Sometimes it bothers Terence Crawford.
He will dominate a fight so completely that it’s hard to find minutes, forget about entire rounds, that he didn’t win. Yet afterward, rather than earning him praise for his package of power and precision, what follows is criticism of the beaten opponent.
“When you’ve got undefeated gold medalists and world champions, where before the fight a lot of writers and fans think that they’re going to steamroll me or they’re too big for me, and this is going to be the toughest fight of my career, after the fight, they say, ‘He wasn’t that good,'” Crawford said. “Or, ‘He was a stand-up fighter.’ Or, ‘He was slow.’ Or, ‘We knew you were going to do this, we just had to hype up the fight.’ So they discredit me.”
Crawford will try to keep finding fights that can change that, and he believes he’s got one Saturday.
Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) defends his welterweight title at Madison Square Garden against veteran Amir Khan (33-4, 20 KOs), the 2004 Olympic silver medalist from Britain who 15 years later is looking for what could be his biggest victory as a professional.
“Terence is very high in the pound-for-pound rankings, maybe No. 1 or No. 2,” Khan said. “So, it’s just amazing for me to be in this position once again. That itself is a great motivation for me, to know that I’m fighting the best out there once again. And it makes me train harder, work harder and focus on this fight.”
Promoter Bob Arum chose Crawford to headline the first pay-per-view card of Top Rank’s deal with ESPN, comparing him with Sugar Ray Leonard. The skills may be similar, but the resumes are not. Leonard’s fights against the likes of Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler have their own chapters in boxing history, while Crawford is still searching for the matchup that will ensure the legacy he craves.
Even before the Omaha, Nebraska product impressively unified the four major 140-pound titles, he was already peppered with questions about when he’d move up to welterweight, as if a change in weight would assure a change in competition. Even the move to 147 and victory over Jeff Horn to take the WBO title didn’t do too much for him, because many people never thought Horn actually beat Manny Pacquiao to win the title in the first place.
Victories over fellow welterweight champions Errol Spence Jr. or Keith Thurman couldn’t be ignored, but given boxing’s complicated politics he’s just as likely to get Leonard in the ring, at least for now.
But Crawford continues trying. Top Rank was moving toward lining up a match with Luis Collazo — a fighter Khan beat — for this defense. Crawford wanted something he felt would be better and Khan was eager to accept.
“Amir Khan is a great fighter,” Crawford said. “I can’t take nothing away from him. He’s done a lot in the sport of boxing. He has a big name. He’s undefeated at the welterweight division. So why not take another step up?”
That’s what Khan is doing. A match with fellow British star Kell Brook might pay him more, make him a bigger star in Britain and likely be more winnable, but he changed course when the Crawford offer became available. Khan doesn’t shy away from big odds or bigger fighters, facing middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez three years ago and using his speed to fight well for a few rounds before getting knocked out.
After two years out of action, he returned in 2018 and has won two fights in a row. He has gone back to trainer Virgil Hunter, under whom he said he’s had his best success.
The undercard includes Shakur Stevenson and Teofimo Lopez, 2016 Olympians who seem on the way to being stars as professionals. Khan was in their situation long ago and he has gone on to reach some highs, though they were offset by a few lows. But Arum knows of Khan’s capabilities, remembering watching him in Pacquaio’s training camp.
“So I know what he brings to this party, and I am really looking forward to performances by two great fighters,” he said. “A generational talent in Terence Crawford, and one of the great fighters I’ve seen in Amir Khan.”
Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://twitter.com/briancmahoney