Crawford outclasses Jean, maybe sets up Pacquiao showdown
Terence Crawford had an off-year by his standards. The 28-year-old two-division titleholder, whose impressive 2014 earned him Fighter of the Year accolades from the BWAA, only fought twice this year and against solid but mid-level competition.
However, his second victory of 2015 – a one-sided 10th-round stoppage of Dierry Jean on Saturday in his native Omaha, Nebraska – may have set up a monumental opportunity in 2016, a shot at future Hall-of-Famer Manny Pacquiao.
The day of the Crawford-Jean fight, Crawford’s promoter Bob Arum told ESPN’s Dan Rafael that Pacquiao would fight one more time, on April 9, before hanging up his gloves. Arum said that Crawford was in the running to be Pacquiao’s final opponent and that his HBO-televised bout against Jean, a tough 33-year-old former title challenger from Haiti, would basically serve as an audition for that future pay-per-view event.
It safe to say that Crawford passed the audition with flying colors. The 28-year-old boxer-puncher exhibited his very special blend of skill, technique, versatility and controlled aggression that enabled him to dethrone WBO lightweight beltholder Ricky Burns (in the Scottish star’s native Glasgow), stop unbeaten Cuban phenom Yuriorkis Gamboa and then earn THE RING’s 135-pound title with a dominant decision over top contender Raymundo Beltran last year.
Crawford (27-0, 19 knockouts) began 2015 with his junior welterweight debut, a sixth-round stoppage of Thomas Dulorme that earned him the WBO’s vacant 140-pound belt in April. Crawford looked stronger and sharper than ever at the new weight but significant matchups eluded him.
In Jean (29-2, 20 KOs), a Montreal resident four (lightweight) victories removed from a respectable decision loss to then-IBF junior welterweight Lamont Peterson last January, Crawford faced an athletic and gutsy challenger with quick hands.
In the opening round, Jean tagged Crawford with a right hand that prompted the hometown favorite to switch to the southpaw stance – a move that enabled the Nebraskan to nail Jean with a straight left followed by a right hook that dropped the Canadian right before the bell.
Crawford remained in a left-handed stance for much of the fight, gradually beating up the game-but-outclassed challenger while walking him down and outworking him. Crawford’s blend of defense and offense effectively handcuffed Jean, apart from a few overhand rights landed in Round 6 and 8. Jean, who was dropped again in Round 9, was limited to landing in single digits for most of the rounds, according to CompuBox.
When Crawford, who later said that he wanted to punish Jean because he felt the challenger was disrespectful to him prior to the fight, almost knocked the challenger through the ropes toward the end of Round 10, veteran referee decided to step in and end matters.
Jean could have continued but he shouldn’t have been allowed to. Weeks saw that.
After the fight Crawford said that he had been energized by the crowd of more than 10,000 fans that filled the CenturyLink Center.
“When I’m at home I feel the vibe, the electricity and I just want to go out and put on a show,” Crawford told HBO’s Max Kellerman during their post-fight interview.
Crawford added that he was a tad emotional because of the perceived attitude that Jean and challenger’s team brought to the fight-week press conference and weigh-in.
“I took things personal,” he said.
So the Jean fight was personal. The potential Pacquiao fight is all about business, and the logical next career step for Crawford, who is No. 7 in THE RING’s Pound for Pound rankings.
When asked about fighting Pacquiao, Crawford replied: “I’m ready. Bob (who was standing near him in the ring), make it happen.”
When asked how that fascinating matchup would play out, he added:
“You just gotta watch it and see.”