By Thomas Gerbasi
Terence Crawford is nearly 4,000 miles away from home, but as he settled in Glasgow, Scotland on Tuesday, he might as well have been in Omaha, Nebraska.
“I’m already adjusted and I’m good,” said the lightweight contender. “It’s colder back at home; it’s just raining more over here.”
He’d better get used to the rain; not just the water kind, but the boos that will pour down on him this Saturday, when he challenges local hero Ricky Burns for the WBO 135-pound crown. 10,000 fans are expected at the Scottish Exhibition Centre, all screaming for their man, who can silence any doubters with a win over the American hotshot.
As for Crawford, his goals are even more succinct.
“It means everything,” he said. “It takes me to a different level, a level that nobody from Omaha, Nebraska has been to.”
Born and raised in a city that is far from a boxing hotbed, the 26-year-old Crawford can become Omaha’s first homegrown world champion with a win on Saturday (former heavyweight champ Max Baer was born in Omaha but raised in and most closely associated with California), yet despite a stellar amateur career and success in his early pro career, it wasn’t until he defeated Breidis Prescott in March of 2013 that the buzz began getting louder at home.
“To be honest, it’s been nothing really until the Prescott fight and this fight,” said Crawford of the attention he’s received in Nebraska. “But when I come back with that belt, they’re gonna know the difference.”
Boxing fans got on board as well when Crawford stepped up on short notice to face Prescott at 140 pounds and gave him a boxing lesson over ten rounds. A dazzling HBO-televised stoppage of Alejandro Sanabria three months after the Prescott bout did even more for his growing reputation, and while a shutout of Andrey Klimov last October was decisive but uninspiring, the die was cast when it came to Crawford: he was the real deal, with world championship potential written all over him. “Bud” saw the change in the weather when it came to public perception as well.
“Oh yeah, I noticed right away,” he said. “It really wasn’t anything though, because I haven’t conquered my goal yet. All those were stepping stones. I don’t get too excited about the little things. This is what I really want. This is the one that’s going to excite me.”
So when he was approached with the Burns bout, there was no hesitation for him to accept it, even though it would be in the champion’s backyard.
“None at all,” said Crawford, who isn’t even bothered by the controversial draw between Burns and Ray Beltran last September, a verdict that many observers believed should have gone to Beltran.
“That’s not my place to worry about that,” he said. “My place is just to go fight.”
And fight he will, with no trash talk, no bad blood, and no extra baggage. It’s just him and Burns on Saturday night, and he’s fine with that.
“I see a tough guy,” said Crawford of his foe. “He’s the champ. I can’t take nothing away from him.”
It’s clear that Crawford may best be described as an old soul, and he agrees, saying “it’s just something that’s inside me.”
So even if the rest of the world has been slow to catch up to what he’s shown in the ring, he’s kept the faith, aided by some words of wisdom that have never left him.
“When I was fighting all those top guys and everybody was doubting me,” recalled Crawford, who defeated Danny Garcia and Mikey Garcia as an amateur, “I would go in there and beat those guys easy, and my coach would always tell me ‘you’re gonna be world champion; you just gotta stay disciplined and stay focused.’ That’s what I did and we’re here now.”
And if a world championship belt is the reward, it’s more than worth the nearly 4,000 mile trip.
“The emotions are gonna be high,” he said of Saturday night. “I’m just ready to go out there and put on a show.”