By: Hans Themistode
From a distance, he appeared to be a great fighter. The right hooks, left uppercuts, unparalleled foot movement, the uncanny timing, and the effortless transition from southpaw to orthodox – made Terence Crawford look otherworldly in the ring.
But, once fans took a close examination of whom he was facing, they began wheezing and laughing uncontrollably. It wasn’t meant as a slight to Crawford per se, but how could Crawford, or anyone for that matter, proclaim him as the best fighter in the world with what appeared to be a mediocre resume?
No one was astonished when Crawford waltzed into the backyard of Ricky Burns in 2014 and violently stripped him of his 135 pound world title. The boxing world was even less surprised as Crawford went on to defend his crown against the likes of Raymundo Beltran and Thomas Dulorme.
While Crawford was busy racking up the wins and cementing his place amongst the all-time greats, fans continued to incredulously roll their eyes whenever he would consider himself the best fighter in the world. Even as he seemingly backed those claims by snagging every world title at 140 pounds, critics pointed to victories over Julius Indongo and long faded journeymen Henry Lundy as a way to belittle him.
The chastisement grew louder, the laughing became obnoxious, and the public disrespect of Crawford’s resume reached an all-time high once he made his way to the welterweight division. Through no fault of his own, Crawford took on several names that were unheralded such as Jose Benavidez Jr. and Egidijus Kavaliauskas, stopping both men. He also took on former champions who were well past their respective primes in Amir Khan and Kell Brook.
Throughout it all, Crawford did receive public backing as the best fighter in the world, most notably from former two-division champion Tim Bradley and sports journalist Max Kellerman. But at times, even they admitted to needing to see Crawford in the ring against elite-level competition.
With Crawford’s stock falling by the minute, and no big-name fighters in or around his weight class eager to jump into the ring with him, the boxing world began discarding his claims even more.
But, just when fans were preparing a long list of jokes for Crawford’s next ring appearance, they were pleasantly surprised when the news broke. After months of speculation, Crawford officially secured the sort of opponent that would force his critics to respect him, Shawn Porter.
From the moment both men signed their names on the dotted line, Crawford grew even more impatient, even more apoplectic, and even more agitated. So now you’re asking, what gives? After years of begging and pleading with the top names to step into the ring with him, Crawford finally got his wish. But, what normally would have been a joyous moment for him became an enraged proving ground.
Despite being good friends, Crawford wanted to hurt Porter, destroy him, embarrass him, and leave him unresponsive by the time their contest came to an end. As the two began slugging it out at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, this past Saturday night – Crawford unloaded on the former two-time titlist.
Ultimately, their contest was far from one-sided. In fact, at the midway point, it was anybody’s fight to win. But as the championship rounds rolled by, the punishment ensued. In the tenth, Crawford sent his man to the canvas. Moments later, Crawford began wailing away with a barrage of punches.
As Crawford began to unload, his hard and sharp shots didn’t land on the chin of Porter. While he may have been on the receiving end, he was simply a figurehead. The first right hand that pushed Porter to the deck was intended for his critics. His follow-up shots that subsequently ended their contest and pushed Porter into retirement were meant for his doubters, naysayers, and skeptics.
The moment their contest officially came to an end, Crawford marched to the middle of the ring and stomped on the ground. Again, it was a momentum of symbolism.
For years now, Crawford told all who would listen that he was the best fighter in the world, and whenever he walked into the ring, it was his home and his alone. Most refused to believe him. The skills were always there but the right opponent to prove himself never appeared.
Now, after mercilessly stopping Shawn Porter, the perception of him has changed. The question of whether or not he’s the best fighter in the world will always be subjective. But, more than anything, one thing was proven.
Terence Crawford is who he says he is.
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