By Alex Beard (@alex_beard17)
Terence Crawford is simultaneously in an enviable and unenviable position.
He has long since solidified himself as the standout junior welterweight in the world, possessing the WBC and WBO titles and some of the best hands in the sport. He eliminated the biggest threat in his division on July 23, 2016 when he dominated rangy Ukrainian Viktor Postol over 12 rounds.
He has emerged as a mainstay of HBO’s boxing coverage and has compiled a phenomenal record of 30-0-KO21. He reportedly made $1.5m for his last fight – a stoppage of John Molina – notwithstanding the $400,000 he was given after his opponent failed to make weight. And, he holds the number five ranking on Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound list.
So what’s the problem?
Well, Crawford is currently struggling with what I like to call ‘The Mighty Mouse Effect’, named after UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. For those who don’t know, Johnson has dominated his weightclass with such ease that the UFC had to create a whole season of their reality show The Ultimate Fighter to try and find him a fresh contender.
Johnson’s reign at the top of his division is far longer than Crawford’s, but the fact remains that the Nebraska native finds himself scraping the barrel for opposition in the wake of his decimation of Postol. For Johnson, rather than his domination increasing interest in his achievements – it appears to have had the opposite effect. Crawford’s management must ensure this does not become the case for their fighter.
This weekend Crawford returns at Madison Square Garden against a very credible opponent in Felix Diaz. The Dominican (19-1-KO9) is a 2008 Olympic gold medallist and represents an intriguing stylistic matchup for ‘Bud’, but his majority decision loss to Lamont Peterson in 2015 is worrying as Crawford is a far superior fighter to Peterson.
Scrolling through Ring’s divisional rankings – from which Diaz is absent – it’s hard to countenance any of the top 10 posing a serious threat to Crawford’s supremacy. IBF and WBA champion Julius Indondgo (22-0-KO11), who so impressed against Ricky Burns in Glasgow last month, is the most obvious threat. However, it remains to be seen if the unorthodox Namibian is technically sound enough to hang with Crawford.
Antonio Orozco (26-0-KO17) is an interesting prospect, but he remains untested and there’s no name on his ledger that suggests he could cope with the power and technique of Crawford. We know what we’re getting with Adrian Granados, Eduard Troyanovsky was blown out by Indondgo, and Postol and Burns have already been beaten by ‘Bud’.
The rest of the top 10 is rounded out by unbeaten but largely unknown boxers: Regis Prograis (19-0-KO16); Jack Catterall (18-0-KO10); Sergey Lipinets (12-0-KO10); Anthony Yigit (19-0-1-KO7). There’s really no way to know whether any of them could lace Crawford’s boots and you can bet they won’t be thrown to the wolves any time soon. But it’s a sign of the lack of depth in the division that these fighters who have beaten a combined nobody of note are in the top 10.
So it looks like Crawford’s problem is going to continue for a while yet – unless he makes his long-awaited move up to the welterweight division. Honestly it’s a wonder he hasn’t already. He’s cleaned up his weightclass and there’s more money and exposure at 147 lbs. He has nothing left to prove at junior welterweight.
Until that time comes, we must content ourselves with seeing an elite fighter completely outclass everyone around him. That’s fun for a while, but sooner rather than later we need to see Crawford test the waters a weightclass up. Success there will cement his legacy.by