Bob Arum has been doing a fine job making the case for Terence Crawford’s greatness this week, which is just as well as the WBO welterweight champion is not someone who likes to make too much of a noise.
Crawford defends his world title against Amir Khan on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York. It’s a big arena, with a lot of tickets to sell, while the bout is being screened on pay-per-view television on both sides of the Atlantic. That is a combination that sends most boxers into a frenzied sales pitch, but Crawford declared midway through fight week that he was not doing any more interviews. So, into the void strode his veteran promoter.
At 87, Arum has seen more big fights than most and in full flow he is seldom more than a couple of sentences away from pointing out that he promoted Muhammad Ali. The boxer Arum likes to compare Crawford to is Sugar Ray Leonard. It’s a flattering comparison, although not one really borne out by the facts.
There is little doubting the talent of the 31-year-old American. He has won world titles at three weights, including all four main belts at super-lightweight. But he is lacking huge names on his record. If he beats Khan, something he is a massive favourite to do, it could be counted as the biggest win of his career.
“I just want people to respect me for my talent, the skills I have and my willingness to face anybody,” Crawford said. “I was putting on pressure for years for a [Manny] Pacquiao fight, but it never happened.”
Crawford hails from Omaha, the largest city in Nebraska, a state slap bang in the middle of the United States best known for farming and far from boxing’s well beaten track.
Growing up he did not get much support at home. He excelled at boxing but that did not keep him out of trouble – 11 years ago he was shot just below his ear, the bullet ricocheting off the side of his head as he sat in a car counting his winnings after a game of craps.
Crawford may not always be keen on talking about it, but he has had to fight for everything he has, something he does not always believe Khan has had to do.
“Amir Khan is a great fighter, I have a lot of respect for him,” Crawford said. “He got a bigger following turning pro off the Olympics than I had. He got more opportunities than I had.
“I cherish it more because I didn’t have it. He was pampered, he had it when he turned pro. There wasn’t anything to keep him with that hunger and drive you need compared to me, I had to do it from the ground up.
“I had to fight those type of fights which were high risk, low reward and at the start, I never could get the fights I really wanted.”
Arum, though, believes that Crawford will one day get the recognition that his talent deserves. He rates him as one of the two best pound-for-pound boxers in the world along with Vasiliy Lomachenko, the brilliant Ukrainian world lightweight champion, whom Arum also promotes.
He refuses, however, to say who is the best. “It’s like asking a father who is the better of his two children,” Arum said.
Amir Khan challenges undefeated Terence Crawford for the WBO World Welterweight belt, live on BT Sport Box Office, Saturday 20th April. For more information go to www.bt.com/btsportboxoffice.