Terence Crawford takes next step on his long road to greatness

Crawford defends his welterweight title for a fifth time against Shawn Porter in Las Vegas this weekend

Steve Bunce
Wednesday 17 November 2021 12:14
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<p>Crawford is one of the world’s finest fighters </p>

Crawford is one of the world’s finest fighters

Terence Crawford was shot in the neck and left for dead after a gambling dispute in 2008. If the bullet had been a millimetre higher, he would have died.

Just six years later he travelled to Glasgow and won the first of his three world titles; in 2017 he became only the third man, at any weight, to hold all four versions of the recognised world title belts. It is such a rare occurrence for a male boxer to hold the quartet and since then only three other boxers have managed to pull it off.

On Saturday in Las Vegas, Crawford defends his welterweight title for the fifth time when he fights Shawn Porter in another big fight in the neon city. During the harshest of Covid days, the city of fights refused to stay dark, and this is just the latest extraordinary night to take place under a conflicting series of regulations. The mask protocol in Las Vegas is total, by the way.

In the last six weeks, Tyson Fury knocked out Deontay Wilder in a modern classic at the T-Mobile Arena and Saul Canelo Alvarez stopped Caleb Plant in the now ancient MGM Grand Garden ring. They were two truly memorable fights that could have taken place in some style in any decade of boxing’s rich history in Las Vegas.

The fight between Crawford and Porter has a similar feel, the same type of pedigree and hope and expectation as the two great nights in recent weeks. Crawford’s WBO welterweight world title is the prize and Porter has twice held versions of the world welterweight title. However, for Crawford there is also his personal battle to be considered the world’s finest fighter, which is an unregulated title he has been fighting over with Canelo for a couple of years.

The man from Omaha, Nebraska, is now 34, a long way from the 20-year-old boy with the bloody wound in his neck. On that night the bullet had hit somebody else before entering Crawford as he sat in a parked car; the slight change in trajectory saved his life. He had been playing dice under a street light after midnight, not yet convinced that the four fights he had so far won were going to be a gateway to the riches he wanted. Unbeaten professional fighter, amateur gambler and shooting victim could have been an early epitaph.

On a raw night in Glasgow in 2014, when he outpointed Ricky Burns, Crawford gave us all an early showing of his talent and poise. Crawford won the WBO lightweight title that night, but made just two defences before an inevitable and unavoidable move to light-welterweight. He won that title in 2015 and made six defences; five finished early. In 2017 he stopped Julius Indongo in round three to unify all four of the modern championship belts at light-welterweight. Canelo did the same two weeks ago in Las Vegas, and he was only the sixth man in history to achieve it. It is boxing’s rarest club.

Crawford has beaten all before him

In 2018, Crawford moved to welterweight and stopped Jeff Horn to win the WBO title. Horn had just beaten Manny Pacquiao. Crawford chased the Pacquiao fight, but settled on a steady diet of names; unbeaten Jose Benavides stopped in the 12th, unbeaten Edidijus Kavaliauskas done in nine and the British pair, Amir Khan and Kell Brook dropped and stopped in a total of just 10 rounds.

Crawford gave up chasing Pacquiao and instead turned his focus on unbeaten Errol Spence, another of the welterweight world champions. In 2019 Porter dropped a split decision to Spence. However, Spence is now on the sidelines with retina damage. Crawford can just keep winning, starting at the Mandalay Bay on Saturday in Las Vegas.

A win for Crawford will not dislodge Canelo, but it will keep the pressure on the Mexican idol. Still, Crawford has come a long, long way from that car seat when he was shot and nearly died.

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