Terence Crawford-Hank Lundy takeaways
Hank Lundy did his job leading up to his Saturday night showdown at Madison Square Garden in New York City, making fans look past the five losses on his ledger, and instead having them consider the possible, instead of the historical.
His Philly-honed sneer and from-the-bottom-of-his-soul pronouncements that he’d wreck WBO junior welterweight titleholder Terence Crawford’s New York debut made folks gloss over his losses to Ray Beltran and John Molina Jr. or, at least, pause to allow him the dignity of explaining away their impact on the here and now. But, as is usually the case, history is the best polygraph test we have because it provides concrete evidence. The evidence gathered up to Saturday, and reaffirmed at the Theater and on HBO, is this: Lundy talks a majestic game in the lead-up but his ability to match it with the same level of majesty as a pugilist usually falters.
Here are some other top takeaways from the fight week in NY, and the Top Rank-promoted tussles we took in.
BUD NO DUD: Crawford edged up pound-for-pound lists last year and is shoving his way further up now. The word is out and about and widespread; this might well be the top American pugilist specialist active right now. Real good at 135, and maybe even better at 140, the 28-year-old Nebraskan (28-0, with 20 knockouts) has pop in both hands and as he told us after smacking the sneer off Lundy in the fifth, that will be even more apparent as we move forward. Why? Because, he says, making 135 drained him and 140 is right for his body. Pity everybody else standing in his way.
HEDGE FUN: Lundy talked like he knew in his heart and soul and brain, all fibers and chambers in his body, that he was going to win that WBO 140-pound crown. But a couple times, he reminded me that he currently holds a regional strap at 135. The 32-year-old harbored doubts, I dare say. He was hinting, implying, hedging. No harm in that; no diss on him. It is the truth. He’s better suited at 135 because his power there is fine but not overwhelming.
BALK AT TRASH TALK? Memo to the next guy who signs to fight “Bud”: Consider NOT pissing him off in the lead up to the bout. Dierry Jean and promoter Camille Estephan tag team trash-talked Crawford and got answered with destructive directness in the ring when Bud walked the walk (TKO 10) last October. Lundy’s smack talk was thrown in his face and we saw how that worked out for him. Seriously, though, smack talk is good for promotional purposes and I am guessing Crawford doesn’t significantly change his strategy or tactics because a foe is a barking and boasting sort. His eyes feature the same intense gaze as he looks across the ring and contemplates his To Do list, no matter who’s there and how much trash he’s talked.
NONE BETTER: No breaking news here; we knew this then and know it now. Top Rank Promotions CEO Bob Arum, celebrating 50 years in the business on March 29, is the all-time best at this fight promotion game. So you got two headliners, in Terence Crawford and Felix Verdejo, who are still learning on the job on how to be pack leaders, how to act and talk as industry leaders. No worries; throw TMZ bait by challenging Donald Trump to a fight in the MSG big room. And Arum hasn’t lost bark or bite at 84, whereas Don King leveled off in his 70s, choosing to work less and doing the QB slide to the turf when seeing behemoth linebackers looming. Arum puts his head down and smashes, still. His work ethic and resilience and persistence and tenacious manner are unsurpassed.
THE BOBFATHER RULES: Arum plays hardball, 23/7. You might think if you don’t closely study that he’s all in, ever combative, all the time. But he sometimes informs you that he knows there is an element of theater in his manner. While talking to media about his unhappiness at not being on the same page as HBO boxing boss Peter Nelson, Arum was interrupted during the final presser by Crawford shoving Lundy. Guys, guys, take it easy, he said, grinning. No need for hijinks; the fight is already sold out. Yep, hard to spot sometimes but the man’s tongue is sometimes planted firmly in his cheek.
CAPTURE THE FLAG: Strange scene at the Theater Saturday night when Team Julian Rodriguez wasn’t allowed to bring an American flag into the ring before their fight. Anyone who watches boxing knows it is the United Nations of sports. But NYSAC boss Tom Hoover, we heard, forbade an American flag from being waved. A Team Rodriguez person confirmed that to us. We have a request for clarification in to NYSAC. Since when did a show of patriotism become verboten?
(UPDATE: I heard back from on the New York State Athletic Commission. A spokesman sent this response:
“The New York State Athletic Commission policy permits the American and other national flags to be displayed in the ring before events. In this instance, the Chair was concerned about the entrance of the flag pole into the ring for the safety of the athletes and the individuals inside the ring prior to the start of the match, not the flag itself.
“The Chair was not aware that Commission staff had been notified of the use of the pole by the boxers camp prior to the ring walk, and that staff had vetted the request.
“Unfortunately, due to the misunderstanding at ringside, the flag was not in the ring during the introduction. The Commission regrets the error.”)
Hi, Coyote Duran here. Incidentally, last year’s WWE Summerslam was held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Professional wrestling still operates under the auspices of state athletic commissions and New York State is no exception. That said, the villainous character Rusev waved a massive Bulgarian flag during his ring walk prior to his bout against Dolph Ziggler. Just figured you like to know. Back to you, Woodsy!