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Crawford Pinch Hits

(Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)
(Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)


Originally, Terence Crawford was scheduled to face spoiler deluxe Robert Osiobe this weekend at the Mandalay Bay before HBO’s lights went on for the Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado rematch (Saturday, 10:15 p.m., ET/PT). For Crawford, this was another developmental fight on his way up the lightweight ladder. But as WBA junior welterweight titlist Khabib Allakhverdiev (who was scheduled to defend his belt versus Breidis Prescott) was diagnosed with a bum elbow and ruled out of this card’s co-feature, a replacement bout was needed.
 
Into the breach stepped the young slugger from Omaha, Nebraska, who had no hesitation in taking this assignment and facing the hard-hitting Prescott at his weight class.

“I just felt this was an opportunity for me to get my name out there and show everybody what I can do,” he told Maxboxing on Monday afternoon. And they didn’t mull over this offer long. “I just felt it was a good fight to show what I got and all the work should make the difference and pay off.”
 
Yeah, the Cornhusker-side of the equation is brimming with confidence.
 
“We real confident, man,” said Crawford’s co-manager, Brian McIntyre. “We’re going off how the training camp went, going off how sparring went, going off of the attitude, his demeanor, his confidence, the way he handled himself in camp, just everything. Just everything was positive and we looked at Prescott and we know he’s dangerous but one thing I know about Terence is, all the years ever since he’s been a kid, he knows how to adapt to a fighter.”
 
Crawford, who is 25 years old with a record of 19-0 with 15 stoppages, is a talented prizefighter - if untested. He can switch-hit effectively, has power in both hands, is a solid body puncher and possesses above-average athleticism. On the flipside, Prescott represents a huge step up in class (and weight) and Crawford has never had a scheduled 10-rounder, which this contest is. Add to this the fact that Prescott is a stout puncher and Crawford has never had his chin checked. This is a classic, high-risk/high-reward fight.
 
This is why Crawford’s other co-manager, Cameron Dunkin, was much more reticent in accepting the fight. “Yeah, there was with me, big hesitation,” he admitted, “but they wanted it. His people wanted it; him and his guy back there talked about it. They wanted it and they jumped on before I could even answer.” When asked if Crawford was ready for this type of jump, Dunkin answered, “I hope so. I mean, I wanted to think about it a little while and I called him and I wanted some time to think about it, talk to some people but his guy, Brian, just started yelling and tweeting it out, saying he’d love the fight, we’re going to do it, before they ever got back with me. Brian just started tweeting and putting it out that they were fighting.”
 
Dunkin was outnumbered in this situation.
 
“I had no say in it; believe me,” he lamented.
 
But in many respects, this was the perfect opening for Crawford, Top Rank and HBO. Crawford was already on this card. Top Rank wasn’t assured of ever getting this slot back at a later date and HBO didn’t want to go with just one fight on the broadcast. And if Crawford comes up victorious, well, he suddenly becomes a legitimate contender between 135 and 140.
 
Top Rank’s V.P. of Boxing Operations, Carl Moretti, explained, “At the end of the day, you just want to see who’s available and what’s available and what makes the best fight and you gotta look at all your options and when we looked at all of our options, you see Terence Crawford, who’s scheduled on the undercard so you know that he’s already training for a fight and dying for an opportunity. And this is the perfect way to slip into one.” And Crawford and his camp were starting to chomp at the bit for a fight on the game’s bigger stages. “There’s no question,” said Moretti. “That’s why it was such an easy decision to offer him because we know his eagerness to step up and perform on a platform like this.”
 
Fighting on undercards against the likes of David Rodela and Hardy Paredes was starting to get a bit repetitive for Crawford, who believes he’s destined for bigger and better things.

“A little bit but not really because I got trust in my handlers,” he said, “but I just felt like a lot of people, they don’t give me the credit that I really deserve at times, knowing that I’m not fighting on the real mainstream network television, so they don’t get to see me. They don’t really know about Terence Crawford and I feel like this is a fight that people will say, ‘Yeah, that guy’s for real.’” McIntyre is much blunter, stating, “Of course he was getting bored. He was getting bored with all these steppingstone opponents; y’ know what I’m saying? Three and four-rounders and sh*t like that and sooner or later, he’s going to cut him out of there. It’s just a matter of time before he hit them with a good body shot or catch them with a hook or something like that.”
 
McIntyre continued, “So yeah, he was getting bored. He was like, ‘Yeah, man, this is my f**king time, dawg. What y’all waiting on?’ And I’m figuring Top Rank had nothing to offer. They don’t have nobody to offer at ‘35 that would put his name out there.”
 
This is part of the reason they were willing to step up to junior welterweight on such short notice and take on a boxer with a history of upsetting the apple cart. But Crawford says, “Boxing is boxing. Once you get in there, you’re still going to have to put on them gloves and throw them hands. So we made a couple of adjustments because Robert Osiobe is much shorter; he moves more and he don’t punch as hard but we’re prepared.”
 
When asked if facing Prescott or appearing on HBO was the bigger deal to him, without hesitation, Crawford replied, “Oh, facing Prescott because I feel that’s a big name in boxing right now. He’s a good fighter. He’s strong; he punches hard and he’s been there before and facing somebody like that, when they say that’s a tremendous step-up, I feel like they’re not giving me any credit for my ability.”
 
In the past, Crawford has fought before the television broadcast began and as the walk-out bout (when the television equipment is being packed up). Now, he’s on HBO on a high-profile card. As Barry Switzer used to say, “Can you do it when the band’s still playing?”
 
“I’ve thought about it,” said Crawford, “but I just felt this was the time to display my talent and lay my whole arsenal out that people will say, ‘Yeah, that guys for real.’”
 
FELIX
 
Since a rather pedestrian four-round decision in his pro debut back in December, 2012, Puerto Rican Olympian Felix Verdejo has notched three consecutive stoppages and has started to really build a rabid fan base on the island. This could be the heir apparent to Miguel Cotto, provided, of course, that Verdejo is the genuine article.
 
“No question,” said Moretti, who was in Puerto Rico this past weekend as Verdejo scored a second round stoppage of Martin Quezada. “Separate of his improvement in the ring from when he turned pro, the following he has developed so far is really something to behold. Between the media coverage with the papers and the television - Univision was all over him - and just the fan reaction to him in general down there just grows and grows when he fights in Puerto Rico and New York. It’s something we’re real happy with.”
 
Verdejo, who has a smile that should be endorsed by Colgate, is just 19 years old. There is plenty of time for this to marinate. Moretti says Verdejo will appear on the Nonito Donaire-Guillermo Rigondeaux undercard in New York on April 13th and then make a “Solo Boxeo” appearance on May 18th on the island before taking a bit of a respite. He will also be part of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York in June.
 
MANDALAY BAY FLURRIES
 
There is a very good probability that the rematch between Johnathon Banks and Seth Mitchell will take place in support of the Adrien Broner-Paulie Malignaggi fight on June 22nd in New York...Various media outlets are reporting that the rematch between heavyweights Tony Thompson and David Price will take place on July 6th in Liverpool...On May 3rd at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, a junior lightweight clash takes place between Francisco Vargas and Jose Aguiniga and will be televised by Fox Sports/Deportes...It seems like Robert Guerrero has been on every show this side of Wally George’s...So no Shaka Smart for UCLA, huh? Again, will they get someone the equal of Ben Howland?...The official countdown is on for season three of “Game of Thrones”...Serious question: Does Liev Schreiber stay at HBO as a narrator for boxing documentaries or does he land at Showtime?...



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