by Cliff Rold
Cleaning out a division doesn’t happen too often. It doesn’t get more cleaned out than winning every major title available in a class.
Terence Crawford did that in 2017 when he knocked out unified titlist Julius Indongo to add a pair of Jr. welterweight belts to the pair he already had. He became the first man to hold the WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO belts simultaneously since Jermain Taylor and only the third all time. Taylor beat the first, Bernard Hopkins.
That accomplishment is in the books. Now we start to find out what Crawford can do at welterweight. The now former lineal king at lightweight and Jr. welterweight won’t move to the head of the class with a win on Saturday (ESPN+, 9:30 PM EST) but if Crawford can get by WBO titlist Jeff Horn, the idea of showdowns with an Errol Spence or Keith Thurman gets at least a little more tangible.
He has to win first.
For the second time in three fights, Horn enters almost as an afterthought. Despite holding a belt he won in heavily debated fashion last year from Manny Pacquiao, almost no one thinks the bigger man can be the better one. Does Horn have a chance to upset expectations one more time?
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title: WBO welterweight (2017-Present, 1 defense)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 147 lbs.
Hails from: Acacia Ridge, Queensland, Australia
Record: 18-0-1, 12 KO
Press Rankings: #1 (BoxRec), #4 (TBRB), #5 (Ring), #6 (ESPN, Boxing Monthly)
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-0, 1 KO
Last Five Opponents: 181-21-3 (.898)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Randall Bailey RTD7, Manny Pacquiao UD12
Previous Titles: WBO Lightweight (2014-15, 2 Defenses); Lineal/TBRB/Ring Lightweight (2014-15); WBO Light Welterweight (2015-17, 6 Defenses); Lineal/TBRB/Ring/WBC Jr. welterweight (2016-17, 3 Defenses); WBA Super Lightweight (2017); IBF Jr. Welterweight (2017)
Weight: 146 ½
Hails from: Omaha, Nebraska
Record: 32-0, 23 KO
Press Rankings: At 140 - #1 (ESPN, BoxRec); At 147 - #5 (Boxing Monthly)
Record in Major Title Fights: 10-0, 7 KO
Last Five Opponents: 124-12-1 (.909)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Ricky Burns UD12; Yuriorkis Gamboa TKO9; Rey Beltran UD12; Viktor Postol UD12; Julius Indongo KO3
The Case for Horn: While these eyes saw Horn lose eight rounds to Manny Pacquiao, it’s not like the Aussie didn’t do anything right against the Filipino great. Horn survived a harrowing ninth round, gave a solid effort in the last three rounds, and imposed his size in spots throughout the fight. He has to do the same thing Saturday against Crawford. Naturally bigger on paper, Horn’s best chance is to get close to Crawford and take away his punching opportunities by mauling and grappling where he can, landing his long jab and efficient right hand when the openings are there. Horn doesn’t appear as quick as Crawford but his hands are quick, he hooks well off the jab, and he gets to the body. He’ll need all of those things to make the sort of rough, ugly fight that would give him his best shot.
The Case for Crawford: How will Crawford approach Horn? Does he fight his orthodox, southpaw, or mix it up? He can do all of the above and do them well. Against Felix Diaz last year, he fought southpaw all night and tortured the Olympic talent. While he’s moving up the scale officially, it may not be all that much of a jump. Crawford has the frame for welterweight and the sort of mean streak and patient, relaxed boxing ability that carries well. Crawford is a dynamic talent who can work seamlessly from offense to defense with an edge in hand speed and longer arms that should allow him to be first with the jab. Outside of a few terse, early rounds against Gamboa in June 2014, Crawford has generally been in control of all ten of his title fights to date. If Horn falls behind early, Crawford’s sense of timing and space could make it hard to catch up.
The Pick: Jeff Horn is a decided underdog in this fight for a reason. He’s a solid, tough professional but he’s also fairly basic in his approach and output. Against an aged Pacquiao, that was enough to keep it close enough to win one at home. Crawford is fully in his prime and operating like a genuinely elite talent. Crawford’s advantages in reach, speed, championship rounds, and sheer talent are too much for Horn here. The pick is Crawford, potentially via corner stoppage.
Rold Picks 2018: 18-9
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]