Crawford vs Kavaliauskas : One of the most sublime finishers in boxing is on tap to help close out 2019. Terence “Bud” Crawford will put his WBO world welterweight title on the line against Egidijus Kavaliauskas on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs) has gone the distance just once in his past 10 fights, a unification bout against Viktor Postol in 2016 that Crawford won easily on the cards. A complete boxer, he usually spends a couple of rounds sizing up his opponent. As soon as he’s figured them out, Crawford proceeds to break them down with quick combinations, razor-sharp counterpunching and excellent defense. He’s as relentless as gravity, and he rarely lets his opponents see the final bell.
Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KOs) is a solid, if unsatisfying opponent for Crawford. A decorated amateur and undefeated as a pro, Ring considers him the eighth-best fighter at 147 pounds. He’s not to be taken lightly, but the 31-year-old is likely to be seen as yet another sacrifice upon Crawford’s altar as fans wait for the Pride of Omaha to get the superfight some believe he needs to cement his legacy.
The prime-time ESPN card Crawford is headlining features two other interesting bouts. Teofimo Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs), a 22-year-old from Brooklyn, New York, with superstar potential, will fight for his first major belt when he takes on IBF world lightweight champion Richard Commey (29-2, 26 KOs).
Also on the card is a grudge match of sorts between featherweights Michael Conlan (12-0, 7 KOs) and Vladimir Nikitin (3-0). Conlan will be looking to avenge a highly controversial loss to Nikitin in the 2016 Olympics.
While boxing fans lament the fact that Crawford still hasn’t fought the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter, the 32-year-old champion prefers to focus on the big picture, per Bad Left Hook’s Wil Esco:
“It really too much don’t bother me as much as people think. I done accomplished more than all those welterweights over there except Pacquiao. If you look at what I accomplished in the sport of boxing, if you looks at what Errol, Keith, Shawn, Danny Garcia, all those other welterweights over there, I done accomplished way more each and every one of them, except Pacquiao.”
Crawford is a three-division world champion, and in 2017, made history by unifying all four major titles in the junior lightweight division. He’s undefeated and is the No. 4 pound-for-pound fighter and No. 1 welterweight, per Ring. It’s an excellent resume, but he has made it look all too easy at times.
When he was busy dominating the 140-pound division, there was a sense the real action would begin at welterweight. He’s a couple days away from his fourth fight at 147 pounds, and the biggest name he’s drawn was a past-his-prime Amir Khan in April, whom he beat via sixth-round TKO (an incidental low blow ended the affair, but Khan was taking a thorough beating).
Crawford always keeps his cool, but he may be itching to get a big fight put together before he gets too deep into his 30s. He’s teased one possible way to make that happen.
“I’m going to 160 after this…I’m going to 160, whoever,” he said, per Esco. You think I’m playing? I’m going to 160. My next fight I’m going to 160.”
While Bud gets peppered with questions about his legacy, there isn’t much to ask the relatively anonymous Kavaliauskas about other than his upcoming fight. That’s fine—it appears to be all he thinks about.
“Crawford was on my mind from the start of training camp in June,” Kavaliauskas, per ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael. “So every day was Crawford, Crawford, Crawford. My mindset is good.”
It’s hard to describe what a path to victory would look like for the challenger because Crawford has no glaring weaknesses. He can box on the outside or slug it out at close range, switch stances if he feels one gives him more of an advantage, play defense or pile on the pressure.
Kavaliauskas’ best bet is to try to frustrate Crawford, throw him multiple looks and hope he can land a power punch that stuns the favorite. Nobody has done that in 35 professional fights, but maybe the 36th time is the charm. The likelier scenario is Crawford beats up on Kavaliauskas and retains his title, adding another victory to a sterling resume that some argue could use a little more polish.