Terence Crawford can’t understand why his critics are so quick to pick apart his resume at welterweight.
Crawford consistently encounters criticism because he hasn’t fought any of the top 147-pound fighters affiliated with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, most notably Errol Spence Jr. The 32-year-old Crawford doesn’t think he is at fault for those fights failing to materialize because he has boxed PBC-affiliated fighters, though none on the level of Spence, Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman or Danny Garcia.
Regardless, Crawford is convinced he hasn’t received enough credit for beating three previously undefeated fighters in four appearances at the welterweight limit of 147 pounds. Crawford (36-0, 27 KOs) made his welterweight debut two years ago, when he dominated Australia’s Jeff Horn on his way to a ninth-round, technical knockout victory that earned him the WBO 147-pound championship in June 2018 in Las Vegas.
Since battering Horn (20-2-1, 13 KOs), Crawford has defended his title three times. He beat Jose Benavidez Jr. (27-1, 18 KOs) by 12th-round TKO, stopped England’s Amir Khan (34-5, 21 KOs) in the sixth round when Khan couldn’t continue due to an injury caused by Crawford’s unintentional low blow and defeated Lithuania’s Egidijus Kavaliauskas (21-1-1, 17 KOs) by ninth-round TKO in his most recent bout.
“In my own defense, I would say ‘Mean Machine,’ Jeff Horn and Benavidez, they wasn’t no B-level fighters in my eyes,” Crawford told Brian Custer for the newest episode of “The Last Stand,” the Showtime commentator’s podcast. “You know, I feel like you can put any one of those fighters up against any of those top PBC fighters and they’ll give ‘em hell. You know, and especially Benavidez. When you look at Benavidez, what he’s been doing since he was a kid – yeah, he got shot in the leg, and everybody wanted to use that as an excuse at the end. But before the fight, he clearly said, ‘My leg is good. I’m not gonna use this as an excuse. I’ve been doing everything going in.’
“And he just came off two stoppage wins. Nobody, not one time, said anything about his leg in those two fights. Leading up to the fight, they just said he got shot in the leg. They never said, ‘Oh, well let’s see how his leg hold up.’ And he’s not walking funny, he don’t have no limp, no none of that. So, once I knock him out, then that’s the big topic. ‘Oh, he got one leg. Oh, this and all that.’ So that what really pissed me off.”
Benavidez suffered serious damage to his right leg when he took a bullet through his knee during an unsolved shooting in August 2016 in Phoenix, Benavidez’s hometown.
Crawford, a three-division champion, beat Benavidez in his first defense of the WBO welterweight title in October 2018 at CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska, Crawford’s hometown. Four months earlier, the rugged Horn hadn’t won a round on any of the three judges’ scorecards before referee Celestino Ruiz stopped their bout in the ninth round at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
An incredulous Crawford contended that the one-sided nature of his victory over Horn should impress skeptics, too.
“Jeff Horn, they say, ‘All right, he got cheated by Pacquiao,’ ” said Crawford, who was the undisputed 140-pound champion prior to beating Horn. “When you watch that fight, Jeff Horn bullied Pacquiao. You know, even if he did, you know, some illegal tactics or he hit him with elbows or head-butts or whatever the case may be, he did what he had to do to win the fight. You know, it’s a fight at the end of the day. When you look at that fight, he took Pacquiao through hell, you know, pushed him around, bullied him. He made it a rough fight for Pacquiao. And you can’t say that fight wasn’t close, you know, at the end of the day. And for me to go in there and stop that man, that Pacquiao couldn’t stop, and beat him every round, you don’t give me no credit for that.”
Like Horn, Kavaliauskas was unbeaten when Crawford withstood his mandatory challenger’s hardest punches and knocked Kavaliauskas to the canvas once in the seventh round and twice in the ninth round, when referee Ricky Gonzalez halted their December 14 bout at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“So, then when you look at Kavaliauskas,” Crawford explained, “you know, undefeated fighter, a two-time Olympian, you know, never tasted the [canvas] amateur or pro. You know, for me to go out there and stop him in the fashion that I did, you know, you don’t wanna give me no credit. Y’all wanna say, ‘Oh, he was a bum,’ because of his fight with Ray Robinson. Well, styles make fights. You know, everybody not gonna have an A-plus night on fight night. Styles make fights, and I give him credit – he’s a good fighter.”
Kavaliauskas settled for a 10-round majority draw with Robinson in the bout before he challenged Crawford, eight months earlier in Philadelphia, Robinson’s hometown. Between beating Benavidez and Kavaliauskas, Crawford dominated the polarizing Khan in what was widely condemned as an unnecessary optional title defense versus an opponent that already had been beaten by knockout or TKO three times before Crawford stopped him.
“You know, and when you look at Amir Khan, nobody never out-boxed Amir Khan – nobody,” Crawford said of his victory over Khan in April 2019 at Madison Square Garden. “When you see Amir Khan lose, you see him get knocked out. You know, I was out-boxing him from round one to round five, till I got the stoppage. So, you know, everybody say, ‘Oh, well, Amir Khan, he’s done. He’s washed up. He’s this. He’s that.’ Why you just can’t say, ‘Terence Crawford is at a great level, where, you know, he makes these fighters look that way?’ ”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.