Boxing fans who have watched Terence “Bud” Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs) evolve into one of the sport’s best all-around fighters may have the nagging feeling that something is lacking when he takes on Felix Diaz on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, New York.
This isn’t to say Diaz (19-1, 9 KOs) is a bad boxer or that the opportunity to fight at one of sports premier venues should be passed up, but Crawford has so thoroughly dominated the competition at the lightweight and junior lightweight ranks over the past few years one has to wonder when he will get the kind of fights that can launch him into the stardom his talent deserves.
The 29-year-old Crawford still has plenty of reasons to stick around in this division, but unless Diaz can make good on his promise and throw a wrench into Bud’s career path this weekend, fights like these will simply feel like a prelude to something more.
When: Saturday, May 20 at 10:15 p.m. ET
Where: Madison Square Garden in New York City
Live Stream: BoxNation (UK Only)
Crawford is defending his WBC and WBO world super lightweight titles against Diaz. It’s his second defense after beating the lanky Viktor Postol by unanimous decision in July 2016. The then-undefeated Postol represented the greatest threat to Crawford’s rise to the upper echelon of the sport, but he succumbed to the crafty Nebraska native’s talents.
Crawford then made rather easy work of John Molina Jr (8th-round TKO), setting up this fight against Diaz, who is moving down in weight to box at 140 pounds.
The 33-year-old Diaz is a heavy 10-1 underdog, per , but he has some good qualities to him. He’s a southpaw with a sterling amateur career that saw him win an Olympic gold medal at junior welterweight. Though his knockout record isn’t great, he’s used to fighting in the mid-140s, so he may be better able to handle some of Crawford’s stinging blows.
The last time Diaz fought below 140 was against Adrian Granados in November 2014, which saw him win by split decision.
“Diaz has a lot of the same attributes when it comes to pressure and style, which could make it a very difficult night for Bud,” said Diaz’s promoter, Lou DiBella, per the “I think this is the toughest challenge that Terence Crawford has ever had.”
Though he is a skilled fighter, Diaz is shorter than Crawford, and his reach three inches shorter (70″ to 67“) as well, according to BoxRec. Giving up some physical advantages to a fighter as good as Crawford is likely to spell doom.
Crawford can switch stances to throw off Diaz’s game plan, use a sharp jab to keep him at bay and throw expertly-time counterpunches. His unwavering calm also makes him very adept at surviving the initial onslaughts of pressure fighters, allowing him to probe for weaknesses while minimizing the damage he takes.
Should Crawford get past Diaz, he has a couple of roads he could go down: one that would raise his profile instantly, and another that would satisfy a personal goal but again do little to move the needle.
Crawford’s stated goal is to unify the titles at 140.
“I never kept track of how many people have ever had held all four titles, but it is one of my goals to say that I am undisputed champion,” Crawford said, per USA Today‘s Bob Velin.
That would mean putting together a bout against Julius Indongo (22-0, 11 KOs), a 34-year-old Namibian southpaw who beat Ricky Burns to capture the IBF and IBO world titles. A Crawford-Indongo fight would have the easily salable storyline of a rare full unification bout, but it would be difficult to pull off and Indongo’s name likely isn’t recognizable to even some casual fans of the sport.
The other path for Crawford is Manny Pacquiao, who needs little introduction and is Jeff Horn on July 2. At 38 years old, Pacquiao is long past his prime, but he’s one of the world’s most recognizable sports stars and could still prove a mighty challenge for Crawford with his power and tenacity.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told “we will do our best to make that fight” and that he thinks the “public will support it.”
Crawford can’t afford to look past a gifted boxer like Diaz this weekend, but he has a bright future. Assuming he gets the victory on Saturday, more opportunities should open up for one of the sport’s best talents.