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Ward previews Crawford vs. Khan

Amir Khan Mikey Garcia

By Dan Ambrose: Andre Ward says WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) has a ton of pressure on him this Saturday with him fighting former two-time light welterweight champion Amir Khan (33-4, 20 KOs) on ESPN PPV at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Although Crawford, 31, is the favorite to win the fight, if he looks bad in winning or in losing the fight, then all the critics will come out in force to rip him apart, according to former two division world champion Ward.

The Top Rank promoted Crawford is in a no-win situation in taking on Khan, because the British fighter has been beaten four times in the past, and suffered bad knockout losses to Danny Garcia, Breidis Prescott and Saul Canelo Alvarez. There’s no upside in Crawford fighting a guy with a lot of KO losses like the ones that Khan has suffered. The only thing Crawford can try and accomplish in fighting a fighter like Khan is to impress casual boxing fans, who might not be aware of Khan’s past knockout defeats.

Crawford can impress those types of fans, and he might be able to wow the hardcore fans if he knockouts out Khan faster than Garcia and Canelo Alvarez did. Crawford can’t top what Prescott did in 2008 in stopping a prime Khan in the first round. There’s no way of Crawford doing better than that at this point in Khan’s career. Even if Crawford were to KO Khan with the first punch of the fight, the fans would just say that he beat an older fighter, who was over-the-hill, and no longer in the prime of his career. Despite the fact that Khan, 32, and the 31-year-old Crawford are essentially the same age, they’re far apart in terms of where they’re at with their respective careers. Khan has been fighting part time off and on since 2013, and he’s suffered some bad knockout losses during his career in fighting punchers. Top Rank has been careful with the way they’ve matched Crawford by choosing not to put him in with sluggers other than Breidis Prescott and Yuriorkis Gamboa. Crawford staggered by Gamboa in 2014, but that was the last time Top Rank matched him against a puncher.

“Amir Khan has always been known as a great boxer offensively,” Andre Ward said to Fighthype in discussing Khan’s fight against Terence Crawford this Saturday night on April 20 on ESPN pay-per-view. “His weakness is defensively and having mental lapses, and getting caught with certain types of punches; not just punches, because we all get hit, but certain types of punches that knock you out. Give up a shot here and there, but let it be a grazing shot, nothing flush. That’s going to be his biggest thing, staying focused for the 12 rounds, and executing the game plan,” Ward said.

Despite Khan’s history of being knocked out, his fights are arguably more entertaining to watch than Crawford’s. With Khan, he makes it exciting the entire time with his blazing fast hands, and tendency to throw a lot of speedy combinations. Khan’s occasional chin problems keeps his boxing fans on the edge of their seats in his fights, because they’re never quite certain whether he’s going to get knocked out or his opponents. In contrast, Crawford’s fights are often dull affairs with him fighting on the outside, switching stances needlessly, moving around, taunting his opponents by sticking his tongue out at them, and generally playing it safe.

Although Crawford has a lot of knockouts on his resume, he’s achieved this by mostly fighting against the lesser fighters and not the super talents. For example, Crawford’s two fights at welterweight have come against Jose Benavidez Jr. and Jeff Horn. Those are more fringe level fighters than elite. At 140, Crawford has fought Julius Indongo, John Molina Jr., Hank Lundy, Dierry Jean, Felix Diaz, Thomas Dulorme and Viktor Postol. Crawford doesn’t pick his opponents. That’s Top Rank’s job, but they’ve not put him in harm’s way against fighters with power. That’s what makes the Crawford-Khan fight a hard match to predict. Khan is a step up for Crawford from the fighters that Top Rank has been matching him up against. If Crawford can’t score a knockout in this fight, he’s going to have some real problems, because he’s not as fast as Khan, and not accustomed to getting hit a lot due to the weak match-making that’s been done for him by Top Rank. If all of a sudden Crawford starts getting hit a lot in this fight, he could go to pieces and get stopped.

“He started well with Canelo, but couldn’t sustain it. That’s going to be the same thing with Terence Crawford,” Ward said. “With Crawford, he’s got to continue to look sensational. He can’t fall off, and let Amir come in and have the night of his life, because he’s continuing to try and stake his claim as the best fighter in the world, and to keep looking to get those mega-fights that he’s gunning for; you know, [Keith] Thurman, [Errol] Spence, all the top guys. He can’t falter either. Terence has lots and lots of pressure. If he looks bad, he’s going to have all the naysayers come out of the woodwork, saying, ‘I told you he wasn’t all that.’ He’s got pressure on him from the standpoint of looking great, and not faltering and not showing any weaknesses,” Ward said.

Crawford hasn’t been fighting the type of opposition yet to where him looking good makes a difference. Most of the fights he’s had were arguably showcase fights against guys that aren’t top level. That’s not a knock on Crawford. He’s done the job that he’s supposed to do when he faces fringe level fighters like Horn, Benavidez, Indongo, Molina Jr., Lundy and Dulorme. You’re supposed to look good when you face those types of fighters. It’s just that Crawford has now been a pro for 11 years, and he doesn’t have much to show for it in terms of facing opposition at the elite level. He’s only faced a past his best much smaller Gamboa, and he was getting nailed by the Cuban fighter until he slipped on the canvas and was hit while he was going down by Crawford.

“Amir, he’s fighting for his boxing future, his boxing life. He cannot afford another bad loss,” Ward said.

Khan can afford another loss, contrary to Ward’s opinion. Just by Khan choosing Crawford, he’ll be able to escape a lot of criticism from boxing fans if he loses the fight. Khan has less to lose if he gets beaten than Crawford does. Khan can still fight Kell Brook in a big money fight in the UK no matter how badly he loses the fight.

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