Boxing fans admire the brilliance of Terence Crawford, but outside of his passionate Nesbraskan fan base there’s not a lot of love for the undisputed King of the super lightweight division.
He’s gifted but only steps on the gas when he has to. He can bang, but often chooses to run. He’s clinical, but never cavalier. He’d rather tease an opponent than tear into them.
Purists see it differently, but most fight fans want to see their heroes go to war and come out standing the other side; at least once in a while.
To date, The Ring Magazine’s #5 on the pound-or-pound list hasn’t so much as got a sweat on.
Boasting an immaculate 30-0 career record, I’d understand if ‘Bud’ might not be too bothered about his wider appeal. Maybe he’s just too good for the rest of the division?
But Saturday night’s world title clash with Felix Diaz does represent an opportunity to change perceptions.
Making his debut at New York’s Madison Square Garden, the spiritual home of the sport, I hope the Omaha star feels more obliged than normal to put on a proper show for those ringside, and watching around the world.
Not that he’s going to have a lot of choice in the matter.
Challenger Felix Diaz (rated a 9/1 underdog) lives just 15 minutes away from the arena, and roared on by the locals, he is unlikely to paw away with powder puff punches.
Knowing how remote a points victory is, he won’t get drawn into a tactical chess match he can’t win either.
Diaz is almost certain to come out swinging.
The Dominican is a 2008 Olympic champion with just one controversial points loss on his record (19-1). He has a wide skillset, rapid movement, and the power to KO anyone that’s silly enough to leave their guard open.
He may be the shorter man, but he is the best opponent to have stood opposite Terence Crawford since the WBC and WBO champion turned pro in 2008.
Crawford, 29, is a classy back foot boxer, but rarely has he encountered someone that’s brave enough to jump on him from the off. How he reacts to this, if it happens, will be fascinating to watch.
Should he flick his jab and run, totting up points but not the power shots, I suspect the New York faithful could turn on him. They don’t tolerate sterile showboating.
That’s why I expect Crawford to display a willingness to trade more blows this time, and if that’s the general pattern of the fight, anything could happen.
Providing Diaz is as good as his pedigree suggests, and that he’s positive, this has the potential to become an unexpected Fight of the Year contender.
While shot avoidance is a wonderful skill in itself (Floyd Mayweather was the best at that) it would be wonderful to see this potentially great champion have his mettle tested.
Even if a price of 1/25 is a little crazy I do expect Terence Crawford to win – possibly via the judges’ scorecards – but the real victory here would be in the manner of his triumph.
If the American can shows his talents don’t have to be tedious, this is a fight that can catapult him to global acclaim. His gifts deserve more love.
For more boxing odds, take a look at Grosvenor Sport’s boxing betting.