by Cliff Rold
We already know the likely conclusion.
The question is whether Saturday night (ESPN PPV, 9 PM EST) marks a journey fans wants to take anyways.
An assumed conclusion isn’t always a bad thing. Often the stories we follow, the one’s where we already know where we are probably going to end up, are returned too most easily; a sort of entertainment comfort food.
Amir Khan is 7-3 in his last ten starts dating to December 2011. He’s been stopped twice and dropped in four different fights. He almost always makes a good show but there seems to be a level of opponent he’s just not meant to get by. Terence Crawford looks like a fighter at that level.
Eight years removed from the last time Khan won a title fight, is there any chance this tale could deliver a big twist at the end?
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title: WBO welterweight (2018-Present, 1stattempted defense)
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 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Omaha, Nebraska
Record: 34-0, 25 KO
Press Rankings: #1 (Boxing Monthly, BoxRec), #2 (ESPN, Ring), #3 (TBRB),
Record in Major Title Fights: 12-0, 9 KO
Last Five Opponents: 115-7-1 (.939)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Ricky Burns UD12; Yuriorkis Gamboa TKO9; Rey Beltran UD12; Viktor Postol UD12; Julius Indongo KO3; Jeff Horn TKO9
Previous Titles: WBA Super Lightweight (2009-12, 5 Defenses); IBF Super Lightweight (2011)
Height: 5’8 ½
Weight: 146 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Bolton, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Record: 33-4, 20 KO, 2 KOBY?
Press Rankings: #9 (Boxing Monthly), #10 (BoxRec)
Record in Title Fights: 6-3, 3 KO, 2 KOBY
Last Five Opponents: 149-10-3 (.929)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Gairy St. Clair UD12; Marco Antonio Barrera Tech. Dec. 5; Andriy Kotelnik UD12; Paulie Malignaggi TKO11; Marcos Maidana UD12; Zab Judah KO5; Lamont Peterson L12; Danny Garcia TKO4; Julio Diaz UD12; Luis Collazo UD12; Devon Alexander UD12; Chris Algieri UD12; Saul Alvarez KO by 6
The Case for Crawford: This might be the first time Crawford has been the slower man in the ring since his fight with Yuriorkis Gamboa in 2014. Fortunately for Crawford, one of his strengths works to offset any disadvantage in speed. The Nebraska native as some of the best timing in boxing right now and is also as good as there is at controlling the distance of a fight. That Crawford can do so from either stance makes him an even tougher out. That doesn’t mean this will be easy. Unless Khan has fallen off more dramatically than realized, Crawford will have to work to solve the former Jr. welterweight titlist. Crawford’s body work will be critical as the rounds go by assuming he doesn’t catch Khan cold.
The Case for Khan: Khan has seen some of the best in the game, win or lose, and will be motivated here because in many ways this is it. Khan was very well managed in terms of physical threats between Danny Garcia and Saul Alvarez and has coasted along quietly in the three years since. We don’t really know exactly how close to his peak he still is but assume that his height, speed, and combination punching will be enough to at least win some rounds. To win the fight, Khan’s own underrated body attack might be important but of course opens him up to risk at close quarters. Khan also can’t get greedy if his speed gives him an early edge. His arms are shorter than Crawford’s and if he stays in the pocket too long he’ll be open to counters moving backwards. Khan should be willing to clinch, turn, and reset as often as he needs to.
The Pick: There is a mental aspect to sports and, in Crawford, boxing has one of its nastiest competitors. There is a chip on his shoulder unlike anyone else in boxing; a cold stare and dismissal of foes akin to the swagger baseball great Bob Gibson once took to the mound. Why does that matter in the ring Saturday? It matters because if Crawford falls behind early, he’s not likely to panic. In his last fight, Jose Benavidez gave him a good go early. Crawford slowly solved him and later put him to sleep. Crawford is a more complete fighter than Khan, a meaner fighter than Khan, and Saturday he’ll be a better fighter too. The only question is whether Khan can make it worth the price tag for the show and on that front the show carries some level of ‘buyer beware.’ It says here Khan shows up with the best he’s got and we get the equivalent of Lomachenko-Linares last year where an elite talent and a skilled but flawed veteran gave the fan’s their money’s worth.
Additional Weekend Pick
Danny Garcia Dec. Adrian Granados
Rold Picks 2019: 17-8
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]