LAS VEGAS — If Terence Crawford has a weakness in his game, it’s strength of schedule. He’s about two months past his 33rd birthday, but the unbeaten and largely unchallenged WBO welterweight champion has yet to have the kind of opponent who would excite the masses as a legitimate threat to win.
By the time he was at a similar age, Floyd Mayweather Jr. had already beaten four future Hall of Famers — Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley and Arturo Gatti. There are several others he fought by that age, like Ricky Hatton and the late Diego Corrales, who have chances to be elected.
Kell Brook is not likely to be that opponent for Crawford, though Brook, who challenges Crawford on Saturday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN) at the MGM Grand Conference Center for the title, will without question provide the stiffest test of Crawford’s career.
The path to victory for Brook is not a simple one, though. Crawford is a better overall boxer, has a quickness advantage, is the more accurate and devastating puncher and has the better ring IQ. What Brook brings is a decent amount of skill along with a size advantage and a tough chin.
Brook has fought the likes of Gennadiy Golovkin, Errol Spence Jr. and Shawn Porter, and understands what it is like to be in trenches with an elite, hard-hitting, high-pressure opponent.
He’s not going to wilt the first time Crawford clips him.
The path for him to win the fight is a rocky one, though. His best bet is to take advantage of Crawford’s tendency to start slowly. Crawford will often not throw a lot of punches in the early going as he assesses what he’s up against and tries to determine the vulnerabilities of his opponent.
Brook can’t afford to do that. He has to come out quickly and pressure Crawford, and perhaps catch him with something. Crawford is mentally tough, as well as physically, and such a strategy on Brook’s part will only serve to wake Crawford up and draw him into the battle.
There are few flaws visible in Crawford’s game, but he can be vulnerable to quick, sharp hooks to the body. If Brook can hook to the body and then bring it back up to the head, he may be able to score consistently and slow Crawford’s attack.
But Crawford has way too many ways to win this, and is far too complete of a fighter, though, and so I see a Crawford victory. But the line on Crawford to win, -1500, is way too high. You won’t last long as a bettor laying $1,500 to win $100.
Brook is +750 and he might be worth a flier if you’re a risk-taker, because he is the most talented and toughest man Crawford has yet faced.
To me, the best bet is “will go the distance” at +180. Brook’s chin is proven and he knows this is probably his last, best chance at a major fight, so he should be at his best.
Best bets on Crawford vs. Brook
• I will lay -110 to win $100 betting that the fight will go 10 full rounds. Won’t go 10 full is -120.
• I will lay $100 at +260 to win a $260 profit on Crawford to win by decision.
• In the primary undercard bout, I will take Andrew Moloney at +165 to regain his title from Joshua Franco.
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