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Welterweight Terence Crawford continues quest for all-time greatness

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·4-min read

LAS VEGAS — The betting odds would suggest that this will be little more than a sparring session for Terence Crawford in his fight Saturday for the WBO welterweight title on ESPN against Kell Brook at the MGM Grand conference center. At the MGM Grand sports book, Crawford is a -1500 favorite, meaning in order to make a $100 profit, a bettor would have to risk $1,500.

A $100 wager on Brook would return a $750 profit if he were to pull the upset. Those odds would suggest this figures to be a rout of epic proportions, but nothing about the fight says that.

Brook is 39-2 with 27 KOs and his only losses were to Gennadiy Golovkin and Errol Spence.

Crawford, who is No. 2 on the Yahoo Sports pound-for-pound list, has shown all the signs of being an all-time great, but he hasn’t had the kind of elite victories over big-name opponents like welterweights Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Floyd Mayweather had.

And so while Crawford’s talent suggests he belongs up there with the best ever — and the oddsmakers seem to indicate they agree — he has one more hurdle to climb. He needs that elusive super fight.

A bout with Spence, the IBF-WBC champion, would accomplish that purpose, but that fight is at least several months, if not more, away.

FILE - Terence Crawford has his hand raised in victory after defeating Lithuania's Egidijus Kavaliauskas by TKO in the ninth round of a WBO welterweight boxing match, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, in New York. Crawford is looking for a fight. The undefeated WBO welterweight champion has never fought less than twice in a calendar year as a professional. He faces the possibility of being idle all of 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Owens, File)
Terence Crawford defeated Lithuania's Egidijus Kavaliauskas by TKO in the ninth round on Dec. 14, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Michael Owens, File)

Crawford, though, is hardly concerned. If someone is going to dub him an all-time great, it won’t be him.

“It’s all opinion,” said Crawford, who is 36-0 with 27 KOs and has won world titles at lightweight, super lightweight and welterweight. “Like I said before, everybody has their own opinion of how they view Terence Crawford and the type of fighters and the caliber of fighters I have faced in the past. You’re going to have some mixed emotions, mixed feelings and that’s OK. Me personally, deep down inside, I do feel in my heart that I’m one of the best welterweights out right now.”

Crawford is 4-0 with four TKOs at welterweight, but none of the four men he faced was considered a serious threat to him.

Brook is a different matter. He’s physically bigger than Crawford, and he’s proven himself to be a world-class fighter. He fought Golovkin and Spence in back-to-back fights and suffered broken orbital bones in each. He fractured the right orbital bone against Golovkin, then fractured the left one when he went back down from middleweight to fight Spence.

The fight with Spence was stopped in the 11th as Brook was having difficulty seeing. But as a fighter, Crawford understands the challenge that awaited Brook, trying to cut from middleweight to welterweight while facing one of the best in the world.

“I felt like his body wasn’t prepared to lose all that weight [going into the Spence fight] and it was already broken down from Gennadiy Golovkin to fight Spence in back-to-back tough fights like that,” Crawford said. “Given that he had the time to relax and get away from boxing and then to come back to boxing and get two victories, I feel he’s in a different space right now before he was when he fought Spence.”

If Crawford can get past Brook, a fight with Spence may loom. Spence will defend his titles on Dec. 5 in a difficult pay-per-view bout with the always tough Danny Garcia.

If they both win, everyone will resume the calls for Crawford-Spence. Crawford admits he didn’t want to fight Spence now, but it’s not for the reasons you think.

He wasn’t ducking him. Rather, he wanted Spence to be at his best and he felt that wouldn’t be possible with Spence going into his first fight since an Oct. 10, 2019, auto accident in Dallas that nearly took his life.

“First of all, I respect him as a champion and I wouldn’t want to fight him if he wasn’t at his best,” Crawford said of Spence. “Given that he’s recovered from a crazy accident, I didn’t want to fight him on his first fight back given the circumstances. If I would have won, there would have been an excuse for me beating him [because they’d say he wasn’t the same fighter after the accident].

“I didn’t want any excuses. When me and him fight, I want it to be No. 1 versus No. 2, both of us 100 percent and nobody is injured and nobody is at their lowest point. Then, may the better man win, which I think is me.”

So there is plenty at stake for Crawford in a fight in which the betting odds don’t tell the story. Brook is a far better opponent than bettors in Las Vegas appear to be giving him credit for, and Crawford has a lot on the line.

Expect to see a version of Crawford that understands those points, and rises up with another brilliant performance.

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