Terence Crawford dismantled the respected Felix Diaz with a display of such quality that it left you wondering why he isn’t already a household name.
The 29-year-old American toyed with Diaz – an Olympic gold medallist with a 19-1 professional record – like a child pulling the wings off of a fly, eventually forcing his corner to pull him out after 10 painfully one-sided rounds at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
Crawford, as is his way, effortlessly switched stances, glided in and out of range and punished Diaz from distance and especially on the inside. The rugged Dominican’s durability and determination kept him upright but the compassion of his trainer Joel Diaz was timely and judicious.
“I stopped the fight because I didn’t want him to take any more punishment,” the trainer said. “Enough was enough.”
It showed once again that Crawford, now 31-0 with 22 knockouts, badly needs a step up in class. Diaz is a sturdy, skilful fighter but Crawford is truly elite and you feel that only the very best could potentially trouble him.
One such opponent would be Manny Pacquiao, and ‘Bud’ admitted afterwards that it’s the fight he craves most. “I’ve been saying for years now. It’s the only fight we are really looking for,” he said. “But that’s not up to me. I’m a fighter. That’s up to my promoter, Bob Arum.”
Indeed, if Arum had his way then it would have been Pacquiao in the ring last night, not Diaz. The veteran Top Rank supremo promotes both men, and what better way to cash out your faded star attraction than to anoint his successor by having the younger man clobber him into retirement?
A victory over the 38-year-old Filipino would provide a big pay day from a highly-marketable payper-view event, legitimise Crawford’s stellar credentials and give his profile the mainstream boost it so sorely needs.
“Would Pacquiao and Crawford be a good fight, a big attraction? You bet your a** it will,” said Arum this week, before adding that he “felt an obligation” to make the deal.
It’s the perfect scenario for everybody – except Pacquiao – who at this stage of his career doesn’t need problems like that, and is far happier topping up his pension with soft touches like Jeff Horn, who he faces in Brisbane on July 2.
You get the feeling if it does happen then it will be on Pacquaio’s terms, in his very last fight, and at the earliest that might be next year. However, Crawford for once has an extremely creditable ‘Plan B’ in the shape of the awkward and heavy-handed Namibian, Julius Indongo, who sat ringside in New York.
With ‘Bud’ holding the WBO and WBC light-welterweight titles and Indongo the other two major straps – the IBF and WBA – the winner of their bout would emerge as the first unified and undisputed 140-pound champion since Kostya Tszyu in 2003.
“Indongo’s here, he came to my fight,” said Crawford in his post-fight interview. “Let’s get it on Indongo, wherever you are, let’s do this.”
Capturing all four belts in one division is such a rarity in modern boxing – it hasn’t happened since Jermain Taylor relieved Bernard Hopkins of his four middleweight straps in 2005 – that in itself it would be a significant accomplishment.
That could be the perfect way for Crawford to sign off from the division before entering the fray at welterweight, where he’d cause major problems for any of the top contenders. Competing at 147 lbs would then give him the chance to win a world title in a third weight class and enhance his legacy.
“That’s what we do it for and it’s why we bleed, sweat and put our lives on the line – to be remembered in the sport of boxing,” said Crawford, who is surely only an elusive marquee victory away from fulfilling that aim.
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