Crawford says move to 147 is soon, but Diaz at MSG is next

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New York (AP) — Terence Crawford has heard the question so many times he anticipates it like an overmatched opponent’s punch.

So, when will he go searching for a showdown at 147 pounds?

“Soon,” he said.

First, there’s still business at 140.

WBC and WBO junior welterweight boxing champion Terence Crawford is shown in this Dec. 10, 2016, file photo. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
WBC and WBO junior welterweight boxing champion Terence Crawford is shown in this Dec. 10, 2016, file photo. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

The undefeated champion will defend his titles Saturday against Felix Diaz, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist from the Dominican Republic.

It’s Crawford’s first bout in the main arena at Madison Square Garden, another step in his rise to becoming one of boxing’s marquee fighters.

But the bigger fights are at bigger weights, and moving up to welterweight could give him lucrative opportunities against the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman.

Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs) has been asked so often that he answers before the question is even finished being asked.

“I’m ready for whatever. There’s a lot of opportunities at 147 and that’s what I’m in the sport for,” Crawford said. “When I was at 135, everybody was screaming move up to 140, he’s too big for 135. And I move up and I have two, three fights, and they’re telling me to move up. So it’s a never-ending cycle.”

He has fought in the Theater inside MSG, a much smaller stage. This one may feel like a road game for Crawford, who has fought four of his last seven fights in his native Omaha, Nebraska.

And while some of his hometown fans will travel, they may be outnumbered by supporters of Diaz, who now lives in New York and should be boosted by the city’s passionate Dominican base.

“I really believe I’m going to have massive support on fight night,” Diaz said through an interpreter.

Crawford, the WBC and WBO champion, shrugs off concerns about that, or headlining another card on HBO.

“Once you get in the ring it’s like home,” Crawford said. “Like, all the pressure and everything goes out the window because fists start flying. You can’t worry about other things when people are trying to knock your head off.”

The undercard includes the second pro fight for American Shakur Stevenson, a silver medalist last year in the Rio Olympics.

The card was originally ticketed for the Prudential Center in Stevenson’s hometown of Newark, New Jersey, before the Garden stepped in with an offer to host. Promoter Bob Arum thought New York was a fitting location not only because fighters of so many nationalities are on the card, but because he believes Crawford needs to fight in certain venues before he gets certain fights.

“First of all the Garden is iconic for me being a New York guy and so the opportunity to do this card in the Garden, I jumped at it,” Arum said.

It’s one Diaz (19-1, 9 Kos) has sought for some time, asking for his shot at Crawford on social media. The southpaw has fought at 147, where Lamont Peterson handed him his only loss, but he wanted his shot at boxing’s best in his natural 140-point division.

“I acknowledge that Crawford is a great fighter, but I don’t believe he’s invincible and I’m here to win,” Diaz said.

Crawford is used to being called out by fighters who think they can be the first one to beat him.

“But then when they get in the ring with me it’s like a whole totally different thing and they see something that they ain’t never seen before,” Crawford said.