Terence Crawford shoots for FOTY honors Saturday, HBO 10 p.m. ET

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Terence Crawford and Ray Beltran with promoter Bob Arum at Friday's weigh-in. Photo: Ed Mullholand, HBO
Terence Crawford and Ray Beltran with promoter Bob Arum at Friday's weigh-in. Photo: Ed Mullholand, HBO

SAN DIEGO, November 28, 2014 – Each time lightweight Terence Crawford has stepped into a boxing ring in 2014, the best and most entertaining version of his opponents have brought out the best in Crawford.

In his last outing in June, Crawford thrilled his hometown fans in Omaha, Nebraska and boxing fans throughout the world with a sensational knockout victory over former Cuban Olympic gold medalist Yuriorkis Gamboa.

There is no reason to think the sizzle has subsided from this Omaha steak. Saturday’s content against Ray Beltran of Mexico promises to be a similar fight: action-packing and entertaining. While most expect Crawford to prevail in his hometown once again, the outcome is far from assured.

Crawford (24-0, 17 KOs) and Beltran (29-6-1, 17 KOs) are the number one and number two lightweights in the world. The winner becomes the lineal lightweight champion, one of the few divisions in boxing where this is the case.

Terence Crawford sends Yuriorkis Gamboa to the canvas in round 9 of their bout in Omaha. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank
Terence Crawford sends Yuriorkis Gamboa to the canvas in round 9 of their bout in June. Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank

Crawford is one of the best boxers you probably don’t know. He has made a quick rise up the ranks over the past two years, starting with a fight that wasn’t well received against Breidis Prescott, but despite this he won. He scored a win against the talented Ricky Burns of Scotland, a fight not broadcast in the U.S. Then in June, he got a lot more attention for his KO win over Gamboa. A win over Beltran will put him solidly on the map.

Beltran is a typical seasoned competitor in the Mexican style who likes to mix it up. He’s been on the hard luck side of several close decisions, including a loss to the same Ricky Burns that many thought he would win. Beltran moves forward and does what is necessary to make a fight happen. He will give Crawford everything he can handle. Based on Crawford’s performance against Gamboa, when a skilled opponent pushes him he will push back.

Crawford has been known as a skilled boxer with excellent defensive skills, but his 17 knockouts prove he’s got the offense to back it all up. A fight between two men who both know how to punch goes to the boxer with defensive tools in the toolkit. Crawford’s most impressive asset is not his fists, but his calm demeanor in the ring. Even when he gets into trouble as he did early against Gamboa, he never panics. He buckles down, stays focused, and gets the job done.

Beltran could fight his heart out against Crawford and still be on the losing side of a close decision. It would be a real shame. It would be best for either fighter to live by the sword or die by the sword. If so, no matter who wins in the ring, fans will win.

This should be Crawford’s last fight at lightweight before moving up to the 140-pound division where bigger name opponents like Adrien Broner, Lucas Matthysse, Danny Garcia, and even Chris Algieri are waiting for him. None of them should be too anxious to volunteer.

Evgeny Gradovich defends his featherweight belt against Jayson Velez Saturday. Photo: Ed Mullholand, HBO
Evgeny Gradovich defends his featherweight belt against Jayson Velez Saturday. Photo: Ed Mullholand, HBO

In the televised undercard, two undefeated fighters will risk their records in the featherweight division. Evgeny Gradovich of Russia (19-0, 9 KOs) risks his title for the fourth time against Jayson Velez of Puerto Rico (22-0, 16 KOs). Gradovich joins the growing wave of exceptional, entertaining Russian and Eastern European boxers in all weight classes. Gradovich calls himself the “Mexican Russian.” He trains with Robert Garcia in Oxnard. Velez trains with Abel Sanchez, whose stable boasts the middleweight champion Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin, who’s made much of his talent for fighting “Mexican Style.” This pair personifies the “fan-friendly” category – they hit and they like to get hit. You’ll get no argument from me on this.

Since you are probably still tired from digesting your Thanksgiving dinner or Black Friday shopping, and you have plenty of leftovers to tide you over, there’s no reason not to settle in and enjoy these two contests in weight divisions that are deserving of much more attention than they normally get.

“HBO Boxing After Dark Thanksgiving Special” airs at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +

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