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Hunter says Khan will need a lot of “luck” to beat Crawford

Amir Khan Terence Crawford

By Chris Williams: Amir Khan’s trainer Virgil Hunter fully understands what he’s up against in facing unbeaten #2 pound-for-pound fighter Terence Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) for his WBO welterweight title on April 20 on ESPN PPV at Madison Square Garden in New York. Hunter sees Khan’s chances of winning coming down to “Luck and a prayer,” in speaking to Fighthype. Hunter wants to do the best he can to prepare the 32-year-old Khan for what he’ll be dealing with in facing the highly talented Crawford, but he still sees it as a tough fight.

Unlike in all of his previous fights, Khan won’t have the speed advantage in terms of hand speed. Hunter sees Crawford as having similar speed as Khan except for in the combination department. Hunter rates Khan as having better speed than Crawford in throwing combinations, but he also feels it could be risky for Amir to try and puts his shots together due to the counter punching ability of Terence.

Hunter said this about Khan’s chances of beating Crawford on April 20:

“I don’t think Khan would take a fight unless he’s coming to win. Of course, it’s a huge mountain to overcome. No doubt, it’s a tough fight. He accepts that. So you make the best preparation you can, and hope it’s your night,” Hunter said.

If Khan’s punch resistance doesn’t give him problems in this fight, he’s got a reasonable shot at unseating the 31-year-old Terence, who didn’t look that good in his last fight at welterweight in beating the tall, gimpy-kneed Jose Benavidez Jr. four months ago on October 13 at the CHI Health Center, in Omaha, Nebraska.

Crawford looked considerably slower in his last fight than he had when he was fighting at light welterweight. The hand speed and the stamina seemed to take a big hit with Crawford. He looked tired much of the fight, even though Benavidez wasn’t putting a lot of pressure on him. Benavidez stuck around a lot longer than the over-matched guys that Top Rank had been feeding Crawford at light welterweight. That’s probably the biggest reason Crawford looked tired from the 8th round on against Benavidez. Top Rank had been matching Crawford against guys that limited talent like John Molina Jr., Felix Diaz, Julius Indongo, Dierry Jean, Thomas Dulorme and Viktor Postol. Crawford wasn’t fighting the guys that would have put him under the gun like Regis Prograis, Jose Ramirez, Maurice Hooker, Josh Taylor and Ivan Baranchyk.

Khan, 5’8 1/2″, will have a slight height advantage over the 5’8″ Crawford in this fight, and he’ll likely outweigh him. Crawford looked rail thin against Benavidez. That weight is going to have to go up for Crawford to be able to contend with someone like Errol Spence Jr. in the future, although that fight has pretty much zero chance of ever happening due to the two of them being on different networks. If Khan can take the fight to Crawford, force him to work hard in every round, and not let him especape to the outside for his rest breaks, then he has a chance of wearing him down. Crawford’s punches didn’t look very powerful due to fatigue that had et in. When Crawford did throw punches, he was slow and very hittable, but he was facing a poor welterweight and not one of talented ones. Benavidez looked like he didn’t belong fighting in a world championship fight. Top Rank has kept Benavidez around all these years, but he’s basically a guy that was beaten by journeyman Mauricio Herrera in 2014, and was given a gift decision over him. The rest of the guys Benavidez has fought have been journeyman. He got the title shot against Crawford due to him being with Top Rank, not because he had earned it. Had Top Rank put Benavidez in with a good fighter or even a bottom feeder at 147, he likely would have lost. Khan is a much better fighter than Benavidez on every level. If Crawford can’t hurt Khan, he’s going to be in trouble. This fight could go either way if Khan’s chin doesn’t betray him and if he doesn’t fade after six rounds. Khan will need to stay loose for him to be able to continue to fight at a fast pace in the second half of the contest. Khan was knocked out in the 6th round by Saul Canelo Alvarez in 2016, but that was against a guy with speed, power and a huge weight advantage over him. Crawford doesn’t possess Canelo’s hand speed, power or weight. Canelo is a much faster guy than Crawford. Canelo does have slow feet, but the hand speed is much better than Crawford, who looks very slow now that he’s fighting at welterweight. Khan will have the speed advantage for sure in this fight. Hunter might not want to admit it, but that’s the reality. Hunter’s memory of Crawford might be from early days when he was fighting at lightweight, but he wasn’t even fast back then. Yuriorkis Gamboa made Crawford look slow in their fight in 2014.

“I think maybe in combinations he does,” Hunter said about Khan having better hand speed than Crawford. “I think if you narrow it down to one punch at a time, I think it’s even across the board. Crawford has good reflexes and good timing, and that’s critical. He reacts quick. So that’s definitely an antidote to the fast hands,” Hunter said.

Khan has the faster hand speed, period. He just doesn’t have the punch resistance that Crawford has. We don’t know ho good Crawford’s punch resistance is because he’s not faced anyone talented or powerful enough to land a lot of shots on his chin. What we do know is Crawford doesn’t look good when he takes a head shot. His head snaps violently, as if he doesn’t have the neck muscles to keep his head from ricocheting when he’s hit hard or even moderately hard. It’s easy for a fighter to look good when they’re matched carefully against guys like Dierry Jean, Molina Jr., Postol, Indongo, Jeff Horn, Benavidez, Henry Lundy, Felix Diaz, Thomas Dulorme, Raymundo Beltran, Ricky Burns and Gamboa. Those are ALL the fighters that Crawford has faced in the last give years of his career. You can argue that Khan would have a good chance of beating all of those guys, and those are the best fighters that Crawford has faded during his 11-year pro career. So we really don’t know how good or not so good Crawford is. We know Crawford can beat the above guys, but so pretty much all the top light welterweights in boxing today. Regis Prograis, Josh Taylor, Jose Ramirez and Ivan Baranchyk would likely sweep through all of those guys without any problems and look good in doing so. Crawford might be just smoke and mirrors, a product of careful planning and matching by his promoters at Top Rank. Khan could be the guy that bursts the Crawford bubble.

“That’s what I’m planning on working on. That’s the plan, to bring in sparring partners that fight on both sides,” Hunter said in saying that he plans on having Khan work on sparring with fighters that can fight in the right or the left-handed stance in order to prepare him for Crawford’s switch-hitting style of fighting. “Of course, you’re not going to be able to simulate Crawford to a tee. Crawford has the instincts when to pull off a shot, and when not to overdo it. He’s proven that his timing is impeccable. He’s a force to be dealt with,” Hunter said.

Crawford is a much better fighter when he’s fighting out of the orthodox stance than when he turns southpaw. Crawford looks great when fighting southpaw, because he’s been facing mediocre opposition that lacked the talent to hit him with overhand rights each time he would switch to the left-handed stance.

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