On March 1, WBO lightweight titlist Terence Crawford accomplished the biggest victory of his career. Ironically, it was an achievement that most U.S. audiences didn’t get a chance to see — sans HBO coverage, Crawford traveled to the UK and defeated long-time belt-holder (or belt-warmer, depending on your perspective) Ricky Burns. It was a move that most U.S. fighters, especially those being groomed by a major TV network, wouldn’t have taken. During his lightweight run, Adrien Broner balked at traveling overseas. But Crawford took a calculated risk that’s now paid off three months later in the form of a high-profile title match against the explosive, undefeated Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa.
On paper, you’d say Crawford holds several key advantages. He’s naturally bigger, having previously competed at 140 pounds and holds a five-inch reach advantage (70″ to 65″), which should help Crawford exploit Gamboa’s defensive lapses. Not to mention, Gamboa has looked flat-out bored in recent fights, resulting in him suffering knockdowns in all his recent fights.
With that said, Gamboa is still deadly in the two areas that can change a fight in an instant — speed and power.
Just one day before they complete the final pre-fight ritual of the weigh-in, Crawfords details Gamboa’s style, his future at lightweight, and navigating the politics of boxing.
Knockout Nation: This will be your first fight in your hometown since 2006. But we’ve seen fighters struggle to stay focused with all the distractions that come with that. How did you approach it?
Crawford: I made sure I didn’t train here. I just got back for the fight. This was an all-around camp – I didn’t feel I needed to focus on any particular area. We firmly believe we have all the tools to get the job done against Gamboa.
KO Nation: Was there any concern on the business side about taking this fight considering what happened with Gamboa’s fight with Mikey Garcia?
Crawford: Oh nah, there were no worries. I figure that everything happened for a reason and that situation opened the door for this fight. This was meant to happen.
KO Nation: What do you expect Gamboa’s strategy to be?
Crawford: I see him coming out trying to potshot me. But he can be wild and unpredictable so other than that I don’t know how he’s going to fight. I watch a little bit of my opponents – I’m not a fan of not knowing what you’re coming up against in the ring. But as far as studying every day, that’s not me.
KO Nation: Those picking you feel that you can exploit Gamboa’s defensive flaws with your counter-punching. However, Gamboa enlisted Floyd Mayweather Sr. to help with that during this camp. Do you think a veteran like Gamboa can drastically alter his style over the span of a few months?
Crawford: No – if you’re stuck in your ways, you’re stuck in your ways. He might do it for a little bit in the beginning. But once the fight heats up, he’ll go back to his old ways. When you’re training, you can do what the trainers want because it’s still a controlled environment. The fight atmosphere is much different.
KO Nation: You and Gamboa have both spoken about moving up after this fight. In your case, is this a matter of chasing opportunities or your body telling you it’s time?
Crawford: My body has been growing for some time. It’s really just time to move on. I haven’t ruled out 147, either. Whatever opportunity presents itself.
KO Nation: Speaking of opportunities, this is a good time to get your take on the philosophy of “taking the toughest challenge” vs. making the “best business decision.” Sometimes, the two will intersect. But more often than not, the toughest challenge might not make the best business sense.
We can see an example of that in your division with another champion in Miguel Vazquez, who won’t bring you the most money, but is a difficult style to crack. Now that you’re getting big fights, what’s most important to you?
Crawford: Well, Vazquez is a great boxer. I’d face him, but the TV networks don’t like his style. We have to remember the TV networks determine the approval of the fights much more than the boxers. Personally, I like pure boxers: Mayweather, Ward [and] Rigondeaux.
KO Nation: Gamboa’s promoter, 50 Cent, said he thinks the fight will be competitive, but mentioned he feels you might run after feeling Gamboa’s power. Any comments about that?
Crawford: [Laughs] Ah, I can’t even comment on that. But we’ll see on Saturday night.
Crawford vs. Burns airs this Saturday June 28 at 10 p.m. ET