Boxing

Everything on the line in Terence Crawford’s must-win fight Saturday

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It’s not like Terence “Bud” Crawford has spent the last seven years fighting popcorn vendors and arena cleaning crew. The native of Omaha, Nebraska passed the prime of his 13-year professional career becoming a 3-division world champ, unifying all four belts in the junior welterweight division along the way and managing to capture the WBO welterweight title. He’s also established himself as an elite-level pound-for-pound fighter, no worse than no. 3 in the world at the moment.

It’s just that boxing fandom makes for a strange fauna and flora of half-baked ideas and bias-based judgment. Not too long ago, Terence Crawford was shown too much deference. Now, he gets too much derision.

Coming into this Saturday’s pay-per-view clash with Shawn Porter, the narrative is that Crawford needs to prove himself on this big stage to justify his “for real” status.

Like most ideas tossed out into the public discourse, there’s truth and exaggeration in that belief.

It’s true that Crawford hasn’t fought anyone as main stage-experienced or as proven “good” as Porter. In great part, that’s due to him coming up in thin lightweight and junior welterweight divisions and, as a welterweight, being aligned with Top Rank Promotions, which provided a barrier to accessing fights with much of the welterweight elite plying their trade under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner. Crawford had a chance to leave Top Rank and jump into the deep end of the PBC talent pool when his promotional contract expired in 2018, but he opted to re-sign. So, a good chunk of the blame for not getting legacy fights falls at his own feet, too.

It’s a shame that Crawford– a legit generational talent with the potential to be this generation’s best welterweight– is facing his first truly stiff test at 34 years of age and more than 13 years into his pro career. But, again, this doesn’t mean he’s been facing nothing but stiffs in showcase squashes.

The man came of age and made his way through lightweight and then junior welterweight, facing the best available opposition and unifying the junior welterweight division. You can’t do much better than that. He’s also faced some solid opposition at welterweight– Jeff Horn, Jose Benavidez Jr., Amir Khan, “Mean Machine” Egidijus Kavaliauskas, and Kell Brook– and mostly dominated, with relative ease.

In Porter, however, he’ll be facing someone who has an established body of work at the elite level of the 147 lb. division. The two-time welterweight champ has beaten the likes of Devon Alexander, Paulie Malignaggi, Adrien Broner, Andre Berto, Danny Garcia, and Yordenis Ugas. He’s also lost close, disputable decisions in very competitive bouts with Keith Thurman and Errol Spence.

The all-action Porter should push Crawford like nobody else has. He should bring out the best– or the worst– in the defending WBO welterweight champ.

The big, unifying truth in all of the buzz about Crawford-Porter is that this is pretty much a “must win” fight for Crawford.

If he gets by Porter, doing so as his Top Rank contract again comes up for renewal, he’ll be able to launch himself into free agency and finally get a clear path to signing bouts with the elite welterweight class for the legacy points and money scores he’d like to get.

A loss, however, probably gets him cut off from everything. With no world title around his waist and the taint of a loss trailing behind him, there’d be no incentive for the other big dogs in the division to even consider fighting him. He’d be stuck in place, probably worse off than ever when it comes to finding meaningful opposition.

So, whether he feels he’s done enough to not have to prove anything to anybody, Terence Crawford needs to accept the reality that everything is on the line this Saturday.

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Paul Magno has over forty years of experience in and around the sport of boxing and has had his hand in everything, from officiating to training. As a writer, his work has appeared in several online publications, including Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports, FightHype, Max Boxing, Boxing.com, Inside Fights, The Boxing Tribune, The Queensberry Rules, and Premier Boxing Champions. You can reach him at: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com