By Jake Donovan
Terence Crawford and Dierry Jean are set for their super lightweight title fight Saturday evening at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
Crawford (26-0, 18KOs) looks to make the most of what has been a water-treading 2015 campaign following a breakout run in 2014 that earned the unbeaten two-division champ Fighter of the Year honors.
Saturday night marks his third fight at home, having twice played to a sold-out crowd at the venue. The initial homecoming came versus Yuriorkis Gamboa last June. The bout marked the first title fight in Omaha in more than 40 years, and also the first time ever that HBO took its cameras to the city. Crawford was making the first defense of the lightweight title he won on the road in Scotland versus Ricky Burns, but it was his thrilling 9th round knockout of Gamboa that saw his stock skyrocket.
His subsequent win over Raymundo Beltran last November brought the second consecutive sold-out crowd to CenturyLink, also earning Crawford the World lineal lightweight championship and - in many circles - clinching Fighter of the Year honors.
By the time Crawford formally received such honors, he was six days removed from a one-sided 6th round knockout of Thomas Dulorme in April. It was an explosive start towards intended domination of a new weight class, but unfortunately fell prey to an unfavorable second-half schedule lacking the available space to allow the rate of activity he would've preferred.
Jean (29-1, 20KOs) rose to super lightweight contention on the heels of a knockout win over Cleotis Pendarvis in May '13. His eventual title shot, however, produced the lone loss of his career in dropping a 12-round decision to Lamont Peterson last January on the road in Washington D.C.
The setback was followed by a drop down to the lightweight division, where Jean has won four straight. The hope was to land a title shot against Jorge Linares, but the opportunity to fight Crawford prompted a rise back up in weight and another road trip in pursuit of his career-long dream.
Will the local favorite storm through his hometown showcase and campaign for a desired crack at a passing of the torch bout with Manny Pacquiao? Can the visiting challenger upset the apple cart and turn the industry on its heels in the process?
Read on to see how the staff at BoxingScene.com believes the super lightweight action goes down.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: TERENCE CRAWFORD vs. DIERRY JEAN
Ryan Burton (Crawford TKO): Terence Crawford returns from a six month layoff to put on a dominant performance to close out 2015. I think he will stop Dierry late as he looks towards a hopefully more active 2016.
Jake Donovan (Crawford UD): While few are predicting an upset, Crawford will be presented with a few anxious moments before breaking Jean down but settling for a wide decision in a statement-making performance.
Stephen "Breadman" Edwards (Crawford UD): Crawford stays unbeaten, moves towards bigger fights in 2016.
Michael Gibbons (Crawford TKO9): Crawford is one guy that can handle the pressure of fighting at home. Crawford will slow down Jean's offense with precision counter punching before forcing the late stoppage.
Peter Lim (Crawford UD): This might be Crawford's toughest test to date but he is one of the more underrated talents in the sport today and he should rise to the occasion. With youth and home court advantage on his side, he dictates the action, effortlessly glides in and out to land the first and last punches of each exchange and wins a decision in the 117-111 to 118-110 range.
Takahiro Onaga (Crawford TKO9): Jean is a tough cookie but shouldn't be a match for the boxing of Crawford who is leagues above.
Cliff Rold (Crawford Dec.): Jean has never been stopped and withstood plenty of shots from Lamont Peterson in his lone loss. He's got enough pop to make a go of it but he doesn't appear versatile enough. Crawford, of the two, can fight more than one way and that will work for him. Look for a fight where Crawford loses some round early but solves Jean and dominates the second half to win on points.
Victor Salazar (Crawford mid-rds KO): Crawford does everything better than Jean and is a better fighter than Lamont Peterson, so the result is easy.
Reynaldo Sanchez (Crawford TKO6): Crawford has all the skill, power and support to dethrone Gonzalez at the P4P list maybe in the next year. I don't think Jean have something to offer Terence, this fight in my my opinion is just a tuneup.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox