LAS VEGAS — Over and over, Terence Crawford has passed the eye test. You look at him in the ring and you see the unparalleled IQ, you see the combinations, the footwork, the power, the ability to switch stances and it’s easy to call him one of the best to do it.
What’s short are the illustrious names on his résumé. Sugar Ray Robinson had Jake La Motta and a cast of dozens. Sugar Ray Leonard had Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Floyd Mayweather Jr. had Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Diego Corrales and Genaro Hernandez. And Manny Pacquiao, whom Crawford wants next after stopping Kell Brook on Saturday in the fourth round, had Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton.
Crawford hasn’t stood across from illustrious opposition like that and so those who doubt him always say, “Yeah, but,” when the talk turns to his immense talent.
The only thing Crawford is guilty of is of fighting at the wrong point in the history, when the promoter you’re with and the network you fight on largely dictates your opponent.
Crawford was nothing less than brilliant on Saturday in tearing apart Brook, who was perceived going into the fight as his best opponent. He started a bit slow, but then came on strong, and knocked Brook down before stopping him at 1:14 of the fourth to retain the WBO welterweight title at the MGM Grand Conference Center.
This is an elite fighter who hasn’t gotten a shot at another great like Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and Pacquiao, mostly for political reasons having nothing to do with his ability.
He said his choice for next opponent is Pacquiao, but in typical fashion, he wouldn’t talk trash in an attempt to make it happen.
“Listen, I’ve alway said I’m No. 1 and I don’t really have to call out all these fighters,” Crawford said. “Y’all demand it: The media, the public, the people. When y’all demand things, it happens. Once you keep demanding a fight and you don’t take nothing else but that fight that y’all keep demanding for, then it will happen.”
OK, let’s make the Crawford-Pacquiao fight as soon as possible.
Now, while Pacquiao is a legend, he’s also 42 and a win over him won’t have the same kind of sizzle that a victory over Spence would have. That’s Frazier to his Ali, Palmer to his Nicklaus, Bird to his Magic.
But the bottom line is that Crawford is a brilliant talent who is going to waste fighting opponents who can’t come close to drawing the best out of him.
Crawford wasn’t willing to say that Brook was the best guy he’s faced, and it’s tough to argue with him after the way things went down. After a good first round by Brook, Crawford turned the fight around.
He has a rare gift in that he’s able to fight as well out of a southpaw stance as he does out of a conventional one, and he turned the fight around Saturday when he switched.
Once he went left-handed, a whole slew of shots opened up.
“Once I went southpaw, I was able to touch him a little more than I was able to in an orthodox stance,” Crawford said.
He has the uncanny ability to pick the correct time. Brook’s jab was finding a home, and he always was touching Crawford with his right. But as soon as Crawford went southpaw, Brook’s offense became nonexistent.
It wasn’t some piece of advice his corner shouted to him or anything he had seen on film. He just knew when he should switch, which is why he is so great.
“It’s just instincts,” he said. “If something ain’t working, then you’ve got to try something else. [In the first round], I thought I was going to catch up to him. I was biding my time, waiting patiently, and I knew I was going to catch up to him sooner or later.”
When Brook trudged back to the corner after the third round, there was a sense of inevitability in the air. Brook looked defeated only a quarter of the way through the fight.
Crawford hit him with a half-jab, half-hook out of the southpaw stance. Brook went careening into the ropes and another of Crawford’s best traits was on display.
He’s arguably boxing’s best finisher. He was on Brook and throwing punches before referee Tony Weeks could get him off and rule the knockdown because the ropes had held Brook up.
He’s a merciless, ruthless finisher and he showed it again. When Weeks signaled for the bout to resume, Crawford sprinted back into the fray and a couple of combinations put a quick end to it.
It was a mighty impressive win for a guy who has made a career of having impressive wins.
Is he the best fighter in the world? Perhaps.
Is he as good as Canelo Alvarez and Naoya Inoue, the other two men in the running for that mythical honor? Absolutely.
There are a lot of great fighters in the world, and Terence Crawford is one of them.
It’s high time he gets someone remotely as good as him so he can prove to the world what he already believes: He’s the best there is.
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