By Thomas Gerbasi
The secret is out. As quiet as WBO lightweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford is in the public eye, when he’s in the B&B Boxing Academy, that’s not exactly the case.
“He won't say it to the public,” said co-manager and trainer Brian McIntyre. “He'll tell us in the gym. We're the ones that get the earful.”
These days, there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to the 26-year-old, who is fresh off a stirring ninth round knockout of Yuriorkis Gamboa in June that captivated the boxing world, started some Fight of the Year chatter, and elevated Crawford from talented young champion to the Next Great American Hope.
And yeah, he’s that good, something the soft-spoken Nebraskan won’t tell the world, but he’ll do his share of talking among his team, a close knit group that includes McIntyre, fellow coaches Red Spikes and Esau Dieguez, as well as the coaches’ mentor Midge Minor. Watching Crawford reach the top with the same crew he started with when he was a kid was one of the better stories to come out of this sport in 2014, and a satisfying one for McIntyre, even if he – like his fighter – isn’t one to let his mouth outrun his actions.
“I don't gloat,” he said. “We've been doing it for so long together. The same team that was with him in the ring was the same team that was there when he was seven years old. So we know what to expect out of each other. Everybody's got a certain job to do, and in order for this wheel to keep turning and rolling, everybody must step up and do their job. And when things like this happen, him winning the title, him knocking Gamboa out, it's just another day to us. You'll see the happiness in the ring, but we're back in the gym the next week. It's not new to us.”
Crawford did seemingly come out of nowhere in 2014 though. Long a favorite of the hardcore set, “Bud” slowly but surely made his way up the ranks, with wins over Breidis Prescott and Alejandro Sanabria raising his profile in 2013. By early 2014, he was going over to Scotland and beating Ricky Burns for the WBO crown, but nothing prepared Crawford and the world for what happened last month.
Fighting at home in Omaha for the first time in his career, Crawford packed nearly 11,000 fans into the CenturyLink Center, yet despite the pressure and the responsibility of carrying the bulk of the promotion, he acted like an old pro, leading McIntyre to an emotional response.
“I told him the week of the fight, ‘I look at you and I want to cry,’” he recalled. “He asked why and I said ‘Because you grew up in front of my eyes. You go from borrowing other people's trunks and shoes to people making stuff for you now, and you're one of the best fighters in the world. It's a joy.’”
It was a long road too, but one McIntyre was invested in from the first day Minor told him that the precocious kid in the gym wasn’t an average prospect.
“Midge Minor told me 'never let anybody take these two fighters; they're special,'” said McIntyre. “It was Terence and Rosendo Robles.”
McIntyre, known as “BoMac,” took Minor’s advice, and the respected coach was right on all counts, as Crawford had a stellar amateur career before continuing that success in the pros. His performance against Gamboa would tell the tale though, and early on, things didn’t look good as the former amateur star from Cuba raced out to an early lead. Eventually, Crawford made adjustments and battled his way back into the fight, dropping Gamboa four times en route to a ninth round TKO win. It was a brilliant performance from Crawford, and an equally brilliant effort from the coaching staff.
“Me and the other coaches, Red Spikes and Esau Dieguez, we watched Gamboa together, we watched Gamboa on our own, we watched (Erislandy) Lara, we watched (Guillermo) Rigondeaux, we watched Lara against Paul Williams and Rigondeaux against (Nonito) Donaire, and one thing with them is that they (the Cubans’ opponents) got overexcited,” said McIntyre. “They wanted to take their head off, so they had a lot of aggression in them. So the main thing with Terence was for him to remain cool and let the fight come to him. You don't try to rush out and take the fight to him (Gamboa) because he's so tricky. The Cubans do tricky things with their feet. In some of Gamboa's fights, instead of him jabbing, he'll jab to keep your jab from jabbing at him. So we worked on that, we worked on when he'd jump in, when he'd jump out, and his defense is not that good going out, but his defense is good coming in. He caught Terence coming in, but Terence caught him going out.”
And he caught him for good in the ninth, kicking off the “Summer of Bud” in the boxing world. It’s a time Brian McIntyre always envisioned, and as he seemingly saw into the future, he always made sure Crawford was ready for it.
“Every now and then in camp, when we're alone and playing chess, I would always say to him, "Are you ready for all this attention, man?" And he always says "Man, Bo, I got this."
“He always says I worry too much. I tell him it's my job to worry and your job to fight.”