SAN DIEGO, Calif., December 13, 2019 – Terence “Bud” Crawford isn’t dazzled by the bright lights and big city anymore. He makes his fourth appearance in four years at Madison Square Garden Saturday in the main event of a terrific tripleheader on ESPN. The card follows the Heisman Trophy award ceremony, approximately 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Crawford of Omaha, Nebraska (35-0, 26 KOs) faces WBO World Welterweight mandatory challenger Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavailiauskus (21-0-1, 17 KOs) of Lithuania. “Mean Machine” trains at the Oxnard enclave of Eastern European talents like Vasiliy Lomachenko and Alexander Usyk. He’s never faced anyone with the skill or reputation of Crawford. Credit to him for doing so, but if he were to win, we’d have a lock for the 2019 Upset of the Year.
“Crawford was on my mind from the start of training camp in June. So every day was Crawford, Crawford, Crawford,” said Kavailiauskas. “When this fight was made officially, I was super happy. I was smiling all day. I want to fight the best, and we’re fighting in the Mecca of Boxing.”
Kavailiauskus said he started training for the fight as far back as June, training to accommodate Crawford’s tendency to switch from orthodox to southpaw stances and back again during the course of a bout. “Everything was about how Crawford fights, which stance (he’ll use). Sparring, we had lots of different guys, southpaw, orthodox, guys in different stances. And the training camp, (we worked on) speed, power, sparring, technique and tactics, all in this five, six months.”
“I’m starting to get used to fighting on these big stages, so it ain’t nothing new to me,” said Crawford earlier this week. “This week is going to be a great, spectacular show. I am well-prepared for whatever he brings to the table, and I’m sure they know that as well.”
Terence Crawford fights his critics
But most of the questions Crawford has fielded this week are about his future opponents, and when he’s finally going to get a match with the other big names in the division, such as Thurman, Pacquiao, Porter, Spence, or Danny Garcia – all of whom are allied with Premier Boxing Champions. PBC seems uninterested in inviting Crawford to the PBC welterweight party.
Crawford isn’t buying the excuses. ”Deontay Wilder is about to fight Tyson Fury and you never hear about any ‘sides of the street.’ 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?'”
But there isn’t anything Crawford can do except to train and do his job. “I’m not focused on no other opponent besides the opponent that’s in front of me,” said Crawford. “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.”
Top Rank promoter has said for many months the only person holding up a fight with Spence Jr. is manager Al Haymon. After Spence Jr. rolled his Ferrari and injured himself in a car accident in August, it’s anyone’s guess when Spence Jr. will fully recover and address his alcohol issues. Porter and Crawford are friends and say they won’t fight. Danny Garcia found another dance partner for early 2020 in Ivan Redkach. Keith Thuman is also nursing injuries. Would Arum put up Crawford against Manny Pacquiao?
For now it doesn’t matter. Fans need to enjoy and appreciate Crawford’s skills while they can. Every fighter’s future is fragile (see Spence Jr.) Crawford will be patient in the early rounds and may lose a few. But he’ll get to work once he’s assessed his circumstances, and deliver a late-round stoppage against a determined but outclassed opponent.
Lopez vs Commey looms as fight of the night
The co-main event between IBF Lightweight World Champion Richard Commey of Ghana (29-2, 26 KOs) and undefeated upstart Teofimo Lopez of Brooklyn (14-0, 11 KOs) could steal the show at The Garden.
Commey should be the A-side, but the 22-year-old Lopez continues to impress the boxing world with his power, ring generalship, and his brash confidence.
“Everybody is ready. We’re ready. He’s ready. Everyone will be tuned in for a reason. All I want is a great night for all the fans. When you have a great style fight like this, it’s going to be a short night,” said Lopez. “We gotta get the job done on Saturday. We ain’t there yet.”
Commey is happy to let his hands do most of the talking for him. “I look forward to facing Teofimo Lopez and proving my worth in the ring. This is going to be one hell of a fight.”
Commey’s last outing was a vicious beat down of Ray Beltran in eight rounds. Lopez went the 12 round distance for the first time against Masayoshi Nakatani. Never mind that it was a blowout on the cards, Lopez came in for criticism about his training, especially concerning his father/trainer, Teofimo Sr. Lopez moved his camp to New Jersey and added Joey Gamache to the team, but his entourage mostly followed him there anyway. If Lopez underperforms, there will be plenty of people to toss under the subway car back to Brooklyn.
But Lopez may have the ability to compartmentalize his crazy family dynamics, just as Floyd Mayweather did for decades. Lopez shares Mayweather’s brash confidence. We’ll see in the next few years whether he’s at a similar skill level.
This fight should be an all-out offensive war. Commey is rugged. He’s never been stopped or dropped. Neither has Lopez. This is a pick-em fight. If it goes to the cards, it goes to Lopez in a close one.
Michael Conlan seeks revenge against Vladimir Nikitin
The opening fight is a grudge match to settle a score. Former Olympic medalists Michael Conlan of Ireland (12-0, 7 KOs) and his nemesis Vladimir Nikitin of Russia (3-0) have been on a collision course since Nikitin beat Conlan at the 2016 Rio Games in a much-disputed decision on his way to winning the gold medal. Conlan famously told off the judges and gave them the bird. It was Conlan who fans remembered and Conlan who was signed to a pro contract. He’s been waiting for Nikitin to join the pro ranks for a chance at revenge, which Nikitin did a year ago. Whether the fight itself is entertaining is nearly beside the point. The emotional stakes will make it fun to watch.
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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