A Crossroads Fight For Crawford and Khan

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By: Oliver McManus

In less than 48 hours time Madison Square Garden will play host to the latest “super-fight” to grace the extravagant parlour synonymous with glamour boxing. Super fight is, perhaps, a little generous for the billing of Terence Crawford vs Amir Khan. Certainly there is a distinct favourite with Crawford fetching odds anywhere between 1/12 and 1/25 (-1200 / -2500 for those in the States). Make no mistake, however, this is not a mismatch such as in Rocky Fielding’s audacious bid to retain his WBA ‘Regular’ belt against Canelo Alvarez – that was, as they say, “daring to be great”. Khan and Crawford have, to a relative extent, already proved their credentials.

This will not be an analytical breakdown of how the contest may go, nor glossing over the legacies that either fighter has carved out for themselves. Indeed there’s plenty of pre-existing works out there – No Filter Boxing by BT Sport, a sterling example. Rather these are just my musings, splattered onto the internet.

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Crawford for me is one of the most criminally underrated boxers of the current generation. It seems a lifetime ago that he was back campaigning at lightweight – a division in which he claimed the WBO belt, initially, with a win over Ricky Burns. To think that was five years ago just boggles the brain but since then he’s claimed world titles at super lightweight and, his current division, welterweight. Of course he’s benefited from the WBO’s position on “super mandatories”, securing him an instant world title shot in each new division, but he’s still had to win the titles.

Not once could you say he’s struggled, either, certainly not when becoming undisputed with a resounding knockout victory over Julius Indongo. Materialistically that was the biggest fight of his career but, of course, Indongo was a flash in the pan when it came to his success. It’s safe to say that Omaha resident has never shied from a challenge but Amir Khan should be his stiffest opponent of his brief spell at welterweight and, arguably, since Viktor Postol in July 2016.

The question of Crawford’s position on the pound for pound list is a topic that is, rightly, hotly contested. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to have him poised at the top, given how untouchable he has looked throughout three weight divisions but, then, the same could be said for Naoya Inoue. It comes down to who he’s faced and Crawford’s resumé just doesn’t carry the same heft as that of Canelo, Vasyl Lomachenko or Oleksandr Usyk.

There are plenty of exciting fights available around the 147lb division and even a fight with, an ageing, Manny Pacquiao would be an intriguing contest. Throw in Errol Spence, Mikey Garcia and the crop that ESPN are starting to bring through – Egidijus Kavaliauskas and Kudratillo Abdukakhorov – and suddenly a pathway becomes clear.

Khan, for all his flaws, never seems to get the credit he deserves. The domestic media coverage of this contest has been notable by its absence with Matchroom Boxing, the official co-promoters for the show, seemingly flogging Khan as a dead-horse back to the American market. The ongoing “now or never” saga with the Kell Brook fight brings inevitable frustration to any boxing fan but regardless of what either protagonist says, the fight will always be there as one final payday. How interested the viewing public will be is a different question altogether.

To an extent the level of scorn directed at Khan is understandable, for a plethora of reasons that all vary in relevance. Look at his actual boxing record and it’s hard to brush him aside as easily as some may wish – he has competed with success from lightweight to welterweight and jumped at the chance to topple Canelo Alvarez. Likewise with Crawford, his desire to prove himself as a potential hall-of-famer is unquestionable but Khan has actively pursued, and been involved in, these bouts with far more vigour.

The fact that he was caught short by Canelo, in resounding fashion, was an unfortunately abrupt ending to an otherwise competent boxing display in which he was more than holding his own. It’s fair to say Khan has never been outboxed by any of his opponents, never beaten for work-rate or stamina, but his four losses have came via a combination of defensive frailties and heavy hands from his opponents.

Living in a “Mayweather-era”, as it is colloquially dubbed, often proves a disservice to many fighters actually willing to take a risk. Look back throughout the decades and all the best fighters from Ali, Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard, have taken losses because the fear of taking a beating simply didn’t exist. Khan, in that respect, is a fighter from the history books and this fight against Crawford simply reiterates that.

It is, in all reality, his last chance at re-capturing a bona fide world title and I find it hard to ever do away with the chances of the Bolton-fighter as a result of his natural fighting ability that has earned him his stripes as an amateur professional. He made the more prosperous start to proceedings against Canelo and you’d favour him to do the same on Saturday but will he be able to sustain that pressure before Crawford figures him out?

Disregarded, almost, the point of derision. Amir Khan has got to go down as one of the best British fighters since the 1990s and I say that with gritted teeth for cannot claim to have ever warmed to him.

His latest challenge might well be one too many bites of the cherry but, equally, it could be the sweetest yet.

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