The eternal promise of boxing is that a fighter is just one match away -- and sometimes one punch away -- from changing his life. Junior welterweight contender Terence Crawford knows this all too well.
Two-and-a-half months ago the words "Terence Crawford" and "junior welterweight contender" would have been illogical. But after WBA junior welterweight titlist Khabib Allakhverdiev pulled out of his title defense against Breidis Prescott due to injury, Crawford was inserted on short notice and made the most of his opportunity. Using southpaw moves that conjured memories of Pernell Whitaker, Crawford won a commanding 10-round decision and turned himself from a "B-side" sub to an "A-side" co-feature spot against Mexican Alejandro Sanabria.
The lanky Mexican is fighting for the first time on American soil and his 34-1-1 (25 KO) record speaks well for him. Will he "do a Crawford" on Crawford or will the Nebraskan continue his extraordinary roll? Their respective CompuBox pasts provide these clues:
Variety is the Spice of Life: At 5-8 and owning a 73-inch reach, Crawford has the frame to execute multiple styles. In beating Sidney Siqueira and Prescott, Crawford switched stances comfortably and fluidly but he used different approaches to notch victories.
Against Siqueira, Crawford used excellent volume (81 punches per round) and body punching (40 body connects among his 101 landed power shots) to wear down the 35-year-old Brazilian and record large connect gaps (125-47 total, 24-5 jabs, 101-42 power). He also featured a balanced approach (248 jabs, 238 power punches) to keep Siqueira guessing to the point that he fired just 49.7 punches per round. Crawford's defense also worked well as Siqueira landed just 16% overall, 4% jabs and 24% power. A six-punch volley capped by a hook from the orthodox stance put Siqueira away and capped off an excellent performance.
Still, few saw what was coming against Prescott. Here, Crawford defied conventional wisdom by boxing the 5-11 Prescott instead of boring inside and he dominated despite throwing just 43.2 punches per round -- well below the 60.3 junior welterweight average. He also boxed far more than slugged (286 jabs, 146 power shots) but his work, especially from the left-handed stance, totally befuddled the lead-footed favorite. Though losing ground with every passing round Prescott opted to box with Crawford (40.3 punches per round, 218 jabs, 185 power shots) and couldn't measure up. Crawford out-landed Prescott 119-71 (total), 55-35 (jabs) and 64-36 (power) and landed 44% of his power shots to Prescott's 19%.
Sanabria's Strengths -- and Weaknesses: At 5-9 1/2, Sanabria is called "Flacucho" and "Flaquita" but he doesn't fight like a tall man. In the mode of Diego Corrales and Antonio Margarito, Sanabria prefers to fight at close range and bedevil his foes with close-in uppercuts and hooks. When he fights at long range, his most dangerous punch is a long right cross.
All cylinders were working during his December 2011 fight against Vinvin Rufino, who he stopped in five rounds. Throwing 49.4 punches per round to Rufino's 28.8, Sanabria landed 43% of his total punches and 61% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts to exact tremendous damage physically as well as statistically (105-23 total, 16-3 jabs, 89-20 power). Rufino could barely lay a glove on Sanabria, for he landed 16% overall, 3% jabs but 36% power.
Two fights ago, Sanabria engaged in an extremely physical fight with Seiichi Okada, who lost points for butting in round four and a low blow in the sixth and inflicted significant facial damage to Sanabria (cut left eye, swollen right eye, nosebleed). But the Mexican persevered, and ultimately prevailed, because of his will and superior power. Averaging 67.9 punches per round to Okada's 44, Sanabria out-landed his rival (175-123 total, 43-13 jabs, 132-110 power) and ended the fight by landing two heavy rights that caused Okada to stagger toward the corner pad, then landing a short follow-up flurry that persuaded the referee to intervene. While Sanabria landed 32% overall and 42% power, Okada connected on 35% overall and 40% power, which, combined with the facial damage he suffered, prompts at least a yellow light when it comes to defense.
Prediction: If Sanabria were more of a boxer type who maximizes his frame, he might have a better chance against Crawford. Since he isn't, he won't. Crawford showed against Prescott that he can handle taller opponents and in spite of his glossy record he's not a better fighter than the Colombian. Crawford will use his superior speed and versatility to slice and dice his way to victory. If he turns up the juice, he may even score a mid-rounds TKO.