By Cliff Rold
Terence Crawford spent 2014 stamping himself as the best lightweight in the world and winning the nod as Fighter of the Year in several spaces. With little in the way of big fights or opportunities to be found at 135 lbs. right now, Crawford promptly moved up.
2015 hasn’t been the same sort of year.
Sure, he won a vacant belt in his first start five pounds up at Jr. welterweight. It hasn’t stopped him from being somewhat lost in the shuffle. Crawford makes only his second start of the year with big hopes for what could be. One of Top Rank’s most talented young fighters already had a pretty solid drawing base in his native Nebraska. To get to the world stage, he’s not just competing with former title challenger Dierry Jean.
He’s competing in the beauty pageant to be an opponent for a returning Manny Pacquiao
Let’s go to the report card.
Title: WBO light welterweight (2015-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: WBO lightweight (2014-15, 2 Defenses); Lineal/TBRB/Ring world lightweight (2014-15)
Hails from: Omaha, Nebraska
Record: 26-0, 18 KO
Rankings: #1 (ESPN, BoxRec), #2 (BoxingScene, Ring), #5 (TBRB)
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-0, 2 KO
Current/Former World Champions Faced: 2 (Ricky Burns UD12; Yuriorkis Gamboa TKO9)
Title/Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’6 ½
Hails from: Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Born in Haiti)
Record: 29-1, 20 KO
Rankings: #10 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 0-1
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 1 (Lamont Peterson)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Crawford A-; Jean B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Crawford B+; Jean B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Crawford A-; Jean B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Crawford A; Jean B
Jean has really only had one big opportunity so far. He came up well short on the road against Lamont Peterson in January 2014. The things he did well in that fight, and there were some solid moments, speak to where he could be a task this weekend.
Against Peterson, Jean was able to land some big shots but, more importantly, he fought back in the trenches. He couldn’t match Peterson’s output but he made it entertaining for a healthy stretch of the fight. He’s got long arms and decent speed. Early on, he could make Crawford uncomfortable and force some exchanges.
Much could depend on what Crawford is looking to do early. If he wants to put on a show for the locals, he may be willing to engage. If he opts to survey the landscape, he has the boxing IQ to slow the pace and pick his spots.
Of the two, Crawford is better defensively but, again, that can go to initial mindset. If he’s looking to make an impression, he’s going to get hit more. Against Thomas Dulorme earlier this year, Crawford gave his opponent some chances but it was all in service of the finish. When he found his space, he exploited it and put him away.
Both men have shown some whiskers but Crawford has made more of his opportunities. He showed last year, and winning another belt this year, that he responds well to pressure situations. In what would usually be a less pressure packed environment, one where he is expected to win, he is now fighting to stand out. If he responds as he has in the past that could be bad for Jean.
Jean is in a position where he has to win now. At 33, a third title shot might be hard to come by. That doesn’t improve his chances in the odds, but it should mean maximum effort.
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.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2015: 79-22 (including staff picks for Fonfara-Cleverly, Kono-Kameda, Monaghan-George, and Peterson-Diaz)
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]