American Terence Crawford, pictured, is in Josh Taylor’s sights
There were 40 lbs separating Terence Crawford and Shawn Porter when they first met as teenage amateurs with big dreams and even bigger potential the best part of two decades ago.
There was never any possibility that the two would meet back then as the 125lb bantamweight Crawford and the 165lb middleweight from Ohio hit it off.
They would play basketball and hang around at the mall during their time together on the US amateur team, where Porter’s father Kenny was also a coach. For context it was not long after the youngsters met when the short, stocky Porter beat the current world heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk in a vest and headguard.
“Me and Shawn been knowing each other since we were kids,” Crawford says. “We used to talk on the phone, I went down there and played basketball with him. I feel like I know him.
“But we have never been in the ring together.”
That will change on Saturday night when they put their longstanding friendship aside to collide at the Mandalay Bay Hotel at the southern end of the Las Vegas strip. They have both been painfully inactive but it remains one of the best possible fights at welterweight.
Crawford is the WBO champion while Porter, now 34, is a former holder of the WBC and IBF belts. It is without questions elite against elite at 147 lbs.
“Looking from the outside it’s easy to say what somebody is going to do or how they’re going to do it,” Crawford adds. “But at the end of the day we’ve still got to fight the fight. It’s not like we used to spar or whatnot, this will be the first time for both of us.
Shawn Porter speaks with the media
“We met when I was like 15 or 16, he was at 165 lbs at that time and I was at 125 lbs when I first met him. It would have been in the junior Olympics for the first time and we were on the USA team together. I never thought we’d end up boxing because of the difference in weight. We were so far apart.”
As it happens, this is Porter’s first fight for 14 months and Crawford’s first for a year and a week. The switch-hitter from Omaha, who has won world titles in three weight classes, was once part of the discussion as the potential pound-for-pound No 1.
But in the year since his last outing, Canelo Alvarez, for instance, has won all four belts at super-middleweight. Meanwhile the aforementioned Usyk became world heavyweight champion. Crawford is not a forgotten man but has certainly been out of sight, out of mind.
“It gets frustrating but at the same time it happens,” Crawford said when asked about the lengthy wait for this outing.
Errol Spence Jr was pushed hard by Shawn Porter
“That’s part of boxing and I have no control over it. I just need to do what I do and that’s be ready when it’s time to be ready. That’s why you spar and put the work in when you’re in the gym. So when you go out there you’re as sharp as possible.
“I’m always in the gym. The whole time Covid was going on, I was in the gym working out, getting that peace of mind and doing things that I love to do the most.
“Pound-for-pound… that’s all just opinions. The list changes every month, every other fight. It’s nothing that’s in my control, all I can do is fight the people in front of me and keep looking spectacular and defeating them.”
However, during his career at welterweight, Crawford has often struggled to get the right people in front of him. Due to his affiliation with the promoters Top Rank, he has been unable to secure fights with opponents from the so-called ‘other side of the street’, Al Haymon’s PBC stable.
But this fight with Porter, a Haymon guy, represents a major breakthrough for Crawford, who still craves a mega-money unification clash with WBC and IBF champion Errol Spence Jr, with whom he has vied for the status of best welterweight of this generation.
When asked about the chances of finally securing a fight with Spence, Crawford said: “You know right now I’m past the point of caring.
“My main focus is Shawn Porter and this is a big fight in front of me. We’re here and we will seize the moment. It’s a break through moment with me fighting one of the top PBC guys.
“Shawn can box, he can brawl, he can bang, he can be rough in there. He’s strong, he’s fast, he got good head movement and footwork. That will pose a lot of threats in the ring.
“This is one of the biggest fights of my career to date. I think I need to be on my A-game each and every time I step in the ring, not just for Shawn Porter.
“I want to be remembered as one of the greats – one of the ones that was on top and set a perfect example for the next group coming up behind me. I want them to look up and say: ‘Oh man, Terence Crawford was one of those great fighters’.
“How long have I got left? I don’t know. We shall see.”
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