When Terence Crawford defends his WBO lightweight title Saturday, he’ll do so in front of a sizeable hometown contingent who will cheer him on against Cuban standout Yuriorkis Gamboa at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.
It is anything other than a “gimme” first defense for Crawford.
“I’m not trying to be a fighter that goes around picking easy fights,” Crawford told RingTV.com. “I’m trying to beat the best to become the best.”
Previously the 26-year-old Omaha resident headed overseas where he wrested the WBO belt from Ricky Burns in Scotland, winning a unanimous decision by scores of 117-111 and 116-112 (twice).
In winning the title, Crawford (23-0, 16 knockouts) became only the second Nebraska-born fighter following Perry Graves who won the welterweight title in 1914.
Top Rank president Bob Arum spoke highly of the event.
“This is a great event, the first big championship boxing event in over 40 years in this wonderful city,” Arum said at the press conference to announce the fight. “Terence Crawford and Yuriorkis Gamboa are considered to be the two best lightweights in the world. We are looking forward to a great action fight.”
Here’s what Crawford had to say when RingTV.com spoke with him over the phone from his training base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, two weeks before the HBO-televised showdown.
Anson Wainwright – What are your thoughts on Gamboa?
Terence Crawford – It’s a great fight. He’s got a big name in the boxing industry. I want his name on my resume, that’s going to be big for me and my career.
AW – When you break him down, what do you see as his strengths and also areas you can exploit?
TC – Everybody knows he’s got speed but I’ve got speed, too. I think I’m going to exploit his defense. Just all around, him rushing you, coming in with his hands down, him pulling out (when in close) with his hands down, all around.
AW – What about his amateur experience?
TC – Amateurs is different from pros. Amateur is amateur, pro is pro. Its two different ball games.
AW – You won the WBO lightweight title back in February when you travelled and outpointed Ricky Burns. Tell us about the trip and experience?
TC – It was a good experience. The people were genuine when I came over there. Everybody embraced me. It was an all-round good experience.
The actual plane we were supposed to get on never showed up so we missed our plane to go to Chicago, so we had to stay in Newark, New Jersey, and we had to leave the next day. It didn’t bother me at all. I was already mentally and physically ready for whatever that came in front of me. That was just an obstacle that was in front of me at the time. We didn’t let it get to us, we just went to the hotel and left in the morning.
I got over there about seven-days before the fight, got situated and just waited on the fight.
AW – Talk us through the Burns fight?
TC – When I got there it was strictly business. We did the same thing we do any other time, coming out, a lot of people were booing but you don’t listen to what they got to say cause they ain’t gonna be in the ring fighting. They’re just trying to put you off your game, so I’m going in there, I’m not thinking about the boos. I’m just thinking about what I’ve got to do to get the job done.
I was always in control, I was always confident I was getting the job done. I was comfortable the whole fight. It didn’t concern me (The fight going the distance), once I heard the first two scorecards, I knew I had it in the bank.
AW – What did it mean when you heard “and NEW WBO lightweight champion”?
TC – It meant a lot. Coming up as a kid that’s all you want to hear, “and the new,” that’s what your dream is, going for the championship and being able to hear those words… “and the new champion of the world” in any division.
AW – How has your life changed since becoming champion?
TC – It hasn’t. I’m still the same guy. I go about my life, doing the same activities. More people come up to me and say “hey champ,” but other than that it hasn’t changed.
AW – The Gamboa fight is in front of your home fans, taking place in Omaha. What does that mean to you?
TC – Oh yeah, it’s gonna be a special night because that’s what everyone has been waiting on, to see me fight live. They haven’t seen me fight since 2006. It’s been a long time.
AW – This is anything but an easy first defense.
TC – Oh yeah, most definitely, like I always say, I’m not in boxing to have fights I know I’m gonna win. You pick the fights that are gonna bring the best out of you. I’m not trying to be a fighter that goes around picking easy fights. I’m trying to beat the best to become the best.
AW – If we look at the lightweight ratings that we have at THE RING, what are your thoughts on each fighter…
1 – Miguel Vazquez – He boxes real well. He’s got good legs, herky jerky type of guy. He likes to move a lot and counter.
2 – Terence Crawford – I feel like I’m one of those guys that can adjust to anything. I’m not one dimensional, I can box, and I can brawl if I got to.
3 – Raymundo Beltran – He’s a good fighter, he’s a slick boxer, comes forward, he likes to roll with the punches, he’s got a nice left hook, lots of skills.
4 – Ricky Burns – He’s a real tough guy, I caught him with some good shots and he took ‘em well. He got hurt but he never gave up, he came to fight.
5 – Kevin Mitchell – I haven’t watched too much of him so I really can’t speak on him.
6 – Daniel Estrada – That’s another one I haven’t seen fight before.
7 – Omar Figueroa – Omar is an exciting fighter, he comes in the ring ready to fight. Every time he steps in the ring it’s gonna be a fight.
8 – Juan Diaz – Everybody knows Juan Diaz is gonna come to fight, he’s gonna come in shape, throw a lot of punches. He’s gonna give the crowd what they want.
9 – Jorge Linares – He’s a real slick fighter, he’s got speed. He’s real talented.
10 – Sharif Bogare – Sharif’s a real good fighter. Actually, me and Sharif used to spar together when I was down there (in Las Vegas) with Kenny Adams when I was signed with TKO (boxing promotions). He’s very underrated as far as skills.
AW – Having become champion, what goals do you have in boxing?
TC – To be the best; become one of the best fighters today. This might be my last fight at 135, then I’m gonna go up to 140 and try to do what I’ve done at 135 at 140. (Junior welterweight) wasn’t a big difference from (lightweight) really, actually I felt stronger at 140 (against Breidis Prescott). I have my handlers pick the opponent and I just fight them. I never call out anyone, I just fight.
AW – What do you like to do away from boxing?
TC – I enjoy playing basketball, fishing, hanging out with my family and my kids.
I’m just cool. I don’t need no big entourage, nobody to tell me I’m good. I believe in myself. I’m just a down to earth type of guy. I’ve been with the same people all my life.
AW – Both you and Gamboa got into it a little at the conclusion of the press conference announcing this fight. What would you say to him now?
TC – There’s nothing to be said. The contracts are signed, June 28 we’re both going to the ring. There’s really nothing to be said but to go in there and do what I’ve got to do to win.