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Khan: ‘Crawford making mistake talking Spence fight’

Amir Khan Errol Spence Jr Terence Crawford

By Trevor McIntyre: Amir Khan sees Terence Crawford as making a huge mistake of thinking of making a fight against IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. next instead of focusing on their April 20 fight. Khan (33-4, 20 KOs) says he’s not just another one of Crawford’s typical opponents that he faces. He’s coming to win next month and take his WBO welterweight title from him.

Khan has a real chance of winning this fight, because Crawford hasn’t been put in with fighters that had anywhere close to the same talent or pedigree as him. If you wipe away the soft opposition from Crawford’s resume, you’re left with just Viktor Postol as the only somewhat talented fighter that he’s faced. However, Postol isn’t a major player at 140. He’s just another one of the contenders.

The 31-year-old Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) will be defending his WBO 147 lb title in the biggest fight of his career against former IBF/WBA light welterweight champion Khan, 32, on ESPN pay-per-view at Madison Square Garden in New York. Compared to some of the fighters that Crawford has been facing in the last five years, 2004 Olympic silver medalist Khan stands head and shoulders above them. Crawford has cruised through the first 34 opponents he’s faced since turning pro in 2008, but the perception by the boxing public is that he’s been spoon-fed beatable opposition by his promoters at Top Rank for those 11 years.

In looking at Crawford’s resume, there’s no one that stands out among that them that you could call the best or even close to the best in any of the weight classes he’s fought in. Khan is another example of Crawford facing less than the best, but he’s still considered better than the fighters that the Nebraska native has been padding his record against since 2008. Crawford could be another Mikey Garcia, a fighter with a lot of wins over weak opposition, who was exposed when he finally fought a good opponent in Errol Spence.

“I’m not just a number, when I turn it on I turn it on,” Khan said to the “I know I haven’t looked my best in my previous fights but that’s because I belong at the level above. If Crawford is talking about the Spence fight and he’s overlooking me then he’s in for a big shock,” Khan said.

It’s in Crawford’s best interest to try and make the fight with Spence, 29, as soon as possible before he gets much older. Unlike Spence, Crawford’s game is based on his hand and foot speed, as well as his reflexes to counter his opponents. Once Crawford starts losing speed, he’s going to be vulnerable against all the top welterweights in the division, not just against Spence. But if Top Rank is going to continue to match Crawford carefully by putting him against selective opposition that has been well vetted as deemed as beatable by him, then he might be able to take his unbeaten streak a lot longer. Ideally, to take advantage of what’s left of Crawford’s youth, Top Rank needs to make the fight with Spence now rather than later. Even if Crawford loses the fight, he might perform well enough to gain some fans that never heard of him and/or paid much attention to his fights due to the less than impressive opposition that Top Rank has been feeding him all these years.

Crawford’s promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank Boxing says he’s interested in putting together a unification fight between Terence and Spence in his next fight after he deals with Khan. Arum thinks it’ll be an easy task of putting that fight together once he sits down with Spence’s adviser Al Haymon of Premier Boxing Champions. Whether Arum is just talking to get attention from the fans on the Crawford vs. Khan fight on April 20 is unknown. That would be a smart tactic from the American promoter Arum to talk up a potential fight between Crawford and Spence right now in order to drive up the interest in the Crawford-Khan fight on ESPN PPV, which needs as much attention as possible right now.

“I’m coming to win this fight,” Khan said. “I’m a fully-fledged welterweight who hits hard. My skills will win me this fight, not my size or my power. My IQ will win this one.”

Khan believes he’s going to do the same thing to Crawford that Errol Spence Jr. did in using his boxing skills to out-box Mikey Garcia in their fight this month on March 16. That fight wasn’t one on the size of Spence. It was won with his exceptional skills.

The hardcore boxing fans see the Crawford vs. Khan fight as a mismatch, and a money grab by putting a likely non-competitive fight on ESPN pay-per-view rather than on regular ESPN. The casual fans aren’t paying attention to the Crawford-Khan fight, because they’re not familiar with either of these two guys. Despite having unified the light welterweight division, and captured world titles in three weight classes, Crawford has failed to establish him as a star. He’s popular in his home state of Nebraska, but he’s been unable to cross over to the fans elsewhere.

One problem obviously has been opposition that Top Rank has matched Crawford against. When you’re building up a guy to make sure he stays unbeaten, you’re going to put them in with a lot of fluff opponents, which is what has happened with Crawford. We’ve seen Crawford fight the likes of John Molina Jr., Dierry Jean, Felix Diaz, Viktor Postol, Raymundo Beltran, Hank Lundy, Jose Benavidez Jr. and Jeff Horn. The lack of talent that Crawford has been matched against has kept him from becoming a big name. Additionally, Crawford isn’t a banger. His style is more of a counter puncher, switch hitter, and a mover. It’s not the type of style that wins over a lot of boxing fans. Arum has been comparing Crawford lately to Sugar Ray Leonard, but that’s not a good comparison. In the past, Arum compared Crawford to Floyd Mayweather Jr., who fights in a much different manner with a lot more hand speed.

Crawford focusing on Spence is a big mistake, and he could pay for it on April 20 with Khan exposing him in front of the world by giving him a boxing lesson and showing that he’s just another fighter that was fed weak opposition throughout his career to make him look better than he is.

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