A throw­back to the old days, Craw­ford is on the path to join­ing the greats

Sun.Star Pampanga - - LIFESTYLE -

Ter­ence Craw­ford knew that he would have to make it on his own, take some risks in fights he was meant to lose and defy the fa­mil­iar odds as a shoot­ing vic­tim and ig­nored fighter from a box­ing out­post.

On Satur­day Craw­ford takes New York City when he walks to the ring in the very heart of Madi­son Square Gar­den’s big room to de­fend a world ti­tle and make his claim as the finest fighter in the world right now. He will float across the can­vas on the most iconic fight­ing stage since the blood pits of the Ro­mans, tread­ing lightly in the van­ished boot prints of the leg­ends and climb­ing through the ropes like a man en­ter­ing a time ma­chine of sport­ing dr eams.

Craw­ford fights Bolton’s Amir Khan, the WBO wel­ter­weight ti­tle is the glit­ter some will view as the prize, but Craw­ford has his eyes on some­thing far more glo­ri­ous and last­ing - and elu­sive - when the first bell sounds in the domed bat­tling hall. Craw­ford is un­beaten in 34, has won world ti­tles at three weights and he wants to be re­mem­bered as a truly great fighter and not a for­tu­nate scrap­per, lucky to be earn­ing his crust at a time of too many belts, too many tricky matches and too many con­ve­nient fight­ers with their abil­ity to fill a cor­ner only. Craw­ford wants the sta­tus, the recog­ni­tion and re­spect the an­cient fight­ers re­ceived. He is a leather-soled fighter in rub­ber-soled times, his claims have weight and beat­ing Khan in style will add to his de­sires.

“I’m just a kid from Omaha,” said Craw­ford. “I had to work hard to get here, won my first world ti­tle over­seas, kept win­ning, beat­ing every­body put in front of me. Khan is just the lat­est.”

Craw­ford was shot in the neck one night as he sat in a car af­ter a dice game on the wrong side of Omaha. The bul­let’s ric­o­chet was luck­ily not lethal, Craw­ford sur­vived and his box­ing mis­sion started. He was on the edges for a long time un­til tak­ing a late-no­tice fight in 2013; Craw­ford trav­elled to Las Ve­gas, beat Brei­dis Prescott against the think­ing of the gath­ered sages and that was the fight that changed it all. On that night Craw­ford was just one win from the promised land and just one punch from nowhere, but he was in the big game.

He was matched hard in back-to-back fights af­ter beat­ing Prescott, win­ning in Dal­las and Or­lando. It was a three-fight se­quence, in just over six months, that would not be out of place in the 1970s, but is cer­tainly a rar­ity in the modern game of trans­par­ent mis­matches and com­fort. Craw­ford was ready, made in shad­ows, pre­pared in the old ways for a busi­ness now heavy with preen­ing selfie fools and their pro­mot­ers with an in­creas­ing abil­ity to click their fin­gers and de­liver ti­tles. It’s hey presto box­ing. The modern game is like magic for the blessed; Craw­ford was not blessed.

In 2014 Craw­ford went to Glas­gow and beat lo­cal fighter Ricky Burns to win the WBO light­weight ti­tle, he made two de­fences, won a ver­sion of the light-wel­ter­weight ti­tle, made six de­fences and uni­fied the four belts be­fore mov­ing up last sum­mer to win the WBO wel­ter­weight ti­tle. The Khan fight is his sec­ond de­fence.

“I can do it all in the ring,” added Craw­ford. “Ei­ther hand, go­ing back, com­ing for­ward - I’m com­fort­able with any­thing. I face all tests. I’m the best fighter in the world. That’s a fact.” On Satur­day night Khan is the test; Khan is big, strong, too brave and dan­ger­ous be­cause he is des­per­ate for his old glo­ries. It could be the end for Khan if Craw­ford chops him down Craw­ford has stopped, knocked out and left bloody his last five op­po­nents in world ti­tle fights. He has fin­ished nine of twelve quick in ti­tle fights, good fig­ures and he is en­joy­ing him­self in his fights.

“I’m do­ing the things the other cham­pi­ons are only talk­ing about,” said Craw­ford. “I’m get­ting my busi­ness done, fight­ing every­body put in front of me. That is the only way to be a cham­pion, the only way.” He is cer­tainly start­ing to se­ri­ously re­sem­ble a very fine boxer in­deed and his big Gar­den visit will add to his claims as more than just a fine fighter in this quite re­mark­able epoch. Each week, it seems, an­other boxer reaches out for the myth­i­cal best pound-for­pound belt.

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