For as cool and calm as he typically carries himself, unbeaten Terence Crawford came out of his shell just enough during Thursday’s final news conference, hammering home his final point with an extra amount of virility while staring across from WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn.
HORN vs CRAWFORD
“Listen, I’m not Manny Pacquiao,” Crawford said. “I’m bigger, I’m stronger, I’m in my prime and that’s going to show on Saturday. A lot of people are comparing how he pushed around Pacquiao but Pacquiao is 5-foot-5. That’s not me.”
Crawford (32-0, 23 KOs), who became the first junior welterweight to unify all four recognized titles last year, will make his welterweight debut on Saturday against Horn (18-0-1, 12 KOs) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (ESPN+, 9:30 p.m. ET).
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Horn’s team, who seem to be among the only ones giving him a shot in this fight, remain confident that they will be able to disrupt Crawford’s timing and rhythm in the same way they were able to bother Pacquiao last summer. If he is able, they could be looking at the second monumental upset for the current 147-pound champion.
Crawford’s immediate response about how he, as arguably the pound-for-pound best boxer in the sport, is simply another challenge altogether than the faded Filipino legend seemed to echo the opinion of most, which includes everyone from Vegas oddsmakers to the American media.
The only one who doesn’t seem to have got the memo is the 30-year-old Horn, a native of Australia, who has become boxing’s new “Rocky” story after a meteoric rise from school teacher to world champion.
“I’m surprised I’m as big of an underdog as I am for the fight,” Horn said. “I’m not surprised that I am the underdog. Terence is a great fighter and wiped out the light welterweight division and that was a tough division. I know Terence has put on the size and is going to be a nice, strong welterweight and I can’t wait to get in there to prove the doubters wrong.
“I know what everyone thinks. I’ve heard it before that I’m a chump and a fraud of the welterweight division and I’m just there to prove everyone wrong.”
To pull the upset, of course, Horn will need to find a way to slow down the slick and powerful Crawford by using his frenetic (and sometimes dirty) style that proved so much trouble for Pacquiao. He will also need to turn it into a brawl, which is something Crawford said he’s more than prepared for.
“He doesn’t just have to rely on will, he’s a very confident and skillful boxer,” Horn’s trainer Glenn Rushton said. “Yes, his style may not be the silky smooth style we see from the very classy Terence Crawford, but Rocky Marciano wasn’t that silky or smooth either and look at his record. He was very effective, he had a great chin and he could hit like a mule. So can Jeff Horn. He has a great will and if it comes down to a battle of spirits, I back Jeff’s spirit.”
Horn is also seemingly rubbing a lot of people the wrong way. After struggling with the scale on Friday afternoon, Horn said it was Crawford’s team continuing to play mind games with him.
“I think there was a bit of tricks up their sleeves with this one,” Horn said after making weight on his third attempt. “He was just underweight and I was just over. I thought I was under actually. We thought we calibrated our scale with the correct weight. I knew this was coming and that they had plenty of tricks. I’m fine. I think they think I’m mentally weak. But we were bang on. Obviously, the scale was a bit tricky.
Fight Weight Class
Jeff Horn (c) vs. Terence Crawford
WBO welterweight championship (12 rounds)
Jose Pedraza vs. Antonio Moran
Lightweight (10 rounds)
Jose Benavidez vs. Frank Rojas
Welterweight (10 rounds)
Maxim Dadashev vs. Darleys Perez
Junior Welterweight (10 rounds)
Shakur Stevenson vs. Aelio Mesquia
Featherweight (8 rounds)
Steve Nelson vs. Dashon Webster
Light Heavyweight (6 rounds)
Gabriel Flores Jr. vs. Dustin Southichack
Featherweight (6 rounds)
David Kaminsky vs. Trevor Lavin
Junior Middleweight (6 rounds)
What’s that saying again — there are levels to this?
Horn’s underdog story has been a heartwarming one and there’s little doubt that the same chin, resolve and fighting spirit he needed to rely on in order to outlast Pacquiao could be considered elite. But taking home a disputed hometown decision against an aging fighter is simply a different challenge from the one facing Horn on Saturday.
Crawford is being lauded — along with Vasiliy Lomachenko, Errol Spence Jr. and Mikey Garcia — as maybe the fighter most capable of taking the baton from Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather and carrying boxing into its next era. Along with his incredible skills as a boxer — able to switch stances and rely on his speed and length — Crawford also has a nasty edge which has helped him become such a dangerous finisher.
Outside of the unlikely chance that Horn’s size becomes a problem and Crawford somehow doesn’t carry his punching power up to a new division, it’s incredibly difficult to concoct a scenario in which anything Horn can do will slow Crawford down.