Sunday, June 29, 2014

Opinions and Observations: Crawford-Gamboa

Let's jump to the eighth round. There was a sequence during the frame that demonstrated just how special a fighter Terence Crawford is. After having so much success turning southpaw (including scoring a knockdown in the fifth), it seemed strange for Crawford to switch back to a conventional stance. After all, his opponent, Yuriorkis Gamboa, had been most successful when Crawford fought right-handed. Yet within moments of switching, Crawford backed up to the ropes and landed a blistering left hook that damaged Gamboa. He immediately followed up with a right hook and then another left hook; Gamboa hit the canvas again. It was a classic trap, and Crawford executed it masterfully.

If there was ever an example of one guy playing chess while the other one was playing checkers, this was it. Crawford anticipated that Gamboa would rush in like a bull seeing red the instant Crawford reverted back to conventional. Gamboa had been completely stymied in the previous three rounds and this was his chance to turn the fight. And like clockwork, Crawford landed his lead hook over a low right hand. Crawford got the best of this exchange, not just technically or physically, but intellectually. 

The constant throughout Saturday's enthralling fight was Crawford's intelligence, versatility and ability to make adjustments. His poise was exceptional, especially when considering that he was fighting for the first time in front of his rabid hometown crowd. He didn't let Gamboa's early success dishearten him. He just went to Plan B. 

In the ninth and final round, Crawford displayed everything that one would want to see in a world-class prizefighter. After getting tagged by a short right hand, Crawford went on the defensive for a good minute. He tied up and used his legs and lateral movement to buy time. As Gamboa came in recklessly, Crawford landed another right hook (out of the southpaw stance), leading to a third knockdown. Gamboa fell to the canvas tilting sideways almost in slow motion (it's to his credit that he got up from the shot). Now Crawford went for the kill. The final blow was a vicious lead right uppercut (from a conventional stance) that ended the fight. The ninth showcased Crawford's chin, recuperative powers, ability to think clearly while hurt, creativity, versatility, power and aggression. Not a bad three minutes if you ask me. 

Crawford put together a star-making performance on Saturday. Until this point, he had flashed considerable boxing skills, athleticism and intelligence. However, there were questions about his passivity, willingness to take risks and offensive fire power. These doubts need not be expressed any longer. 

Facing the most offensively gifted fighter of his career, Crawford didn't transform into a safety-first boxer, play four-corners or shrink into a defensive shell. He used his physical advantages and boxing tools to assert his dominance. He didn't shy away from trading and he was always searching for ways to exploit Gamboa's weaknesses – his low hands and his predictability in initiating exchanges. 

During the broadcast, the HBO commenting team was initially surprised at Crawford turning and remaining southpaw. Gamboa's best punch had been his straight right hand and in theory that shot would be easier to land against a southpaw instead of a conventional fighter. And for a round-and-a-half, the broadcasting team was 100% correct as Gamboa continued to have a lot of success with the lead right. However, the purpose for Crawford to go lefty was to take away Gamboa's jab, which had been very successful early in the fight. Now Gamboa was down to just two punches. Crawford needed a few minutes to time Gamboa's lunges and lead right hands, but once he familiarized himself with Gamboa's rhythms and punching patterns Crawford became the dominant fighter. 

Crawford's versatility is stunning. He scored knockdowns out of both stances and with three different punches: left hook, right hook and right uppercut. His height, long reach and athleticism will make him difficult to beat for any fighter at 135-140 lbs. But the "X-Factor" that he displayed on Saturday was his desire to be great. Not content just to win rounds, he was there to punish Gamboa, galvanize the crowd and impress his Top Rank and HBO sponsors. Saturday was his resounding trumpet that signaled his arrival to the boxing world. Crawford now matters.

But let's not use Crawford's victory as a way to diminish Gamboa's effort. Coming in after a long period of inactivity, Gamboa had again switched trainers and had numerous out-of-the-ring problems, including an assault charge and an implication in the Biogenesis PED scandal. Yet he displayed no ring rust in the fight. He was in great shape and didn't show any lack-of-focus in the ring, which had marred his recent performances. 

Make no mistake; Gamboa was the better fighter in the first four rounds. Early on, he used his jab well to set up shots and he remained defensively responsible. There was none of that incessant bouncing that wastes energy. He was very good on Saturday. 

Gamboa forced Crawford to dig down. Crawford had to feature two or three different looks in order to secure the victory. Gamboa didn't hand him anything; Crawford took it. In the final analysis, the smarter fighter (and the bigger one) prevailed, but Crawford really had to earn it. And as boxing fans, that's all we can ask for.  

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
Contact Adam at 
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