When we last saw Terence “Bud” Crawford in the ring, he was posing with a world title belt in both hands, one draped over each shoulder and another around his waist following a knockout win in Lincoln.
On that night last August, the Omaha native was the king of the boxing world. And he was basking in the satisfaction of becoming just the third undisputed champion in the era of four major sanctioning bodies.
As he eagerly awaits his welterweight debut against WBO belt-holder Jeff Horn in Las Vegas, the former junior welterweight king is no longer satisfied. Crawford is on a mission to conquer another division.
“I just feel like I’m at ground zero right now,” he said. “I’m not the champion anymore. I don’t have a belt. I don’t have a name in this weight class. That’s what’s driving me to do what I do come fight night.
“Also, what I do — as far as in my training — is because I’m not a champion right now. And I’m not the No. 1 guy in the division. That’s all something that I want to accomplish.”
“We all came together and said, ‘After this fight, we are going to move up in weight,’ ” he said. “We all had the faith and belief that we were going to win the fight. We knew after that fight, there wasn’t going to be anything left at 140 for me. We thought the best decision for my career would be to move up.”
Continuously holding multiple titles in a weight class for any length of time is tough for a champion to do. All four major sanctioning bodies in boxing operate independently, with each having its own divisional rankings and obligations to fulfill. The IBF had made a special exception for Indongo to bypass a mandatory title defense to face Crawford because of the historic nature of the bout. That obligation became Crawford’s after his victory. Within a couple of days, the IBF pushed to set up his next bout.
Crawford began vacating his 140-pound titles at that point. They were gone. His historic feat lives on.
“I did it. That’s all that matters,” he said. “I was undisputed. I never got my titles took. I vacated them.”
The former undisputed champion’s seven-fight run through the 140-pound division was dominant. Crawford (32-0, 23 knockouts) stopped six of the seven challengers he met. Only former WBC champ Viktor Postol made it to the final bell, but Crawford dropped him twice while coasting to a win.
History will state that Crawford cleaned out junior welterweight during a time in which it wasn’t very deep, but that certainly wasn’t his fault. Divisional strength is cyclical. And Crawford said he’d have relished the opportunity to compete in that weight class when it was at its strongest. A little more than a decade ago, that division’s rankings featured unbeaten champions Ricky Hatton, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Miguel Cotto along with Hall of Famers Kostya Tszyu and Arturo Gatti.
“That would’ve made it more interesting,” Crawford said. “It would’ve boosted my career to another level being that I would’ve had the likes of fighting those top-tier guys. My stardom would’ve been bigger than it is now.”
It’s still pretty big. And it continues to grow with every decisive win. Crawford is almost universally recognized as one of the top three fighters in the world, and many believe he is the best.
He elevated himself into the pound-for-pound discussion by remaining one of the busiest champions in the sport. Last August’s bout with Indongo was Crawford’s ninth world title fight in a span of 38 months.
But he hasn’t fought since. And the 10-month layoff is the longest of his professional career.
Fighters often worry about ring rust after spending a lot of time away. Crawford isn’t concerned.
“Actually, it’s not bad at all,” he said. “It’s really beneficial being that my body’s been through a lot in the last couple of years — a lot of hard pounding on my body. I just take it as my body really needed the rest anyway. It played a good factor in my recovery and me going out there and looking tremendous on fight night. I’m ready to go out there and show the world who’s the best 147-pound fighter out there today.”
Crawford can make a splash in his new division with a victory over Horn, who became the WBO champion by upsetting Manny Pacquiao in his hometown of Brisbane, Australia, last summer. Although Horn won by unanimous decision, it was a victory that most boxing experts thought Pacquiao deserved.
That isn’t the way Crawford saw the fight.
“I felt as if Horn was roughing up Pacquiao,” he said. “He was the bigger, stronger guy that fight. He kind of didn’t respect Pacquiao from the jump. It could’ve went either way. He was winning some rounds that people were talking that he was losing. I think he’s better than a lot of people give him credit for.”
Whether that makes him good enough to hang with Crawford over 12 rounds remains to be seen. In a way, Horn is the gatekeeper to boxing’s deepest and most talented division for Crawford.
There are more than 20 boxers competing at or around welterweight who have claimed world titles. Speculation of future opponents for Crawford is commonplace. He said he’s not looking past Horn.
The welterweight division has been the landing spot for many of the best smaller fighters in the 2000s. Mayweather, Cotto and Pacquiao are among those who continued to excel after they moved up to 147.
Crawford is aiming to follow that path and cement his legacy in one of boxing’s glamour divisions.
“A lot of people have paid attention to this weight class and shed a lot of light on the division,” he said. “With me coming up from 140 to a stacked division that everybody’s talking about, it’s just going to put more excitement to the division. I feel like I’m going to be bigger, stronger. And I’m going to be faster. I’m just ready to go out there and prove to everybody that I’m not as small as everybody says I am.”
Crawford vs. Horn: Fight week coverage
Thursday: Coverage from Crawford and Horn’s media workouts in Las Vegas.
Friday: Crawford and Horn meet for the first time at the pre-fight press conference.
Saturday: Tale of the tape for the WBO welterweight title bout.
Sunday: Coverage of the big fight.
Monday: How does Saturday’s result affect Crawford’s career moving forward?
Crawford isn’t a champion now, by choice. In fact, the decision to move up to the 147-pound weight class had already been made before he met fellow unified titlist Julius Indongo of Namibia for the undisputed junior welterweight championship. Crawford won the fight by knockout in the third round.