In the wake of Floyd Mayweather’s retirement, boxing’s top dogs are all getting a chance to make a grab for the top pound-for-pound spot.
Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, the little terror who automatically ascended to the number one spot on several lists, made a rather emphatic case for staying there on Saturday night. He battered a tougher-than-hell Brian Viloria around the ring before the referee mercifully stopped the fight in the 9th round.
Gennady Golovkin followed, and the Kazakh killer silenced the ridiculous “he can’t box” crowd by effectively neutering David Lemieux in a vicious, brilliant performance on HBO Pay-Per-View.
For those who didn’t see the aforementioned fights, HBO will be re-airing the bouts on Saturday night. But directly after that, we’ll get to see another excellent fighter, one who has been hovering in or around the top 10 fighters in boxing for a couple of years. Terence Crawford will fight Dierry Jean in a junior welterweight bout in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, where he regularly packs the house.
If he’s not already in the top 10 on some lists, it’s because he lacks an elite name on his resume. But he absolutely passes the “eye test,” that is, he sure as hell looks like the goods. And he’s next up to bat.
He was a blip on the radar until he fought Yuriorkis Gamboa last summer. The two fighters engaged in a fantastic scrap until Crawford decked and finished Gamboa off with a 9th round technical knockout. He followed that up with a lopsided win over Ray Beltran before exiting the lightweight division.
His first fight at junior welterweight was against Thomas Dulorme this past April. Crawford started slowly before hammering Dulorme into the canvas in the 6th. He’s like a running back with home run speed. He might get bottled up sometimes, but he can explode and ruin you in seconds. His promoter, Top Rank, knows they have a star on their hands, and they’re moving him along accordingly.
Dierry Jean gave a good showing when he lost a unanimous decision to Lamont Peterson early last year. Since then, he’s rattled off four straight wins. He’s a solid, if unspectacular fighter. Crawford doesn’t want to look solid and unspectacular against him. He wants to bash him all over the ring. He’s certainly skilled enough to do so. He switches seamlessly from orthodox to southpaw, throws every punch well, and has the hand speed and power to bother anybody in the 140 lb. division.
This is not the time to go all 12-round-decision on us. It’s knockout time. Crawford needs to prove what many of us believe — that he’s among the very best in the world. But there’s more on the line than just that.
There’s this guy, Manny Pacquiao. He’s pretty good. He’s also looking for an opponent. He wants Floyd Mayweather again, but Mayweather is on an island somewhere wearing weird pants. There was talk of a possible battle with Lucas Matthysse, but Matthysse ran into a freakishly tall Ukrainian. Then of course, there’s Amir Khan, who demands fights he doesn’t deserve while administering deadlines that nobody adheres to. The point is, Pacquiao needs a fight. Crawford has a chance, not only to boost his standing, but to be Pac Man’s next dance partner. Giving Dierry Jean a little Hulk-Smash treatment would go a long way towards getting there.
Crawford already has quite a bit going for him. He has proven that he can deliver a raucous crowd. He’s extremely fun to watch, and his talents are obvious. Plus, he seems to have that little extra something — the thing that separates the great from the good. Golovkin has it. Gonzalez has it. Certainly, Pacquiao has it in abundance.
Crawford doesn’t own a win over a top-level fighter, but he doesn’t give the impression that he’s simply a frontrunner who will fade when facing the best. He looks like he’s one of them. He’s now got the perfect opportunity to prove it.
Mayweather’s departure left the top spot in boxing open, and Pacquiao will soon be following him out the door. Crawford would like nothing more than to be the one slamming it in the Filipino’s face, and representing the new blood near the top of the list. His turn starts Saturday night, and after seeing how Golovkin and Gonzalez looked, the bar is pretty goddamn high.
Let’s see if he can hurdle it.
Some Random Notes From This Past Weekend:
Referee Steve Willis’ facial expressions make it seem like he’s alone in the dark watching a snuff film. I was bothered by his waving the Golovkin/Lemieux fight off until a second angle showed Lemieux looking Willis’ way after a brutal body shot landed. He wanted out.
As for the Gonzalez/Viloria stoppage, I mentioned this on twitter, but I generally don’t complain about a stoppage if the fighter doesn’t. Viloria did not.
I react the same way when the wife turns on Taylor Swift.
Sergey Kovalev was ringside for Golovkin vs. Lemieux, and it was glorious to see that every single time the HBO cameras turned in his direction, he wore the scowl of a man mere seconds away from bludgeoning some poor soul. They should pay him to be at every fight, and his job should be to stare menacingly at all three judges.
Luis Ortiz is a gigantic beast man. He might be up there in age, but he’s a vicious puncher who would probably be a fun test for Deontay Wilder. Too bad Al Haymon, Wilder’s advisor, won’t let him anywhere near “King Kong”.
Gennady Golovkin is obviously an affable guy. He’s generally all smiles during an interviews. He’s respectful of other fighters, and he doesn’t trash talk. But this man is purely murderous inside the ropes. That point couldn’t have been emphasized any further than when he wailed on Lemieux with a right hand after Lemieux took a knee. It was late, but Golovkin smelled blood. That is a bad, bad man, no matter how many times he says “I love my people!”
Roy Jones Jr. couldn’t figure out Eamon O’Kane from Patrick Kane, but he provided one of the night’s highlights when he announced that he’d have been “thrown out of boxing” for the late hit Golovkin landed on Lemieux. It’s been nearly 20 years, and he’s still furious about Montell Griffin…
David Lemieux may not be an elite boxer, but he’s got stones and he punches like a mule. I’d love to see him battle it out with Andy Lee. That’s a fight written in blood.
The Andrzej Fonfara’s win over Nathan Cleverly on “Premier Broadcast Champions” was absolutely fantastic. Might end up being fight of the year. Let’s see it again…
(Image credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)