As it was with the infamous knockout streak which defined Gennady Golovkin’s prime, the failure to revel in the present with Terence Crawford is tempting. Last night, Crawford blitzed unified champion Julius Indongo of Namibia, in the process claiming every major world title in the super lightweight division. Such a feat is virtually impossible in boxing’s fractured championship landscape, and Crawford reinforced his stranglehold on the 140-pound division with a jaundice-inducing liver shot knockout. And yet, Crawford’s present is still too often discussed solely in relation to his future.
Some will argue that Indongo was never that credible of a unified champion given that his two marquee victories were ripe for armchair critics. First, Indongo iced Eduard Troyanovsky via a brutal one-punch knockout, which a cynic will suggest was as much a product of the former Olympian catching an under-prepared Russian with a lucky shot at the right moment. And even though Indongo’s next win saw him clearly decision Ricky Burns over 12 rounds, in the end it was a win over, well, Ricky Burns.
— MB2 (@mikebaca2) August 20, 2017
Nonsense. Although Terence Crawford is indeed eyeing an expected and necessary move up to welterweight, his 10-0 run in world championship fights up to this point ought to be celebrated, not questioned. Indongo was yet another quality foe, just as Yuriorkis Gamboa, Viktor Postol, Felix Diaz, and Ray Beltran (to name a few) were the sort of opponents every truly great fighter must dominate before he can go on to those rare, Canelo vs Golovkin-calibre marquee matches.
Politics aside, Crawford might be able to find his “Canelo” at 147 pounds, where the likes of Keith Thurman, Errol Spence Jr., Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Kell Brook, and Amir Khan, amongst others, currently reside. However, a move up in weight is less about finding an opponent equal to Crawford than about finding someone to stand across the ring from him who is more familiar, and thus marketable, to fight fans. Of the boxers listed here, most would agree that Spence is the only potentially “generational” talent. Crawford, at this point, should already be viewed as one; this doesn’t mean “Bud” deserves quite yet to be heralded as an all-time great, but it’s time to unequivocally acknowledge that he’s one of boxing’s handful of standard-bearers.
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) August 20, 2017
Being the “face of boxing” is too often equated with pay-per-view buys and marketability, and because Crawford still leaves one wanting in those areas, it’s easy to forget that we’re not waiting on his ascension. There are no more questions to be answered regarding whether or not Terence Crawford has the goods; the case is closed. He’s not on his way to the top; “Bud” is already there, standing on the peak of the mountain, without question, one of the five best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.
Consider his dominance against Indongo, which included landing 58.6% of his surgical power shots. Although far more selective with his crosses, hooks, and uppercuts than Indongo, he out-landed the Namibian despite a 54-29 disadvantage in attempts. Crawford was also far more active with his jab, reinforcing how he bossed the action from the opening bell. Crawford’s eerie ability to turn formidable opponents into clawless prey remains one of his most remarkable attributes. His calculating pressure and frighteningly accurate explosiveness allow him to be one of the select few fighters who seems to be able to do whatever he wants in the ring, whenever he feels like it.
Terence Crawford’s 70% knockout ratio in world championship bouts, his 5-0 mark in lineal title fights, and the fact that he’s already won titles in two divisions are unimpeachable facts. The way he rallied to drill Gamboa, bludgeoned Indongo, and cleverly out-boxed Breidis Prescott back in 2013 in his first major test, have laid bare his subtler virtues. The only unknowns that remain when it comes to Crawford are how he’ll fare in specific hypothetical match-ups; for example, how does he stack up against Spence compared to Thurman. But the actual substance justifying his standing as a truly elite fighter, in this moment, needs no more supporting evidence.
The moment Bud Crawford became the undisputed junior welterweight champ.
— ESPN (@espn) August 20, 2017
Caveats regarding opponents will always be there. Even if Errol Spence Jr. were to fight Crawford next and lose, he could be undercut as having needed a title defense or two in order to “confirm” the extent of his worth. If there’s a sobering case to be made that we’ve failed to fully relish Gennady Golovkin’s thrilling and destructive prime, maybe it can serve as a lesson to how we should now regard Terence Crawford’s peak. Boxing has changed in ways that prevent someone like Crawford from remotely approaching the all-time greats of the past, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be celebrated as someone clearly on the path to being a defining fighter for his moment of history.
Terence Crawford still has a ways to go to become a legit great of the sport, but this fact is less an indictment and more an indication of how exciting and exceptional a talent he truly is. It’s reflexive to constantly criticize or find flaws, and a big part of that is simply being a discerning and passionate fight fan. Despite that tendency, it’s important to admit that Crawford has done everything demanded of him and more, with hopefully the best yet to come. But even if the Indongo win proves to be Crawford’s high-water mark, unlikely as that seems, it’ll always serve as a reminder of how he exuded so many of the qualities we associate with what constitutes being a truly great prizefighter.
— Zachary Alapi