No BS: Terence Crawford stops Felix Diaz but Manny Pacquiao is on his mind
NEW YORK CITY – Brian McIntyre sauntered toward the exits with a damp towel slung over his neck and a water bucket in hand. His team had long bolted for the locker room, along with the 8,000-plus Madison Square Garden spectators, who beat a path for the exits. Wide-eyed but perhaps feeling the effects of an adrenaline crash, McIntyre was chewing on a handful of Haribo gummy bears that he swiped a few minutes earlier from the reporters’ table, where the night’s promoter, Top Rank’s Bob Arum, in irate form, was fielding questions about his company’s relationship with HBO. McIntyre, uninterested in the business claptrap, quietly slipped away as he surveyed the rafters above him, in awe, perhaps to have his name connected in some small way to an arena linked with prizefighting aristocracy. “I feel good; right now, I feel real good,” he said when asked for his thoughts, “but I was nervous as shit.”
In what’s become a matter of routine, WBC/WBO junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford picked apart Felix Diaz with relative ease and efficiency. Crawford smiled and strutted his way to a 10th round TKO in boxing’s most fabled venue after Diaz’s corner waived off the fight after the 10th. A late stoppage is what we’ve come to expect from Crawford, an elite fighter in one of boxing’s weaker divisions, though any feelings of nervousness from a spectator’s standpoint will likely require Crawford to move up to welterweight to face men naturally bigger than him. Truth be told, these recent outings are blurring into banality.
Early on, Diaz, a southpaw with shortages in height and reach, showed more moxie than most of Crawford’s recent competitors by forgoing any attempts to box. Hurling himself into Crawford with looping right hooks, Diaz managed to surprise the Nebraskan when he landed a few of them cleanly on the chin, though none of them did any significant damage. Crawford, typically methodical in the early goings of a fight, fluttered around the ring, pecked with the jab from the southpaw stance (from which he began the fight) and circled away to the right whenever Diaz came bulldozing in.
The Dominican’s efforts – like all game efforts against Crawford – were short-lived. What distinguishes Crawford from his B-fare opponents isn’t so much that he knows what he needs to employ against a certain opponent but that he can execute any plan to a tee. By the time the fifth round rolled around, Crawford had unleashed his left uppercut – the ideal punch to use to catch a short fighter with a high guard coming in – landing it with regularity and sometimes pairing it with the right hook. With deficits in nearly every category, Diaz, nobody’s definition of a banger, began wilting from all the clean counter-punches to the head and eventually found himself in that undesirable position of being unsure where to put his hands: put them up too high and get clipped by an uppercut; put them down too low and get clocked by a straight left and right hook. Such is the predicament that a thinking fighter with bad intentions can issue to his opponent. Crawford, like Sergey Kovalev and unlike Saul Alvarez, who could not put away a weight-drained Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. earlier this month, enjoys the hurt he inflicts on the other man. This is a refreshing quality in an era besotted with milquetoast ring performances.
There are only two tangible challenges left in the 140-pound division for Crawford: a unification showdown with Julius Indongo, the IBF and WBA champion, or a showdown with WBO welterweight titlist (and eight-division champion) Manny Pacquiao. Aside from seeing the rare chance of a full unified champion in one weight class, there’s little that is palatable about a matchup with Indongo. So then, that leaves Pacquiao, whose late career renaissance – or circus act, if you like – has been greeted with more than its fair share of ambivalence. Still, how many of the top 140 or 147-pounders in the world would come out on top against the Manila congressman? Team Crawford has been less than adamant about that fight in the past but McIntyre reiterated Crawford’s post-fight remarks in the ring: “We want Pacquiao, man; we definitely want Pacquiao. It’s just time to go to work.”
The window to get the two into a ring is dwindling but if Pacquiao, 38, can be persuaded to face Crawford, you’ll have what amounts to a first-rate matchup, however belated it might be. It’s worth noting that Pacquiao is not the financial bonanza he once was. Last November, HBO saw it fit to pass on a pay-per-view featuring Pacquiao against Jessie Vargas. In a couple of months, Pacquiao will fight once more off the HBO airwaves against Australian contender Jeff Horn way down yonder in Brisbane. If Pacquiao-Crawford can be made, it will be made, Arum insists, on its own terms, only as a fight that economically “does justice to both guys.” Any “changing of the guard,” Arum continued, cranky as anyone has seen him in a long time, is “just bullshit, fake news.” The fight won’t have the level of stakes and uncertainty that accompanied the heavyweight showdown in April between rising star IBF/WBA heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua and aging Wladimir Klitschko but one reckons it will be just as fun – and that is not bullshit at all.