Two of the top welterweights in the world will battle on Saturday
at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas as Terence Crawford (37-0,
28 KOs) defends his title against former two-time welterweight champion Shawn
Porter (31-3-1, 17 KOs). Most in the sport regard Crawford, a three-division
champion, as one of boxing's best fighters, but there is no doubt that Porter
will be the best opponent he's faced in his career. Crawford and Porter
have known each other since their amateur days and they are intimately familiar
with what the other can bring into the ring.
Through three divisions and 15 world title bouts, Crawford has yet to have a truly close fight. He's been stunned on a couple of occasions and has lost some early rounds here and there, but of his three bouts that have gone the distance in his title fights, no opponent has won more than four rounds on a judge's scorecard. Crawford IS a master boxer, but don't forget his 12 knockouts in 15 title fights. Even at the top level of the sport, few of his opponents have made it to the final bell.
|Crawford and Porter ready for battle
Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams
The conventional wisdom for Crawford-Porter would suggest that Crawford is just too skilled a fighter to get outboxed by Porter. And I think that's right. Crawford has every punch in his tool kit. He can win fights going forward or backward, in the pocket, or using lateral movement. He can dominate opponents out of either stance. It's hard to see Porter winning seven rounds against him to pick up a victory on the scorecards.
let's take a look at that conventional wisdom a little more closely. Although
Porter might not be able to outbox Crawford, is there still a path for him to
winning the fight? I believe that there is.
Crawford scored knockouts in his last two bouts against Mean Machine
Kavaliauskas and Kell Brook, I didn't like the way that his face was marking up
and swelling in either fight. Keep in mind that the Brook fight only lasted
four rounds. Now there are various ways of winning a fight, and it's certainly
possible that if Crawford has issues with his skin, or scar tissue, and if
Porter lands the right shots, that there could be a Porter by TKO scenario in
play – whether by a cut from a punch, or a closed eye – the types of facial
injuries where a referee would stop a fight.
can Porter land those shots on Crawford? Yes, I believe that he can. There are
two issues to consider here. One, Porter has landed his best punches on every
top fighter that he's faced, in his wins AND his losses. He got his sneaky
right hand home against an elite fighter like Errol Spence. He was able to hit
a defensively solid Yordenis Ugas enough to walk away with a close win. Porter
landed on a supreme athlete like Keith Thurman. He has connected on southpaws
such as Spence and Devon Alexander (and this is important since Crawford often
spends large portions of his fights in the southpaw stance). And if Porter can
land on that group of top fighters, I see no reason why he couldn't have
success with Crawford.
was a solid amateur boxer and retains those foundational skills. But he has
also developed into a top pressure fighter. As a result, he has a variety of
offensive weapons at mid-range and in tight quarters. He can jab, but he also
throws a surprise looping left hook that can land on an unsuspecting fighter.
He has underrated hand speed too. He can connect with a straight right hand or
catch an opponent with an overhand or looping right hand. Because of the
variety in his offensive attack, the untraditional trajectories of many of his
shots and his surprising hand and foot speed, he can catch even defensively
sound fighters off guard.
this brings us to issue #2: Terence Crawford's defense. At one point in his
career, I think that Crawford had one of the best defenses in the sport,
especially when he was in the southpaw position. To me, he fought in the
orthodox stance when he wanted to dominate an opponent and went to southpaw
when he decided to box and be more defensively responsible. There has always been a separation in the quality
of his defense in the two stances, but over the years I think that his defense
has slipped in both stances. Maybe it's age, or bad habits, or Crawford not
respecting his opponents. And it's possible that he reverts to his older form
and has his defense on point for Porter. But I still have some degree of
skepticism. Crawford can be hit, but it's up to Porter to do the work.
I think that Porter does has a path to beating Crawford, I'm not going to
predict that he will get there. One of Porter's strengths can also be a
weakness. Porter often fights like a house on fire. His frantic ring style and
boundless energy make opponents uncomfortable and work faster than they would
like. However, this fight may require a more surgical Shawn Porter, and that is
not one of his better qualities.
Crawford can be opened up, then it will take discipline and calm for Porter to
keep working at a cut or a section of the face that is swelling. And I don't
think that Porter has the ability to operate at his best in such a singular
undertaking. He's a guy who likes to throw the kitchen sink at an opponent, not
fix one problem with just a wrench.
is one of the smartest fighters in the sport and one who makes great
adjustments in the ring. Even if he is hurt and even if Porter can get to him
early in the fight, I'm not sure if Crawford is going to let Porter have too
many bites at that apple. If he's hit hard in the orthodox stance, he'll switch
to southpaw. If he's struggling with Porter's aggression, he'll tie him up, or
take a trip around the ring, or use horizontal movement to counter Porter.
that to me is what this fight will come down to. Ultimately, Crawford can do
more things in the ring. I have no doubt that Porter will land on him and have
good moments in the fight. But Crawford isn't a guy who will make the same
mistakes over and over. If Porter had true knockout power, perhaps he would
have an even greater path to win. Those surprise right hands then wouldn't just
stun Crawford, but drop him, and possibly knock him out. But Porter's not that
fighter. His power is adequate, not exceptional.
addition, Porter will make mistakes that Crawford can exploit. He'll get
himself out of position on the inside. He'll wing wide shots that miss. On his
way in, he'll leave his body open for counter shots to the body (something that
Spence did very well in their fight). Porter has also been dropped twice by
shots at range. Perhaps a straight left from Crawford could get Porter on the
can win this fight using a fairly conservative game plan: Don't overcommit with
big shots. Keep Porter busy with punch variety. Switch stances. Keep things
unpredictable. Go to the body when Porter's on the inside. Mix up the geography
of the fight. And when Porter makes his mistakes, punish him. It's also not out
of the question that Crawford lands a big hook or uppercut on the inside that
Porter doesn't see.
believe that Saturday's fight will be difficult for both boxers. Crawford doesn't have
many predictable patterns, which will make it hard for Porter to establish a
consistent rhythm. But Porter will land his best power punches at points in the
fight and Crawford will need to make precise decisions in those periods of
pick here is Crawford to win a decision, but I don't rule out the scenario of
Porter winning by a TKO, or even Crawford catching Porter with something on the
inside and getting his own stoppage. However, I think that Crawford by UD is
most likely. Crawford will be able to minimize Porter's periods of success, and Porter will have enough ring savvy to keep his wits when Crawford
Terence Crawford defeats Shawn Porter, wins a competitive fight by