Looking back at the past calendar year in the sport, it was an interesting one. We (theoretically) bid farewell to two premier champions in Floyd Mayweather and Carl Froch, while new stars were born as Roman Gonzalez and Gennady Golovkin punched their way into the top of the pound for pound rankings. Tyson Fury dethroned Wladimir Klitschko, Mayweather’s win against Manny Pacquiao broke financial records but failed to capture the public’s imagination, and somewhere in this maze of highs and lows, we find the boisterous and talented Terence “Bud” Crawford.
Like most great champions, Crawford is no one trick pony. He is a very technical fighter who knows how to set traps and patiently feel out an opponent before going on the attack. Crawford has excellent hand speed and good power when he decides to let his hands go. His ability to seamlessly switch from orthodox to southpaw presents a nightmarish scenario. It also helps to have a bit of an edge as evidenced by the occasional mean streak that surfaces during his fights.
Crawford scored impressive TKO victories over Thomas Dulorme and Dierry Jean in 2015. Unfortunately, he also came up short in the Pacquiao sweepstakes — at least temporarily — and the chance for a handsome payday, losing out to friend Timothy Bradley, who got the nod. It’s looking like Crawford, 28, is having to hit the reset button as he prepares to take on lightweight Hank Lundy instead at Madison Square Garden on February 27. It is already shaping up to be an intriguing 2016 for the Nebraska native and a good time to reflect as well as speculate on his career to date.
It’s hard to believe that eight years have passed since Crawford made his professional debut. After a relatively short amateur career highlighted by wins over Danny Garcia and Mickey Garcia, Crawford earned an alternate spot on the 2008 Olympic team. His first 19 professional bouts were against largely unheralded competition before his first real test came against the hard-hitting Breidis Prescott, a bout that he won in impressive fashion with only 10 days advance notice.
Crawford would extend his win streak in elimination bouts with Alejandro Sanabria and undefeated Russian fighter Andrey Klimov before traveling to Scotland to take on Ricky Burns in his own backyard. Crawford put on a clinic against his tough but overmatched foe in hostile territory to capture his first world title.
In a pivotal battle of unbeatens, Crawford faced Cuban sensation Yuriorkis Gamboa. Gamboa, a former unified featherweight title holder and 2004 Olympic gold medalist befuddled Crawford initially, yet Crawford never appeared frustrated and eventually adjusted to Gamboa’s style as he began to take over in the fifth round. Both men were hurt on occasion in a fight full of drama but it was Gamboa who sustained the most punishment. Referee Genaro Rodriguez would mercifully halt the bout after the Cuban visited the canvas for a fourth time, courtesy of a devastating right uppercut.
Despite two more resounding victories in 2015 over the aforementioned Dulorme and Jean, Crawford appears to be at an impasse. Lundy is a decent fighter but hardly deserving of a title shot with a lowly #11 ranking by the WBO. He also lost 2 of his last 3 fights including one to Crawford victim Dulorme. Any number of the top 140 pounders such as Ruslan Provodnikov or Viktor Postol would make for a more compelling fight even though I cannot see either man pulling off the upset.
There is also the very real possibility that Crawford might move up in weight to chase much bigger money fights at 147 pounds. At 5’8” with a 70-inch reach, Crawford has the size to make the transition but would be well advised to add some muscle mass to his relatively thin frame. In this writer’s view, Crawford would shine against a tough but limited trial horse like Robert Guerrero. However, matters could get a little hairy against the more dangerous welterweights, especially those with the ability to land power shots like the smaller Jean proved possible.
This latest matchup suggests that Top Rank has run out of ideas, at least temporarily, on how to capitalize upon Crawford’s growing stardom. Make no mistake but this contest is merely a stay busy fight for the junior welterweight division’s top dog.
Unfortunately, it is also an egregious way to handle the career of a fighter more than ready for prime time. Matching Crawford against B-level competition is a sure way to make him a “Big fish in a small pond.” The inherent problem with that strategy are the missed opportunities along the way and the inevitable dead end of running out of smaller fish. Crawford can only beat who is put in front of him and he has done just that. His efforts should be rewarded with better matchmaking from Arum and company.