Boxing

BN Preview: Terence Crawford takes another tough fight that does little for his legacy


NOTHING sums up the career of Terence “Bud” Crawford quite like a low-key fight in December against Russian David Avanesyan on a pay-per-view streaming service called BLK Prime. A risky fight, a challenging fight, a fight he will get no credit for winning, Crawford’s fight this Saturday (December 10) at the CHI Health Center in Omaha becomes all the more bizarre and frustrating when one considers 2022 was supposed to be the year he finally faced major rival Errol Spence to bring clarity to the welterweight division and solidify their respective legacies.

As it happened, that fight fell apart no sooner than we were told it was close to being made and now we must settle, as before, for both Crawford and Spence fighting other welterweights and consequently losing time. Here, with Crawford fighting Avanesyan, we get a decent fight, one Avanesyan’s recent form maybe even deserves, but it is still not Crawford vs. Spence, nor, when one takes into account where both Crawford and Spence are in their careers, a fight that makes any sort of sense.

After all, Avanesyan, despite his recent form, is a man mostly unknown in America; his scalp therefore unlikely to further enhance Crawford’s legacy in any way. He is a good fighter, a capable fighter, but beating him does no more for Crawford’s standing as either the first- or second-best welterweight in the world than any of Crawford’s previous wins.

That’s what makes this fight a frustrating one for all who rate Crawford, 38-0 (29), as one of the very finest talents of the modern era. At 35, he can’t afford to have too many more of these assignments, not when, as is the case with this one, it marks his only ring appearance of the year.

Even the last time we saw him, in a November 2021 fight against Shawn Porter, he was at least involved in a fight against an opponent recognisable to most boxing fans; someone who, though accustomed to coming up short, had shared a ring with most of the world’s top welterweights. It wasn’t Errol Spence, no, but it was someone who had fought Spence before and someone who had proven pedigree in and around that kind of level.

There are, of course, a number of solid wins on the Crawford resume, of that there is no question. Wins against unbeaten fighters like Jose Benavidez (TKO 12) and Egidijus Kavaliauskas (TKO 9), for example, were good fairly recent ones (albeit against names destined to sink without a trace), as were, going back further, wins against Jeff Horn, Julius Indongo and Viktor Postol, all of whom were also unbeaten.

But the worrying thing is, the reputations of those aforementioned fighters pale in comparison to that of Crawford, meaning they were, at the time of him fighting them, relatively unproven contenders whose “legacy” in the sport is yet to be decided. Moreover, one can still make the argument, in 2022, that the best win on the Crawford record remains the ninth-round TKO he secured against talented Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa all the way back in 2014. If that doesn’t act as a wakeup call, nothing will.

Certainly, whether you believe Gamboa represents his best win or not, there is an argument to be made that Avanesyan, his next opponent, is no better than Gamboa, Postol, Indongo, Horn, Kavaliauskas or Benavidez. Yes, it’s true, he brings to Crawford some things those men were unable to, yet, equally, if we look at the cold, hard facts, and assess their respective records, Avanesyan’s wins against the likes of Josh Kelly (TKO 6), Liam Taylor (TKO 2) and Oskari Metz (TKO 1) do not suggest Crawford is meeting a contender fresh from ripping through murderers’ row.

The best you can say is that Avanesyan, while unproven at this kind of level, has at least shown an ability to get rid of opponents at levels beneath world-class with a certain amount of style and decisiveness. In other words, the 34-year-old didn’t waste time with Kelly or Taylor or Metz, nor did he offer them enough to have them think they were in any way competitive with him. Instead, as has become his custom, Avanesyan spotted a weakness in those opponents and attacked it like a dog on a bone, refusing to let go of them until either the referee or their corner intervened and saved them.

This, whether rightly or wrongly, has given Avanesyan, 29-3-1 (17), a reputation as a bit of a destroyer, though at what level he is able to destroy remains to be seen. Clearly, this reputation will be tested like never before on Saturday against Crawford.

On Saturday, Avanesyan will, unlike in previous fights, be fighting a man who has not only encountered his style before but a man who has, so far in his pro career, showed an ability to adjust his own style to counteract and overcome every single style he has faced in the ring. That’s what makes Terence Crawford such a daunting proposition for anyone who fights him. It’s also what makes the fact he has still not fought Errol Spence so depressing.

A late stoppage of David Avanesyan won’t tell us anything we don’t already know about Crawford, nor do much for his career. But it seems nevertheless the likeliest outcome this weekend.

On the Omaha undercard, Philadelphia-based Ukrainian Arnold Khegai, 18-1-1 (11), fights Mexican Eduardo Baez, 21-3-2 (7), over 10 rounds at featherweight, while the unbeaten Steven Nelson, 17-0 (14), meets fellow American James Ballard, 10-4 (3), over eight at light-heavyweight.



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