AGE AND PHYSICAL EQUIPMENT
CRAWFORD: Although the 34-year-old Brook is regarded as the veteran in this fight, Crawford is only a year younger than the Brit. However, Crawford has not been involved in such punishing scraps as Brook, though he did take part in almost double the amount of amateur contests. The American is marginally shorter than Brook (5ft 8ins compared to 5ft 9ins), but he has a five-inch reach advantage over the Sheffield fighter (74ins compared to 69ins).
BROOK: Having competed at super-welterweight and middleweight before, Brook is the naturally bigger man. As it has been in the past, making the welterweight limit will be a strenuous process for the Englishman, especially considering that his three most recent outings have all been contested at super-welter. While Crawford has gradually risen through the divisions, Brook’s weight has fluctuated in recent years. Due to this, and the two serious eye injuries that he has previously suffered, there are doubts about his physical condition.
EDGE: Brook has always been a strong and sturdy welterweight, but the rangy Crawford has grown into an imposing 147-pounder himself, without having to battle the scales like his opponent. Crawford has also taken less punishment in his career.
CRAWFORD: Like Brook, Crawford has been boxing since he was a child. As an amateur, the Omahan was consistently in the mix at the top end of the US national scene. He has been victorious in 14 world title bouts across three weight categories, including four at 147lbs. Among his victims are seven boxers who have held world titles, namely Ricky Burns, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Raymundo Beltran, Viktor Postol, Julius Indongo, Jeff Horn and Amir Khan. An absence of any truly elite-class rivals is something that goes against him.
BROOK: A Junior ABA champion in 2003 and 2004, Brook turned pro three-and-a-half years before Crawford, though he has only fought five more times than “Bud”. Of the six world title fights that he has taken part in, five have been at welterweight, where he has spent the majority of his career. He has shared a ring with five foes who have won world belts – Lovemore Ndou, Vyacheslav Senchenko, Shawn Porter, Gennady Golovkin and Errol Spence Jnr. Golovkin and Spence eclipse all of Crawford’s opposition, while it could also be argued that Porter does too.
EDGE: Although Brook has appeared less frequently in world title contests overall, he is more seasoned at welterweight. He has also come up against the higher-calibre adversaries.
CRAWFORD: In what was his first world title fight, and the only bout he has had outside of America, Crawford demonstrated maturity and poise to prevail against Burns in Scotland. Over the course of his career, he has wrecked the unbeaten records of Andrey Klimov, Gamboa, Postol, Indongo, Horn, Jose Benavidez Jnr and Egidijus Kavaliauskas. The Postol unification, the Indongo battle for undisputed status, and the Horn clash – his debut up at welter – stand out particularly.
BROOK: While his showing against Senchenko was eye-catching, Brook’s most complete all-round performance came against Porter in the States, whom he overcame thanks to a mixture of skill, intelligence and grit. Despite being defeated inside the distance by Golovkin and Spence, the brave Brook came out of both encounters with his reputation enhanced.
EDGE: Brook’s best victory, over Porter, was a close one, whereas Crawford has been imperious in his top wins – exciting and effective in equal measure.
CRAWFORD: Taking into account that Crawford has not once looked like losing a fight, it is extremely hard to criticise any of his displays. The conclusion of his match with Amir Khan was frustrating and dissatisfying – ending as it did in strange circumstances after he landed a seemingly accidental low blow – but it would be harsh to put a black mark against his name for this.
BROOK: Brook was dominant against Carson Jones in their rematch, but the first time they met it was a different story. After building up a healthy lead early on, Brook alarmingly ran out of gas in the second half of the contest. He had to endure some worrying moments but managed to squeak through in the end. More recently against Michael Zerafa, the Yorkshireman laboured to an uninspiring victory, during which he was too open at times.
EDGE: Crawford manages to maintain a startlingly high performance level in each of his bouts, while Brook cannot boast the same sort of consistency.
CRAWFORD: An excellent all-rounder, the switch-hitting Crawford can do it all. Comfortable dictating proceedings from range with his long jab, or pressing forward on the attack with his gloves held high, the astute Nebraskan is adept at managing a fight. In addition to possessing a sound defence and solid chin, his accuracy and timing are spot on. Three-quarters of his wins have come inside schedule, with none of his opponents at welterweight having been able to last the course.
BROOK: A versatile switch-hitter like Crawford, the tough and talented Brook is content either countering off the back foot or forcing the action on the front foot. An expert judge of distance, “The Special One” is the owner of a superb jab, which he thrusts out with speed, power and precision. He zones in on the midsection with sharp, straight shots, while upstairs he fires off well-timed one-twos and uppercuts.
EDGE: With Crawford being an accurate and powerful marksman, and Brook having succumbed to these same qualities against Golovkin and Spence, Crawford holds the aces here.
CRAWFORD: It is difficult to pinpoint any chinks in Crawford’s armour. One thing he must guard against is complacency, as he has not fought for 11 months, and he is widely expected to triumph with relative ease – certainly if the betting odds are anything to go by.
BROOK: It is fair to question how much Brook has left in the tank following his painful defeats to Golovkin and Spence. The yo-yoing in weight won’t aid his cause either.
EDGE: The obstacles Brook has to overcome are clear and daunting, but it is like clutching at straws when trying to locate vulnerabilities in Crawford.
More often than not, Crawford tends to take his time and not rush into things in the early rounds. This will allow Brook to settle into the fight, with his jab likely to bring him some success in the opening sessions. Once Crawford has taken a look at Brook and sized him up, he will begin to move through the gears and make his mark. As the bout progresses, the frequency and spite of Crawford’s attacks will increase. With Crawford’s hurtful punches causing Brook to become more and more ragged, the referee will eventually step in to halt proceedings in the final third of the 12-rounder.