By Keith Idec
Terence Crawford cannot wait to start proving he is ready for a significant step up in competition Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Crawford’s confidence became obvious when he took this fight against heavy-handed Breidis Prescott on about 10 days notice and was willing to move up from lightweight to junior welterweight to take it after Khabib Allakhverdiev suffered an elbow injury.
The undefeated prospect from Omaha, Neb., and his handlers respect Prescott’s resume, but an opportunity to compete in an HBO “Boxing After Dark” co-feature was one they felt they couldn’t pass up. It didn’t hurt, either, that Crawford will earn $125,000 for facing Prescott, $110,000 more than he would’ve made for a non-televised, lightweight fight Saturday night against unknown Nigerian Robert Osiobe (14-5-4, 6 KOs).
“First and foremost, I’d like to thank God for putting me in this position to make a name for myself and to carry my career to the next level,” Crawford said during the final press conference Thursday at Mandalay Bay. “I’ve been working hard for a long time and I’m just ready to go in there and put on a show.”
The 25-year-old Crawford has built his 19-0 record mostly against pedestrian opponents, 15 of whom he has knocked out. But he has an extensive amateur background, impressed Top Rank’s matchmakers during the developmental phase of his career and earned Timothy Bradley’s respect when he served as one of Bradley’s sparring partners for his convincing victory over Devon Alexander.
Top Rank founder Bob Arum is eager to see how Crawford fares against the 29-year-old Prescott (26-4, 20 KOs), who has knocked out Amir Khan in the first round, had success against Mike Alvarado before Alvarado stopped him in the last round and beat WBA lightweight champion Richar Abril by split decision.
“In show business, we all know the story of how somebody works as an understudy to the main character,” Arum said. “And one day the main character gets sick, the understudy comes in and is so good that he or she becomes a star. Well, it sometimes happens in boxing.
“Terence Crawford was always scheduled to be on this card, but when Khabib the champion hurt his elbow and had to pull out, we looked around for an appropriate opponent for Prescott. And after talking with Cameron Dunkin and Brian McIntyre [Crawford’s co-managers], we said, ‘Why not Terence Crawford?’ He has labored on so many of our undercards, off the televised portion, and now he has the opportunity to be seen by the vast public, which is the HBO audience, and to make a name for himself.”
The Prescott-Crawford fight will begin HBO’s telecast Saturday at 10:15 p.m. ET/PT. The main event will pit Brandon Rios (31-0-1, 23 KOs), of Oxnard, Calif., against Alvarado (33-1, 23 KOs), of Thornton, Colo., in a highly anticipated, 10-round junior welterweight rematch.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.