By Jake Donovan
Terence Crawford has placed all of his boxing focus squarely on Amir Khan from the moment their April 20 clash was formally announced earlier this year.
By his own admission, though, the unbeaten pound-for-pound entrant admits to having never previously paid any mind to his upcoming opponent.
“I’ve never really (previously) looked at a fight with myself and Amir Khan,” Crawford (34-0, 25KOs) confessed during a recent media conference call to discuss their upcoming ESPN Pay-Per-View headliner, which takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. “He’s always been the bigger guy and at a higher weight class.”
In fairness, there has been very little overlap in their respective pro careers. England’s Khan—who captured a Silver medal as the lone representative of the 2004 Great Britain Olympic boxing team—had transitioned from 135 to the 140-pound division by the time Crawford turned pro as a lightweight in 2008.
The only time they were both at super lightweight at the same time was Crawford’s first fight in the division—which just so happened to be against Breidis Prescott, whom handed Khan his first defeat in 2008, a win off which he still dines more than 10 years later.
Crawford turned away the Miami-based Colombian knockout artist, scoring a 10-round decision in March ’13, a one-off bout at 140 taken on short notice for the sake of making his HBO boxing debut. He dropped back down to lightweight, where he won his first major title in 2014 and would become World (lineal) lightweight champion by year’s end.
By that point, Khan (33-4, 20KOs)—a former 140-pound titlist—was already dug in at welterweight, having not weighed less than 146 ½ pounds for any of his last six fights. He weighed 155 pounds for a May ’16 challenge of World middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, suffering a 6th round knockout which was followed by a two-year ring hiatus.
Crawford has since added titles at 140 and 147, the latter coming last June in a 9th round knockout of previously unbeaten Jeff Horn last June. Khan had just returned to the ring by then, scoring a 1st round stoppage of Phil Lo Greco last April, followed by a points win over Samuel Vargas last September, with both fights taking place in his native England.
Khan’s win over Vargas—which makes him a perfect 5-0 in bouts at or just above the welterweight limit—was to serve as a prelude to a showdown with longtime domestic rival Kell Brook, a former welterweight titlist who took a tune-up bout last December in his own efforts to drum up additional interest.
However, the brakes were slammed on those plans when Khan revealed an offer extended by Crawford’s promoter Bob Arum to instead challenge the unbeaten switch-hitter in the United States—something Crawford never envisioned until it was actually presented to him.
“After the Canelo fight I thought he would (stay) at 154,” Crawford believed. “But we’re here now and I’m excited to share the ring with him.”
The fight marks the second time both boxers headline a major PPV event in the United States. Khan’s lone other occasion came versus Alvarez, an event which generated just shy of 500,000 units sold.
It fared considerably better than Crawford’s PPV debut two months later. A 12-round near-shutout of then-unbeaten Viktor Postol netted him the lineal 140-pound championship but barely moved the needle from a marketing standpoint.
Crawford has consistently generated favorable TV ratings, including his last fight—a 12th round knockout of Jose Benavidez atop an ESPN broadcast last October which drew well over 2.2 million home viewers. An overwhelming desire to land blockbuster fights, however, factored into Crawford and his team accepting Khan as his next in-ring challenge.
“He has a big name in the sport of boxing; why not give him a shot at the title,” points out Crawford, who is 2-0 at welterweight. “He’s done some great things and he’s never lost in the welterweight division.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox