Not that long ago people were wondering just how good Omaha’s Terence Crawford really was. Sure, he was a top level lightweight and junior welterweight, but his best win, over Yuriorkis Gamboa, was no easy slog. What’s more, the talented Ukrainian Viktor Postol, who Crawford was about to face, was no joke. Indeed, Postol, with his classic European style, looked ready and willing to present Crawford with a real challenge. After all, Postol had shut down the dangerous Lucas Matthysse, becoming the first to stop the powerful Argentinian inside the distance. There was also word that Danny Garcia had wanted no part of Postol back in Garcia’s junior welterweight days.
Crawford, however, proved to be more than willing and able to rise to the occasion. Indeed, he made Postol look like an amateur when they faced off last July. In fairness, Postol was sharp at first, but once Crawford figured his opponent out, it was all downhill for the Ukrainian. And from that night on, there’s been no denying that Crawford is the man at 140, and maybe even upwards. Suspicion has even been raised that elements of the team behind Manny Pacquiao want the ageing great to avoid “Bud,” though I personally don’t buy it.
Of course Crawford wants a truly big fight and if he can’t get Pacquiao, then hopefully someone else will step up. He’s called out Danny Garcia, after all. But for now, Crawford will have to content himself with veteran slugger John Molina. The two meet this Saturday in an HBO broadcast aired live from the CenturyLink Center in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha. Most people don’t think Molina stands much of a chance, and with good reason, and thus Crawford vs Molina is likely to follow the expected storyline. That said, a Molina win would be far from the biggest upset in boxing history.
Let’s start off with a bit of honesty: Molina was never expected to overcome rugged Ruslan Provodnikov when they met earlier this year. But he beat him and beat him soundly, employing a very effective skill set for a man who has won 23 out of 29 wins by knockout. In other words, Molina played it smart against the hard-slugging Russian. Will brains alone be enough to best Crawford, though? Probably not.
Crawford, you see, is skilled and versatile. Very versatile. I haven’t seen a boxer switch from the conventional stance to southpaw with such efficiency since Marvin Hagler. Crawford is a fighter who also knows how to adapt. Take his fight with Gamboa. People seem to forget that the Cuban dominated, or at least looked great, early on. Yet Crawford altered his game plan and ended up knocking his talented opponent down and out in highlight reel fashion.
What’s more, Crawford has looked pretty unstoppable since then. Raymundo Beltran? Done. Hank Lundy? See ya later. Viktor Postol? We know the answer to that one. With a record of 29-0 with 20 KOs, it’s extremely difficult to imagine Crawford getting bested by Molina this weekend, in his hometown, no less. Indeed, this is being seen as what it most likely will end up being: a stay busy fight for a rising star in the sport. For although Crawford doesn’t have the appeal and personality of, say, a Ray Leonard or even a Mike Tyson, he’s interesting enough to eventually bring down some serious bank. As long as he keeps winning.
A tough kid from a tough neighborhood with a checkered past, Crawford’s originality comes from a usually chill, yet all-business attitude. Here, after all, is a guy who likes to fish. A guy who likes to play video games and hang with his kids. He’s had legal trouble, true, but Crawford isn’t someone you hear about having escapades in the club. Nope, the man is quiet. And, at times, pretty mean. To be sure, it’s this Eastwoodesque quality of Crawford that, coupled with the man’s impressive skill set, might make him one of the more interesting characters in the game. He doesn’t act like fellow junior welterweight Adrien Broner, because he doesn’t have to.
All that said, Molina, for his part, is determined to prove the world wrong. He may look like a contemporary version of Moe Greene when he dons those thick rimmed glasses, but this is a workhorse, a guy who, unlike many of his contemporaries, puts in the effort every time out and more often than not makes things happen. He’s also a man walking into Saturday’s bout with a nearly three inch reach advantage. That could, of course, prove telling if Molina is on his A-game. Then again, this is Crawford we’re talking about here, the most dominant man in the division.
No doubt we’ve seen bigger upsets. And anything can happen in boxing, that’s true. But some things are harder to make happen than others. — Sean Crose