For Terence Crawford and Amir Khan, Saturday’s fight in New York is all about grasping an opportunity that has been presented to them.
A world title is involved in the main event at Madison Square Garden, but the WBO welterweight belt is not the only thing on the line. Both fighters have much to gain in terms of their reputations too, with victory crucial to their future plans.
Once again, Khan is in a situation where he is backing his boxing abilities to pull off an upset. A similar gamble backfired spectacularly when he previously took on Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez – it is just under three years since he suffered that heavy knockout against the Mexican after making the dangerous leap up to middleweight.
Nothing that has happened since that defeat suggests Khan is acting in anything but blind faith in agreeing to this next challenge, even if he should feel far more comfortable campaigning at welterweight this time around. Indeed, he even tipped the scales slightly heavier than his foe.
For Crawford, however, it is about making a statement. The American must know winning is not enough – if you want to be considered the best around, at any weight, there is always the added pressure of doing it in style.
His resume is already impressive; Crawford is 34-0 and a world champion at three different weights, having previously reigned at 135 and 140 pounds. He had few problems when stepping up to 147 last year, stopping Jeff Horn to seize the WBO strap from the Australian.
"I thought I was going to have the advantage over him – I thought I was going to be able to probably bully him a bit more than I was able to," Horn – who had sensationally defeated Manny Pacquiao on points the previous year – told Omnisport.
"He just boxed very well on the back foot and was able to counter me. He knew I had to rush in because I was fighting in his home territory. The crowd were going to be on his side so I knew I was going to have to kind of force the fight.
"Because he's such a good counter fighter, that played straight into his hands. I was losing rounds left, right and centre against him.
"He was able to stand just out of range and pick his shots very well. He's a good boxer in that way and because I wasn't moving off the centre, he was able to pick me off quite comfortably, especially to the body. When he did that, it got me to stop moving, so then he worked my head after that."
Horn's aggressive approach failed to pay off. So, too, did Jose Benavidez Jr's attempts to rile Crawford in the build-up to their bout last October. The champion missed with a right hand when the pair clashed at the weigh-in, but was on target regularly when they met again in the ring, making his rival pay for his pre-fight trash-talking.
At light-welterweight, the Nebraska native knocked out Julius Indongo in a hurry and outclassed Viktor Postol over 12 rounds. Previously, he had recorded wins over Yuriorkis Gamboa, Raymundo Beltran and Ricky Burns in the lightweight division.
His precision punching – whether on the front foot or as counter measures – means those facing him have to pick their poison. So far, no-one has found an antidote.
Khan has impressive hand speed but, as has been the case throughout a career that has perhaps not quite reached the heights expected when he turned pro as a teenager, too often gets caught. When that happens, his natural desire not to take a backward step takes over, often leading him down a boxing dead end.
As someone who has experienced how dangerous Crawford can be against an aggressor, Horn fears the Brit has "bitten off more than he can chew" this weekend.
"I think Amir Khan is a very good boxer and has extremely fast hands as well," he replied when pushed for a prediction.
"It's going to be interesting for a while to see in that fight how Amir's boxing ability works up against Crawford. I don't know if Crawford's power is going to be too much for Khan when it gets into the later rounds, though."
Crawford's fight is sandwiched in between outings for two of his main pound-for-pound rivals. Canelo gets to state his case when he faces Daniel Jacobs on May 4, but Vasyl Lomachenko already laid down an impressive marker by clinically dismantling Anthony Crolla earlier in April.
Now, though, the spotlight is on Crawford. The 31-year-old gets to state his case in the New York spotlight - and an aggressive, risk-taker in Khan may well be the ideal opponent to show off his skills once again.
24 de mayo 2019
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