Sunday, July 24, 2016

Opinions and Observations: Crawford-Postol

In the first round of Saturday's Terence Crawford-Viktor Postol fight, HBO's Roy Jones opined that it could be very dangerous for Crawford to switch to southpaw because of Postol's straight right hand. Max Kellerman provided some context for Crawford's decision by correctly pointing out that the switch to lefty could help to neutralize Postol's jab. This was the essential question of the fight for Crawford and his team: would they rather make themselves more vulnerable to the straight right hand or the jab?

The final result of the bout, with Crawford winning a wide unanimous decision, scoring two knockdowns and thoroughly dominating Postol, demonstrated that Team Crawford made a wise choice. Led by head trainer Brian McIntyre, Team Crawford did its homework. They realized that as good as Postol could be, almost everything flowed from his jab. Without that punch, he wasn't nearly as effective at initiating offense. They also believed that Crawford's athleticism, power and accuracy would enable him to minimize the threat of Postol's right hand; Crawford could beat Postol's straight right to the punch. And everything played out according to plan. 

However, it wasn't just the southpaw stance that neutralized Postol's offense. Crawford's purposeful lateral movement played a large role as well. Throughout the fight, he circled away from the jab towards the direction of Postol's right hand. Usually a fighter will move away from an opponent's power hand but Crawford kept going to his left and Postol was mostly ineffective. 

In another impressive strategic move, Crawford stayed out of range for most of the fight. He'd dart in for quick shots and combos and then would get out. Postol couldn't land his jab because he was too far away. Crawford's positioning in the ring made Postol take chances to get closer. He lunged in with shots, jabbed from too close once he got there and often paid a big price from Crawford's power shots. 

It was an altogether fantastic game plan from McIntyre & Co. They thoroughly studied their opponent and rendered him inoperable. In the other corner, Freddie Roach didn't seem to have a Plan B, or one that could be effectively implemented by Postol. 

On offense, Crawford used his improvisational gifts to find openings. He knocked Postol down at the beginning of the fifth round with a right hook high on the side of the head. He landed that same shot at a number of other points throughout the fight, often at the start of a round or after a break. Postol never made an adjustment. In other instances, Crawford noticed too wide of a space between Postol's gloves and landed quick lead and counter left hands. These were openings that Crawford spotted in the ring and he exploited them. He most likely didn't practice the "circle right and throw a lead left hook high on the head to start a round" in camp but he noticed a deficiency in Postol's defensive set-up and took advantage of it. 

Other offensive moves were more practiced. I loved the way that he jabbed on the move, which limited Postol's countershots. Also, he rarely stayed in front of Postol. His offense usually started from an angle. All of these maneuvers were used to minimize the effectiveness of an opponent who needed to set his feet to be effective. 

Crawford demonstrated what an elite talent looks like. Dominating the second-best fighter in the junior welterweight division, Crawford made it look like easy work. Employing boxing, movement, perfectly timed countershots, power and a high Ring IQ, Crawford displayed all his dimensions in the ring. Could he have taken more chances offensively? Perhaps. But it wasn't as if he stunk out the joint. He hurt Postol on a number of occasions, especially with the second knockdown in the fifth round. 

At just 28, Crawford has already become the top fighter in two divisions. With a number of prime years left, the boxing world is seemingly his oyster. Many of the best American boxers currently patrol the welterweight division just seven pounds north of where Crawford plies his trade and it wouldn't be difficult to see him going after big fights at that weight. The thaw between Top Rank, his promoter, and Al Haymon could produce a number of fascinating matchups. A fight against Keith Thurman would be spectacular. How about a Crawford-Spence bout later in 2017? 

Crawford will be in the running for Manny Pacquiao’s next opponent but I'd be pleasantly surprised if Top Rank and Roach let Pacquiao take that fight. In the interim, Crawford needs to stay on his current path. However, don't be surprised if Crawford's next truly meaningful fight isn't until 2018. There's no rush for any top welterweight to fight him and Crawford doesn't yet bring real money to the table. He's on the path to superstardom but he'll need the right opponents for that to happen. Lacking some natural magnetism, Crawford will need to build his fan base against top opposition. Eventually, someone notable will get brave.  

Hopefully, HBO Boxing, which has faced some budgetary pressures this year, will provide enough financial backing to lure worthy opponents into the ring with Crawford. It was a minor travesty that Saturday's fight was on pay per view in the U.S. Many boxing fans missed out on a truly sublime performance. Crawford isn't yet a pay per view fighter and he still needs more exposure on HBO's World Championship Boxing platform. In the past, the HBO-Top Rank partnership has done a wonderful job of turning elite fighters into superstars. Let's hope that they still have the magic formula. Crawford is worthy of it.  

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