If it is possible to improve upon greatness, Terence Crawford did just that Saturday at Madison Square Garden in a 10th-round stoppage of 2008 Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz.
Crawford (31-0, 22 KOs) was brilliant from start to finish in taking apart the rugged Dominican, who is thick and skilled and powerful, but also no match for someone of Crawford’s ilk.
There are few now around 140 or 147 pounds who are in his league. Crawford retained the WBC-WBO super lightweight belts with the win. There is no one of his caliber left in his division, though his promoter, Top Rank, is likely to slow play things and put him in a title unification bout with IBF-WBA champion Julius Indongo.
Indongo is 22-0 with 11 knockouts and is a perfectly decent fighter. But perfectly decent fighters have next-to-no chance against Crawford.
Crawford called out WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao after the bout, and it’s the most reasonable match for him. It would give him a shot at a title in a third weight class and it will allow him to demonstrate his skills against a proven star.
There is a renaissance of sorts, at welterweight, with fighters like Pacquiao, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Errol Spence Jr., Kell Brook and Danny Garcia on the elite level.
Crawford is ready for any of them, but the question is, are they ready for him? It’s not a sure thing that the veteran Pacquiao, who is facing the unknown and unheralded Jeff Horn on July 1 in Australia, would be too eager to step into the ring with Crawford.
That’s the fight to make, but Crawford said he’s willing to fight any of them.
Asked by HBO’s Max Kellerman who would make a big fight with him and who could push him, Crawford answered simply, “Pacquiao.”
“That’s the only fight out there that we’re really looking for,” Crawford said. “If not, Indongo’s here. He came to my fight. Let’s get it on, Indongo. Who knows [if Pacquiao will fight me?] That’s not up to me. I’m a fighter. That’s up to my promoter, Bob Arum. He’s got a fight he’s preparing for now, and he’s more focused on that fight than anything else.”
Crawford has few flaws, and nothing major. He has brilliant footwork, and maneuvers into position to throw and get away from punches with ease. He has all the punches in his bag of tricks, and goes to the body as well as the head.
Defensively, Crawford understands how to control the range to keep his opponents outside of their preferred distance, and in addition to his feet, he’s good at moving from the head and waist to avoid shots.
He’s not the biggest guy, and will give up a lot of size to many of those welterweights he’d like to fight, but his power has increased significantly since his days as a lightweight.
Diaz weighed 161 pounds when the bell rang Saturday, and he was clearly wincing from Crawford’s blows.
Top Rank rarely does business with Al Haymon-managed fighters, and so that makes it unlikely, and highly disappointing, that Crawford will get the chance to meet Thurman, Spence, Porter or Garcia.
Given that, it’s incumbent upon Top Rank to make the fight with Pacquiao, because it’s the best bout Arum has to make.
Crawford is one of the three best fighters in the world, along with WBO super featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko and IBF-WBA-WBO light heavyweight champion Andre Ward, and it’s no easy chore to choose between them.
Hitting the top spot is important to Crawford.
“That’s what we do it for and it’s why we bleed, sweat and put our lives on the line to be remembered in the sport of boxing,” Crawford said.