Marvin Somodio have honed Postol’s offensive skills, teaching him how to wear down an opponent. He forces his opponents to box with him, and when they do they yield control of the fight to Postol. This is what happened to Lucas Matthysse. Postol dictated the pace. Postol also has a tough chin. When Matthysse managed to hit Postol with solid shots a few times, Postol didn’t even flinch.
Roach says the goal is to have Postol break Crawford down with jabs and body shots, and then close the show with a stoppage in the later rounds. Postol has enough reach on Crawford to fight at a distance if he wants to. Crawford is at his best when he can counterpunch an aggressive opponent who makes mistakes.
Crawford is the favorite, a truly versatile boxer-puncher who does nearly everything well. He’s developed a strictly professional mean streak, driving him to finish off his opponents when he sees the chance. As Crawford has jumped weight divisions, he’s increased his punching power. For his last three opponents, it’s been a lethal formula.
Both fighters have promised a knockout, but don’t expect it to happen right away. The first few rounds will see Crawford and Postol sizing each other up, looking for weaknesses and any lack of focus. Crawford will test Postol’s reaction with the switch to southpaw. Postol should anticipate it and be ready to respond. Postol has been sparring with six different southpaw partners to prepare for Crawford.
Trainer Freddie Roach calls Crawford “crafty,” and says, “This is a boxing match, two great fighters going at it, very technical and both can guys punch so they are both a little bit dangerous. They have all the elements. It’s the best fight I’ve seen on paper this year and they should both live up to expectations.” Roach says of Postol, “He is a very good boxer, very patient, he breaks people down, he doesn’t really rush things and he takes them out when they are ready to go.”
Crawford discounted Postol’s ability to box at distance using his jab. “A lot of people aren’t giving me enough credit, to the point where everybody’s talking about Postol’s jab. I’m looking forward to anything he brings. We’re going to see who has the better jab.”
This will be a close and competitive fight until it ends, whenever that end comes. It’s not going to be a wall-to-wall brawl in the style of a Salido vs. Vargas. Crawford and Postol are smart and will only take a chance when they believe the odds are in their favor. Postol can win but he has less margin for error than Crawford. Postol has enough power to win by stoppage, but only if he’s spend eight or ten rounds wearing down his opponent. He will have to execute the perfect game plan, and he knows getting a win on the scorecards may not happen in Las Vegas if the fight is close.
By contrast, Crawford can strike with power punches if the target presents itself. He is extremely accurate and he won’t let any opportunities presented by Postol get away from him. If Postol makes a mistake, Crawford will make him pay.
Crawford is an extremely smart fighter in the ring. He can adjust his game plan on the fly if needed, and he’ll seize the moment. This gives him the edge over a studied, solid technician like Postol.
Prediction: Crawford will start slowly as he usually does. He will spend time figuring out the best way to put Postol in position, deflecting and counter-punching until it’s time for him to go to work and stop the fight in the later rounds.
As added incentive, it’s likely the winner of this fight will get the opportunity to face eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao. A little extra motivation never hurts.
Crawford vs. Postol airs on HBO PPV starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. You can also watch online via TopRankTV.com in the U.S. and its territories and Canada. http://www.toprank.tv/index.jsp
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA, 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. She is owner of the Falcon Valley Group based in San Diego, California. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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