Hi Keith. Ralph Semien here, long time fight fan and a sincere admirer of your skills and accomplishments, both in and out of the ring. In particular, Keith, I respect your intelligence. I understand you dropped out of school in your teens and home-schooled yourself, that you read widely, ruminating on the works of various poets and philosophers. So I respect and admire your intelligence and class but, having said that, and because of that admiration and respect, I want to offer some words of wisdom, words from an old man who has been following the fight game all his life.
To start, let me tell you a little story that sums up one of the main points I want to make. I’m a child of the 1960’s and the electric guitar virtuoso and blues artist Jimi Hendrix is one of my all-time favorites in music. Another great guitar player from that era is a British musician who is still with us named Eric Clapton. In a documentary I watched about Jimi’s life, Clapton tells a story of when Hendrix first hit London, hot off the Chitlin’ Circuit, after having been fired by the Isley Brothers for soloing too long.
Clapton says that a buddy of his called and told him, “Hey Eric, you need to go down to this nightclub where this American kid is playing. He just got into town from the States. You need to listen to this guy.” So Clapton did and he goes on to say that when Jimi got onstage, the second he hit his first note, “I knew the best I could ever be was number two.”
That’s you, Keith. You are Eric Clapton. And right now, in case you weren’t aware, Terence “Bud” Crawford is Jimi Hendrix.
Though, I hasten to add, it didn’t need to be this way! But the fact is you’ve been off the stage, so to speak, for quite a while now, Keith. Long enough to cause myself and others to wonder what is going on with your career. In fact, I was wondering about it even before you vacated your WBC title in April, as your last ring appearance was way back in March of last year when you fought Danny Garcia. Now I know you’ve had some injury issues, and it takes time to heal and get through the rehab and so on, I grant you that. But still, by the time you do finally get back in the ring, it could be what, 16, 17 months since your last fight? That’s way too long, Keith. Just way too long.
I’m sure you know that when you vacated the WBC strap, boxing fans were reacting in droves to the news, and not everything they had to say was kind. They were calling you, “’Sometime’ Keith Thurman,” or saying that this was a “great day” for boxing as it gets us closer to an undisputed champ at 147. Others were saying this was evidence you were afraid to face Errol Spence Jr., and one went so far as to say, “Keith Thurman is retired and you can’t convince me otherwise.” Does that stuff sting, Keith? It should.
And, yes, you can say the long layoff is all due to prolonged rehabbing of that elbow, but then I saw a recent interview in which you talked about your “legacy.” Now on the one hand I respect your desire to leave a legacy, but on the other: aren’t you a bit young to be focused on that? Isn’t it a bit premature? Instead of a “legacy,” I think you need to pay attention to what is happening right now, in the present. Your fans want to hear you talking about your career as it stands in the here and now, not down the line when you are looking back on your “legacy.” The simple fact is you need to get busy, shake off the ring rust, and get back in the game! The sooner, the better!
C’mon, Keith! People who talk about their “legacy” are planning their retirement party! You can’t be thinking about that! You’re an elite-level athlete so you know your body is like a finely-tuned Maserati, a high-performance vehicle, and it needs to be out on the road, not stuck in the garage getting dusty and rusty. If that elbow is healthy you owe it to your fans, and to yourself, to get back in the ring pronto! That August fight needs to be set and confirmed. After all, in that same interview you said you wanted your legacy “to be at 147,” that you want “to be ‘the man’ at the weight class I always knew I would naturally fight at.”
Which brings us back to Jimi Hendrix, er, I mean, Terence Crawford. Because while you were oddly talking out of one side of your mouth about your “legacy,” with the other side you were insisting that before you considered fighting Crawford, he’d have to move up to 147, pick up Jeff Horn’s title, and then, and only then, could he talk some trash. Well, Crawford did move up and he did take Horn’s title after he took Horn apart in most impressive fashion. But Crawford didn’t talk trash after the win; he just very matter-of-factly said he wants the title of every champion in the division, and just as matter-of-factly instructed Bob Arum to make those fights. So you can safely assume Crawford’s coming for that last strap you’re holding onto but not defending.
And it must be noted that Crawford’s performance was nothing less than a statement of his prowess at 147. Suffice to say, the man looked dangerous. He dished out a thorough dismantling of Horn that only increased in intensity as the rounds went by before Robert Byrd mercifully brought it to an end in round nine. It was a methodical beat down, with Crawford, in the heat of battle, analyzing what Horn was bringing and then, without hesitation, making sharp adjustments in footwork, punch selection and even strategic clinching, everything designed to neutralize Horn’s strengths and exploit his weaknesses. Crawford timed Horn’s bull-rushes and punched Horn’s ticket as Horn came forward, viciously tagging him to the head with the hook and the uppercut, and hitting the ribs, mid-section and abdomen with the kind of body shots that makes the big bag in the gym tremble and look like its coming down off its chains.
It kind of reminded me of the beating Muhammad Ali put on Floyd Patterson back in 1965 when Patterson insisted on calling him “Clay,” because Crawford had a chip on his shoulder that Horn paid for with blood and pain. “Y’all tried to compare me to Pacquiao; [now] you saw what I did,” declared”Bud” after the fight, confirming the fact he was pissed off at being underestimated. In other words, this is both a man on a mission and a skilled and dangerous pugilist with a grudge that he carries into the ring for each and every fight.
Crawford even hit Horn several times with solid shots while backing up. That kind of defies the laws of physics, doesn’t it Keith? Again, it reminded me of “The Greatest,” who had an excellent right lead, which is basically a sucker punch. I can recall back in the 60’s seeing Ali actually knock guys out with right hands while backing up, which is flat-out amazing. So you see, Keith, Crawford, right now, is on that level, in that rarefied air of “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Seriously, I think he is, at the moment, the best scientist of “The Sweet Science” in the welterweight lab. I suspect he has not only studied the physics of boxing, but probably ancient Asian philosophy, such as the relationships between opposites, the Yin and the Yang, and such. You know better than most, Keith, what I’m talking about.
But, getting back to those vicious body shots Crawford took Horn down with, I’m sure Crawford has seen you in your fight with Danny Garcia. Sure, you dominated Garcia bell to bell, but in the late rounds, Danny hit you with a real good body shot that nearly paralyzed you, had you backing up and protecting that weak underbelly from Garcia’s follow-up efforts. Up to that point you had been going forward, stepping to Danny that whole fight, but then suddenly you weren’t. Same thing happened in the late rounds against Shawn Porter. And we all know how Luis Collazo almost put you down with a hard left hand to the body.
The point is you can bet everything you’ve got that none of this is lost on Terence Crawford. The man is an intelligent and cunning warrior who scientifically assigns shots to the body in a way designed to take the legs out from under the opponent in the later rounds. If you’re back in the gym right now, and I sincerely hope that is the case, then you definitely have to be devoting some extra time to working with the medicine ball and doing other belly-hardening exercises, because I don’t think you’re getting off the hook if Crawford tags you downstairs the same way those other guys did.
If the message isn’t clear as crystal yet, Keith, what I’m really trying to say here is the following: you need to start getting ready for Terence Crawford now. As in, right now. Assuming you are in fact preparing to return to the ring next month, naturally you’ll have a tune-up fight or two. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start getting ready in the gym for the biggest, most dangerous challenge of your career. You need to be plotting and preparing now for how to figure out this puzzle they call “Bud,” how to beat a guy with dangerous power in both hands, killer instinct, and who can box from both the southpaw and right-hand stances, a quality that Roy Jones Jr. said gives prospective opponents nightmares.
But here’s the thing, Keith. Since the announcement of your August return, the last time I checked, nothing is actually set. There’s no confirmed fight, no opponent, nothing scheduled. Which means we really don’t know when you’re coming back. Or if anything is even in the works. And one can’t help but wonder about your motivation, your focus, and whether your heart is still truly in the fight game. Perhaps you’re tired of boxing? After all, you’ve been fighting most of your life. Your bio on the Premier Boxing Champions site says you started fighting at the age of seven!
Sometimes young high achievers like you actually lose their love for their life’s first calling, and there’s no shame in that. But meanwhile, there are other young men doing what you do who are on their way up the mountain. And they mean to topple you and all the other climbers in their way. And sometimes the one already at the top, who’s not as hungry, not as driven, chooses a path of least resistance, a path of denial, thinking they’re the best but not doing what you have to do to stay the best. If I was in your shoes, had a new bride who is young and beautiful, had your fame and fortune, maybe I would have to consider that the fires that got me up that mountain are now cooling down. Again, no shame in that, if that’s the case.
But back in April you stated on Twitter that you want to be the unified champ at 147! Previous to that you said you wanted to fight Shawn Porter again. And that you wanted 2018 to be a three fight year for you. You also made assurances that you wanted to someday take on Eroll Spence Jr. But talk is cheap, Keith. And if all you’re doing is talking, maybe you just aren’t fully dedicated anymore to being an elite-level prizefighter. But this is where I have to remind you, that as of right now, you’re Eric Clapton. And Terence Crawford is Jimi Hendrix. But to be the true king at 147 means, sooner or later, you must face him. The road back to the top goes through Terence “Bud” Crawford.
So you have to decide. Are you ready to re-dedicate yourself to the ring, get busy, work to maximize your talents? Or are we to conclude that your heart is not truly in the fight game anymore and, despite your talent and achievements, you lack the ambition to maximize your potential? If the latter is the case, please take my advice: stay far away from Terence Crawford. Consider a move up to 154. Maintain your regular schedule of a single fight per year. Urge your man Al Haymon to NOT take Uncle Bob’s phone calls. Because, trust me: you do not want to mess with the man from Omaha if you are not totally focused and committed. Doing so could be hazardous to your health.
It’s time to decide what you’re going to do, Keith. I hope these words of advice help you to make a clear and definitive decision about your future in boxing. And when you’ve made that decision, if it’s not too much to ask, can you please let your long-suffering fans know what you’re going to do? Thanks.