PERHAPS we’re all a little guilty of falling for Terence Crawford a tad prematurely and not considering the level of opposition he has faced as a lightweight, super-lightweight and now welterweight champion.
Perhaps we have been blinded by the textbook fundamentals, the ease with which he switches between stances, and ignored the fact he has yet to enter a fight as a pre-fight underdog nor face many opponents deemed on his level.
Amir Khan, his next opponent, has seen and heard everything everyone else has seen and heard. He has seen Crawford dominate the competition; he has seen him soar through the weights and do the same on the pound-for-pound list. He has heard the comparisons people have started to make to the greats of yesteryear.
But still he remains unconvinced. Still he wants to see Crawford dazzle against someone in the A-class, someone blessed with the tools and experience to match the American and push him to new heights. Still he wants to sample some of the Crawford magic himself.
This Saturday (April 20) in New York, Khan gets his chance. He gets the chance to discover how much he has left as a 32-year-old former two-time world champion, and he gets the chance to test the authenticity of Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford once and for all.
“This has to be one of the biggest in my career, definitely, and I also have a more of a chance to win this one as well,” Khan told Boxing News, alluding to an ill-advised mission impossible against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in 2016. “It’s not only a big fight. I have a big, big chance of winning it.
“Against Canelo, I had everything against me – the weight, the size, everything. But this is completely different. Crawford is a new welterweight and he’s a lot smaller. Physically, I’m going to be the bigger guy.
“We’ll see where Crawford belongs. Does he really belong at the top level? Is he really one of the best guys in the world? This fight will prove it one way or another. It’s as much of a test for him as it is for him. I want to prove I’ve got what it takes to still be the best and Crawford needs to prove he’s the best.”
In fairness to WBO champion Crawford, 34-0 (25), it’s not all exhibition stuff against sub-par opposition. In fact, at welterweight, he has comfortably beaten Jeff Horn and Jose Benavidez, stopping both inside the distance, and before that he snapped the unbeaten records of Yuriorkis Gamboa, Viktor Postol and Julius Indongo. He has certainly shown no aversion to taking challenges. Far from it.
If anything, the more Khan labours the point, the more you start to wonder if devaluing Crawford’s record and elevating his own is a way for the Brit to find some much-needed confidence ahead of what seems, on paper at least, an insurmountable task. If, after all, he doesn’t claim the edge in experience, and overall competition, it’s tough to see where Khan gains success against a champion who has appeared so far faultless as a world champion.
“I’m very confident,” said Khan, 33-4 (20). “I’ve done everything perfectly for this fight and I haven’t made any mistakes. I know I can win this fight. I know Crawford’s style and I know I can beat it.
“I see me winning the fight. There will be times in the fight when I have to dig deep but I’ve done everything in training to prepare myself for those moments when I have to dig deep.”
That’s one thing Khan does have over Crawford at this juncture: a familiarity with digging deep. Khan, given his style and fragility, has had to dig deep time and time again and has proven himself capable of doing so whenever it is required of him.
Crawford, on the other hand, so brilliant is his skill-set, has had to dig to similar depths only in fleeting moments. For the most part, he has been on cruise control; so smooth he makes good fighters look bad and competition seem in short supply.
*** A full four-page Amir Khan feature can be read in this week’s Boxing News (digital April 16, print April 18) ***