When it comes to building those stars in a sport that’s lost some traction over the last 15 years, you’ll take what you can get.
And when you get a fighter like Terence Crawford in the sport, you thank God and pray that he’s everything advertised and more.
Now the WBC and WBO Super Lightweight World Champion, Crawford (30-0, 21 KO’s) is a relatively young 29 years old, considering he has only been in the spotlight since upsetting then-undefeated Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa via dominating TKO in their June 2014 encounter, putting Crawford on the map overnight.
Gamboa hasn’t been the same since.
Now we’ll see for ourselves what kind of crowd Crawford draws at The Garden when 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist and world-ranked challenger Felix Diaz (19-1, 9 KO’s) stands opposite him on May 20.
“I’ve been reading all the blogs people have been sending me the last couple of days saying I’m scared of him,” Crawford said with a confident smirk at the April 4th press conference announcing the fight. “That I’ve been ducking him, and everybody knows Terence Crawford ducks no one.”
The Omaha, Nebraska, native has been here before, in February of 2016 in fact, but that was at the MSG Theater in a “stay busy” title defense over Philly-born Hank Lundy.
Crawford, whose been promoted by Bob Arum and Top Rank very astutely over his meteoric rise, unified the aforementioned world titles, out-pointing and breaking the will of Viktor Postol, who also entered without a loss, last summer.
Crawford embarrassed another world class champion, and many aren’t exactly lining up to face him as a result, even with all the gold.
And then we have Diaz, whose lone defeat comes with a level of nuance.
Diaz has had a hard time getting good fights with solid pay days, but got a break when pitted against then-former and current world champion Lamont Peterson in October of 2015.
The fight was the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card on NBC in Virginia near Peterson’s hometown of Washington, D.C., putting the Dominican-born Diaz at a disadvantage.
Peterson won a debatable majority decision, and Diaz’s “-0” had to go. The 5-foot-5 southpaw returned last July, nine months later, and out-boxed favored undefeated prospect Sammy Vasquez on a PBC on FOX card, the crowning victory of Diaz’s career to date.
After taking a nondescript stay busy fight in his home country of D.R. in December (winning by TKO), in front of him would be the only thing that could supersede his ’08 Olympic Gold Medal: two world titles and a heralded pound-for-pounder mainstay on his resume.
“I’m happy that [Diaz[ got a chance to get the fight,” said Crawford before turning to Diaz’s promoter Lou DiBella, and declaring “I'm not running, boy, I’m not running.”
“Never said you were,” a smiling DiBella retorted.
Though Diaz has the world to gain with a win, all the pressure will rest on the shoulders of Crawford, who is under the fight-fan magnifying glass, and many anticipate big things for the elite American after this fight.
People are looking ahead to his possibilities at welterweight against the Danny Garcia’s or Manny Pacquiao’s of the world, though the likeliness of either actually happening have come into question.
Crawford won’t look past May 20 though, and based off Diaz’s track record, he’d better not. His performance, the attendance and viewership for Crawford’s HBO return will all be magnified that night, and if things go his way, the opportunities are endless.