By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Yes, Yuriorkis Gamboa was a difficult foe for Terence Crawford.
But there was an obscure opponent that gave Crawford just as much trouble, if not more, than Gamboa, and any of the additional 28 fighters Crawford has faced since he turned pro in March 2008.
“Well, it might sound crazy, but this guy named Angel Rios in New Jersey,” Crawford said during a press conference Thursday at Madison Square Garden. “I believe that was my hardest fight to date, him and Gamboa.”
The 29-year-old Crawford beat Rios rather easily, if you read the three scorecards submitted after their eight-round fight in Atlantic City. Crawford won 80-71, 80-72 and 80-72, which means none of the three judges scored a single round for Rios during a non-televised fight in September 2011 at Boardwalk Hall.
The veteran from the Bronx made Crawford earn everything during those eight rounds, though.
“It was just tough,” recalled Crawford, who was 14-0 when he faced Rios. “I was up and coming. He had a lot of experience. He was bigger than me, I was boxing him and I got cut in that fight. I experienced a lot of things I never experienced before in that fight, with illegal tactics and so forth. And Gamboa, everybody know that was a rough fight for me. But I overcame it and believe I really grew a lot in that fight.”
Crawford stopped Cuba’s Gamboa (26-2, 17 KOs) in the ninth round of their June 2014 fight in Omaha, Nebraska, Crawford’s hometown. The then-unbeaten Gamboa buzzed Crawford a couple times and out-boxed him early in their fight, but Crawford floored Gamboa four times before their entertaining WBO lightweight championship match was stopped at CenturyLink Center.
Rios, 36, hasn’t fought since October 2013 and presumably is retired. He lost the last 17 fights of his career and has a 9-19 record (6 KOs), but has been knocked out just once.
Rios was 9-6 entering his fight against Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs), who’ll defend his WBC and WBO super lightweight championships against the Dominican Republic’s Felix Diaz (19-1, 9 KOs) on Saturday night at the Garden (HBO; 10 p.m. ET/PT).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.