It isn’t unusual for a professional boxer to have an overwhelming pride for his hometown. Many fighters hometown will actually become a part of their personality and how they are identified when someone mentions them in a boxing conversation. Former undisputed middleweight champion of the world Jermain Taylor was Arkansas through and through. He talked about his pride in being from Arkansas at every chance he got as well as wearing Razorback trunks in his title defences.
Home sweet home
Mike Tyson has a popular clothing line running right now with Brooklyn plastered all over it. He used his hard upbringing in the bad part of Brooklyn as part of his mystique when he entered the ring. Boxing’s newest star, Terence Crawford is cut from this same cloth. His pride for his hometown of Omaha and his state of Nebraska is prevalent in everything he does. He wears Cornhusker clothes to the ring and a Creighton hat during weigh-ins and press conferences. Most importantly, he has brought professional boxing back to Omaha, a city that is known for selling out events that usually struggle to draw a large crowd, such as the Olympic Swim Trials and the Big 10 Baseball Tournament.
Omaha had a small taste of boxing back in the 60’s and 70’s with local hero and brawler Ron Stander. Stander certainly had his limitations as a fighter and took an awful lot of punishment but he exemplified the blue collar, Omaha way. He failed in an attempt at the heavyweight crown against Joe Frazier in 1972 but did defeat Earnie Shavers during his under the radar career. Omaha however, has never seen anything like the champ it has now. Crawford has made a historic climb up the pound-for-pound ranks in his 32-fight career.
On August 19th of this year, he became the first person to unify all the titles in a division since Taylor did it when he beat the ageless Bernard Hopkins back in 2005. Crawford brought all the junior welterweight titles together in Lincoln, NE when he demolished Julius Indongo with a body shot that left the challenger writhing on the ground. Since that night, Crawford has relinquished one title and it seems inevitable that he is heading up in weight to the shark infested waters of the welterweight division. What awaits him in the division, and what promoter Bob Arum is willing to risk, remains to be seen…
The jump up in weight
The welterweight division is one of the deepest in boxing and is starting to become one of the most fascinating as well, as it’s finally starting to pit some of its better fighters against each other. Boxing has become almost a showcase for top fighters who want to make as much money as possible while risking as little as possible. It can be looked at as to why the general public’s interest in boxing has waned from the days of boxing on prime time free television. The days when Tyson vs Buster Mathis Jr was a Saturday night special on Fox are virtually extinct in the rating wars of today.
Recently we have treated to some very good fights between some welterweights who were actually willing to put their records on the line. Keith Thurman vs Shawn Porter was the first one to start it off. Both guys left it all in the ring that summer evening and we were reminded of how great boxing can be when two of the best come to prove it. Thurman again put it all on the line against an undefeated Danny Garcia on March 5, 2017, and although the fight lacked the great action of Porter and Thurman, it had an all-the-marbles feel to it that made boxing fans tune in to see how it was going to play out. Thurman would win a split decision that night and has taken some time off to deal with injuries. These three guys would be the big money, big market fights that Crawford would need to prove his dominance at welterweight, the same way he did at junior welterweight.
What kind of chance does a guy like Crawford stand against these guys? Better than you’d think. Crawford is a blend of speed and power that not many in the welterweight class possess. His power isn’t as crushing as a guy like Thurman or even Porter, but he’s learned the Floyd Mayweather way of making your punches more effective, and that is through technique and precision. A shot thrown correctly and put on the chin, liver or temple doesn’t need to have jarring power behind it. People seem to forget that getting hit by a 30-year-old man in the shape of his life, who has been throwing punches his entire life, is going to hurt regardless of whether he is considered a ‘power puncher’ or not.
Crawford’s time against ‘One Time’
In his last nine fights, only the iron chinned Ray Beltran and Viktor Postol saw the final bell, and Postol hasn’t fought since the drubbing he took that evening. A fight against the kingpin of the division in Thurman would be the most interesting. Thurman is a very good boxer who doesn’t over extend or put himself in the compromising positions that a guy like Porter does when he gets wild. Thurman also has very good power and footwork. Crawford would be the smaller fighter against a guy like Thurman as Keith has been a welterweight for a while now and has adapted to the size and strength of the division.
Thurman has never faced anyone as fast or as quick as Crawford, and that would play a difference when the fight is in the centre of the ring. Crawford doesn’t head hunt unless he knows that he has you, and he is quite content to stay on the outside and pop your head back with a good jab that he can throw from either stance. Which leads me to his next advantage in the weight class, and that is his ability to fight from the orthodox or the southpaw stance with equal effectiveness. He wants to make you uncomfortable and will switch to whichever style he needs to keep it that way. Against a guy like Thurman, he would need to utilise this skill if he wants to stay in the fight, as Thurman has shown an ability to figure out whatever style you throw at him, and make fighters pay as the fight goes into the later rounds.
A perfect fit with Porter
A guy like Porter would be tailor-made for Crawford and vice versa. Porter is absolutely overwhelming with his volume punching and will come right after his opponent. This plays right into the precision punching and countering that Crawford feeds on. Porter leaves himself open when he attacks as his punches can often be looping and wild, as evidenced by his loss to British fighter Kell Brook, where he got hurt a few times by the straight punching Brook.
Crawford is moving to welterweight and someone is going to have to greet him. His first fight has not been signed yet, and we have no name for a first opponent either. Knowing Bob Arum, he is going to give him a couple of warm up bouts to acclimate to the class, but personally, I think he should go right after the big names in the division. He won’t have the luxury of bringing the fight to Omaha, a place that has become a distinct advantage for him as the crowd is raucous and sold out every time he brings them there, but he doesn’t need it. For fighters to be special, they need to beat the best of their era. Crawford was special at junior welterweight. It’s time to prove that he can special at welterweight as well.
Who would you like to see Crawford fight next? Comment below…
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