The Inspiring Rise of Terence Crawford
by Chris ‘Polish Hitman’ Morris
Being a “boxing writer” can be a very thankless job. Fans and readers will bash your work incessantly if it doesn’t fall into what they deem acceptable. Fighters themselves can blow up over a fight report. I’ve had both fans and fighters in my face and riled up for expressing MY opinion.
Always remember folks, these articles are far from the end all and know all, they are simply one man’s opinion: take them for what they’re worth. As local promoter for Poor Boys Pro Boxing, Jim “Smitty” Smith reminds me, “Hey buddy opinions are like assholes. We all got ’em and most of ’em STANK”. And you can see all the silver in his mouth from his bareknuckle boxing days back in Wyoming. He used to do it “Philo Beddoe” style.
On the other hand, boxing writing can be very rewarding as well. You develop relationships with everyone involved from promoters to fighters to officials. It’s nice to show up to a local club show and it feels like you are Norm from Cheers, everybody knows your name.
Recently I travelled out to Omaha to cover the Crawford v Beltran fight card televised by HBO.
Little gems like Terence Crawford become one of the great perks of covering boxing.
I covered Crawford’s professional debut, back in March of 2008. The aforementioned Smitty and Poor Boys Pro Boxing host a “St. Paddys Day Punch-Out” card every year at the Denver Athletic Club. It’s a benefit show with proceeds going to local charities. It’s also a private show with no tickets available to the public. Got to know somebody who knows somebody to get in. Lesson here is go and support your local club shows, you never know what or who you might see.
With a club show that is also a benefit show, the budget is very tight and usually limited to putting on a few local pugs, records be damned, while the millionaire members from the Denver Athletic Club place wagers on the fighters between puffing on big fat cigars. “I got the blue corner for a hundred.”
These guys have never seen these fighters before and will probably never see them again. But for a night, they get to be big shots at ring side and they eat it up.
On March 14th, 2008, Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford made his professional debut. He took on a very capable local kid named Brian Cummings. I had covered both of Cummings pro bouts, he was 2-0 coming in, and he looked to be a decent local draw with fast hands and decent footwork. Now he was no world-beater, but he knew his way around the ring.
Crawford comes out and they circle, he jabs and then lands a dynamite left hook over Cummings pawing jab. Cummings is out before he hits the canvas, his eyes rolled back in his head and his body going limp. Crawford didn’t jump on the ropes. He didn’t stand over his fallen opponent or dance. He went to the neutral corner and after the fight was waved off by referee Stephen Blea, he simply put both hands over his head.
I knew at that very moment that Crawford was “special.” He may have debuted on a small club show, but he had major league talent.
Crawford has now proven his mettle in the ring. He is 25-0 with 17 knockouts. When he went across the pond to face Ricky Burns for his first world title, the WBO strap, I was simply beside myself when he won. How awesome to see a fighter’s pro debut, follow his career and he wins a world championship.
This is what boxing is all about.
He defended his belt against highly talented Yuriorkis Gamboa, who was 23-0 coming in, back in June. He looked fantastic stopping the Cuban enigma in the ninth round. A star was officially born that night, as Crawford looked to be as popular in Nebraska as the famed Cornhuskers, fighting in front of a sell-out crowd.
When Terence Crawford v Ray Beltran was announced, my mouth started to water. Here was my chance to come full circle with this fighter. From his pro debut to defending his WBO world championship on HBO in front of a sold out hometown crowd. What could be better?
I got down to ringside and found my place in media row. The crowd was filling into the Century Link Center and there was a big fight buzz in the air. The crowd supported the local fighters on the card like Johnny ‘White Boi’ Determan and Javier Rodriguez, but by the time the co-main event between Gradovich and Velez, they were restless and it was starting to show.
While the fight wasn’t the barn burner I had hoped for it was a good technical bout fought on a high level. Omaha didn’t care. ‘Hurry up” “Get this over with already” and other similar comments raining down from the crowd. As a fellow boxing writer said to me, “This is a Crawford crowd. They don’t know boxing, they know Terence.” That really rang true.
When the co-main was over, they showed highlights on the overhead of Crawford and Beltran. You could feel the electricity and excitement in the air. When his walk out song came on, the crowd exploded. To hear the huge roar of the crowd was awesome. They came out in force to support their champion.
Crawford put on a masterful display of boxing. He works well from both the orthodox and southpaw stances. He has purposeful footwork. He sets everything up off the jab and is technically sound on offense and defense. Beltran landed some hard right hands, sending sweat flying and each and every time, Crawford came right back with a flurry, always looking to finish and win the exchanges.
By the time of the championship rounds, the champ had Beltran broke down. Beltran wasn’t going to stop trying, but he looked defeated and frustrated. Crawford could coast the last two rounds and win a wide decision by staying on his feet.
Instead, he picked up the pace. He was now the aggressor and backing Beltran up. He wanted to close the show for his hometown fans. He’s a champion’s champ and a fight fan’s dream.
Crawford is also very soft and well spoken. He has a glimmer in his eye that says, “I made it.” But you can feel the fire inside is burning hot. He’s got much more to prove. He’s very easy to like and is a shining example of everything right in boxing, when often all we hear is what’s wrong with the sport.
Crawford made it known that this was his last fight at 35’s, he simply can’t make the weight anymore and will be moving up to 40’s. Bob Arum stated after the fight that he was calling the WBO on Monday to arrange a Crawford title fight for the belt stripped from Algieri. He mentioned Algieri and Provodnikov as possible opponent’s.
After the fight, I was riding the elevator with Crawford’s mother, Debbie. I told her how special her son is and what they have going in Omaha truly is. She agreed but mentioned, she didn’t mind fighting in Omaha, but, “We want that Vegas money”. And I couldn’t agree more. Crawford deserves every penny he earns.
But I can’t help but wonder, how huge would a Crawford vs Danny Garcia fight be? And furthermore, could they fill up the Memorial Stadium in nearby Lincoln? You would have the entire state already in town to watch the Cornhuskers and giving them a double-header with Crawford vs Garcia in the evening? Seems like an easy sell.
Regardless of what the future has in store for Terence Crawford, I am very thankful for the journey he has taken me on so far. When he has that first big bout in Vegas, I will be there to watch. When he fights in Memorial Stadium I will make my way to ringside. I truly appreciate what he has provided to me as a writer and fan.
This is what covering boxing is all about.