Terence Crawford (34-0, 25 KO’s) makes the second defence of his WBO welterweight world championship against Amir Khan (33-3, 20 KO’s) this Saturday night in front of a capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden in Midtown Manhattan.
Bolton-born Khan has captivated audiences worldwide with his scintillating hand speed, accuracy, and rapid-fire combinations. These qualities have led him to becoming a unified champion at light-welterweight, as well as firmly establishing him as a fan favourite and one of the most recognisable figures in the sport since capturing Olympic silver in the 2004 Athens Games.
Khan, is widely lauded for his consistent willingness to test himself against the very best, something which has been exemplified by his decision to ultimately fight Crawford as opposed to gratifying British fight fans in a more lucrative – but significantly less meaningful – showdown against long-time adversary Kell Brook. It’s thoroughly unlikely, therefore, that the respect and admiration Khan has accrued over the years will be adversely affected by the outcome of this fight.
Meanwhile, Omaha-native Crawford – a smooth, slippery switch-hitter – is a three-weight world champion, a former undisputed champion at light-welterweight, and someone who is virtually a constant feature on top-five pound-for-pound lists compiled by various organisations and publications.
As a result, the undefeated Nebraskan is generally expected to emerge triumphant on the night, especially when taking into account the challenger’s well-documented vulnerabilities coupled with his swashbuckling and somewhat reckless style. Indeed, Khan’s decidedly shaky showing against Samuel Vargas will only serve to increase Team Crawford’s confidence in their man’s ability to land a decisive trademark counter punch at some point in the contest, before applying the coup-de-grace in spiteful fashion.
On the other hand, following a brief-yet-fruitful stint under Joe Goosen, Khan is hoping that a return to Virgil Hunter – a trainer always keen to emphasise the importance of defensive discipline and tactical concentration – will provide his corner with the necessary know-how to vanquish the bag of tricks that is Terence Crawford, and shock the world in the process.
Indeed, many believe ‘King’ Khan presents a significant stylistic challenge for anyone in the division, with the belief that he will be able to capitalise on his counterpart’s conservative approach to build a lead in the early rounds. Like a sadistic feline, the slow-starting Crawford has a noted penchant for carrying and playing with opponents when things get too comfortable.
However, it is likely that he recognises that an opponent as athletically gifted as Khan will not afford him that luxury, so it’s possible Crawford will be looking to make an equally sharp start and send out a statement by dispatching of Khan in brutal fashion. For all of his craftsmanship and guile, Crawford has showed merciless finishing instincts in his previous bouts against the likes of Hank Lundy, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Jose Benavidez and Julius Indongo.
Elsewhere on the undercard, unbeaten featherweight prospect and Olympic silver medallist Shakur Stevenson faces former world title challenger Christopher ‘Pitufo’ Diaz.
Newark’s Stevenson is eager to secure a world title challenge against either IBF champion Josh Warrington, if not WBO titlist and Top Rank stablemate Oscar Valdez, while Diaz has been afforded with a second opportunity to make a name for himself following a defeat to Masayuki Ito for the WBO super-featherweight title.
Lightweight contender Teofimo Lopez, who has repeatedly laid down the gauntlet to pound-for-pound star Vasyl Lomachenko as well as IBF champion Richard Commey, is facing Finland’s durable Edis Tatli; while Puerto Rican Felix Verdejo aims to work his way back into world title contention with a win over Bryan Vasquez.