Terence Crawford makes mandatory defense against Egidijus Kavaliauskas
By Allan Cerf
Particulars: On December 14, 2019 from famed Madison Square Garden, NY, NY (ESPN) it’s Terence “Bud’ Crawford vs. Egidijus Kavaliauskas for the WBO title.
Background: Why is Crawford, 32, fighting Kavaliauskas, 31? Well, the Lithuanian is his mandatory. That and the wild and woolly, strange planet that is professional boxing. That said, the fight should be interesting enough and is part of an excellent Triple Header. Hint: Richard Commey-Teo Lopez should be far the best, most eventful bout of the evening.
Fighter’s Grades: (Speed, Power, Defense, Reach, Age, Stamina, Experience)
Terence Crawford: B B+ B+ B B- B+ B+ (Average of all) B (3.1)
Egidijus Kavaliauskas: B, B+ B B- C B C+ (Average of all) B- (2.8)
Reality Check: Why is Egidijus Kavaliauskas, with such outstanding fundamentals only now poised to make a name for himself? Well…
Boxing, unlike any other sport, is driven by levels. Take a major college sport. Any college football fan worth his/her salt can see a player in action – regardless if that athlete plays for a powerhouse or a tiny school and say or not, “great pro prospect.” With rare exceptions, this is simply not the case with boxing. You can be the boxing equivalent of a Heisman Trophy sure thing, and until your reach a certain level of competition, it’s meaningless. I attribute this to what Larry Merchant referred to with genius as the geometry of boxing. A fighter can have tremendous hand speed, great footwork, a good chin – the works. He can KO all his opponents as he rises through the ranks. He can do all that, but suddenly, when faced with a higher caliber opponent, utterly fail. Maybe for example, his whole career he’s carried his gloves an inch too low and it’s not correctable. In boxing, that inch can be the difference between millions of dollars – and head trauma.
The two exceptions that immediately arise are Deontay Wilder whom I said would fail at world level simply because his competition coming up had been uniquely dreadful, and designed to hide his shortcomings. That was true. Yet, Wilder is tremendously successful and deserves all fan’s respect. (Apologies, Deontay.) Lomachenko was 396-1 as an amateur. Turning professional – many in the USA still viewed his amateur triumphs, including two gold medals, with cold suspicion.
Kavaliauskas would seem to have all the tools. Seems to me the time to bank on those was in 2013 when he was 25! Either terrible management or boxing’s levels caught up with him. My guess is that, despite a fine set of tools, good defense and tremendous amateur pedigree, the Lithuanian turned Southern Californian falls short by just enough to be what he is today – an excellent boxer who won’t defeat the elite.
Terence Crawford’s frustrating pace – and I get he can only face whoever Bob Arum matches him against, makes Money Mayweather look like a gunslinger. Mayweather may have retired and unretired and rigged events in his favor - but with few exceptions, he faced all real challenges successfully. Crawford, called a ‘generational’ talent and his team, seem determined to carry on into Bud’s thirties preserving both his ‘0’ and marketability. The Wilder blueprint – fight everyone, bums and stars alike, this instant, is not the Crawford blueprint. Crawford, (I guess) wants to fight the best but only if the timing is perfect. To be fair – that plan seems to be working fine for him.
Fight and Prediction: Kavaliauskas moves constantly side-to-side – I’ve never seen anything quite like it, but can be timed. In his draw against Ray Robinson (which he certainly won) he struggled with Robinson’s movement and outside game. Guess what – no one with the possible exception of Fury has better, awkward movement, and legitimate switch-hitting than Crawford. Bud may eat a few from the well-schooled Lithuanian, but I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t break through Kavaliauskas’s excellent defense, bust him up and stop him or dominate over 12.
Crawford TKO Kavaliauskas, 11.