Viktor Postol: Again the underdog
Viktor Postol, the defending WBC junior welterweight titlist, finds himself in a familiar role this Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas when he faces WBO beltholder Terence Crawford. As he was last fall when he faced Lucas Matthysse, Postol comes in as the betting underdog against a well-known fighter.
Postol is listed as high as 6-to-1 on some books. (And to put that into perspective, he’s actually a bigger ‘dog on the money line than IBF welterweight titlist Kell Brook is against IBF/WBA/WBC middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin on Sept. 10.)
“The Iceman” is going from the frying pan into the fire.
He wouldn’t have it any other way and, quite frankly, he may have not had any other choice.
“My main goal was to have a big unification fight and there’s not that many options and this is definitely the fight that I wanted,” he said through his manager Vadim Kornilov a few weeks ago at the Wild Card Boxing Club after his day’s training had concluded. “What else can you ask for after knocking out one of the best fighters in the business?”
Well, how about the obligatory soft first title defense that many other first-time champions get?
Kornilov admits that, while Crawford is the fight they targeted, “I was hoping to get something in-between so Viktor could enjoy his reign as a champion and get a defense. We’re going from one tough fight to another. It’s a little bit difficult but it’s what he wanted. He wanted to fight Crawford even before he fought Matthysse.”
But this is a refreshing change for boxing, in one sense – here is an important fight that isn’t being marinated. In fact, it was downright microwaved. It certainly is going against the norms of the modern-day boxing business.
“I think the right way for a world champion is the way the organizations have it with the sanctioning rules. A champion should have a mandatory and then enjoy a fight that’s a bit easier,” opined Kornilov. “That’s what I was hoping to do: Enjoy one fight and then take on Crawford as a mandatory-type fight. It’s a fight against a guy who’s never lost but, at the end of the day, Viktor was on the same page as me. He actually wanted the biggest fights out there. So I think he’s getting exactly what he wants and usually that’s a good sign.”
The reality is Postol, an analytical boxer, isn’t the type a network will make an investment in like Gennady Golovkin or Sergey Kovalev. In this fight, he is the clear B-side (and you may have heard this is on pay-per-view).
Perhaps he really had no other choice but to take this difficult assignment.
(And one reason – other than his belt – Postol landed this opportunity was he, like Crawford, was also under the Top Rank banner. When Bob Arum was asked why fights of this nature don’t occur more often, he admitted, “A lot of it is that a promoter doesn’t have both ends of the match. So it’s two promoters and they joust. It looks like it’s a battle between two promoters rather than fighters. So fights don’t get made. It’s easier, clearly when both top-level fighters fight for the same promoter.”)
Postol admits Crawford is the best boxer he’s faced thus far, “Yes, he’s a world champion; he’s rated number one in BoxRec’s ratings (globally and in the United States at 140 pounds). Some people say he’s, pound-for-pound, one of the best fighters. So he definitely has those qualities but, on that night, I’ll be there to prove that I’m better.” However the tall and wiry Ukrainian brings a set of problems to Crawford, such as being 5-foot-11 – a full three inches taller than Omaha’s finest. “I think he’ll be uncomfortable in the fight with me because I don’t think he’s fought guys like me,” stated Postol.
And of course, Crawford has a varied attack that can come from both the orthodox and southpaw stances. But Postol pointed out, “I’ve fought guys that switched. I’ve fought left-handers and right-handed fighters, so I have experience with both. I don’t think, for me, it’s going to be a problem.”
If guys like Golovkin and Kovalev are sledgehammers, Postol is more of a scalpel, one who picks and probes carefully. His style is based on spacing and controlling distance from the outside. He’s more effective than exciting inside the squared circle. If you’re expecting an outright slugfest on Saturday night, well, the undercard bout between Francisco Santana and Jose Benavidez Jr. is your cup of tea. Crawford-Postol figures to be much more of a chess match.
“The smartest fighter is going to win. I think the guy with the best game plan is going to win and we’re working on it every day,” says a confident Freddie Roach, who is undaunted by the fact that his charge is a 6-1 underdog. “My guy’s very patient, a good boxer; I think he’s got all the tools to beat (Crawford) and we just have to use our tools currently.”
Crawford is being groomed for stardom by Top Rank Promotions (and, by extension, HBO) but Postol isn’t the type of opponent who will cooperate, given his style and pedigree. Just ask Matthysse.
“My guy is a boxer and we will out-box Crawford,” stated Roach, who believes his fighter’s long frame will absolutely be a factor. “His size is good; we have a reach advantage. Crawford’s a little bit faster with his footwork but that can be overcome by controlling the footwork.”
That said, will a fight eventually break out on Saturday night, at some point?
“I don’t even know. It’s hard to say but I know (Crawford) has zero losses; I have zero losses and I think each one of us wants to win really bad. We both have a lot of desire. I think that this fight is a real fight,” says Postol.
Doug Fischer, Michael Montero and I discuss Crawford-Postol on this edition of “10 Count”:
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