Boxing is all about making the most of an opportunity and few fighters have ever followed through as robustly as junior welterweight Terence Crawford. After WBA junior welterweight titlist Khabib Allakhverdiev fell out of a scheduled HBO-televised defense against Breidis Prescott, Crawford filled in on short notice and brilliantly out-boxed the Colombian over 10 rounds. Less than three months later he scored an impressive sixth round TKO over the 34-1-1 Alejandro Sanabria and on Saturday he'll make his third appearance on HBO in seven months when he tackles undefeated Russian Andrey Klimov, who is coming off a 10-round win over comeback king John Molina.
Will Crawford continue his meteoric rise or will Klimov borrow from Crawford's script and create his own big splash? Statistical factors that may shape the outcome include:
Boxing's "Box of Chocolates": Tom Hanks' title character in "Forrest Gump" said that life was like a box of chocolates because "you never know what you're going to get." The same can be said of Crawford.
Unlike most fighters, Crawford's style escapes black-and-white classification because he shows off different wrinkles every time he steps inside the ring. For example, in stopping Sidney Siqueira in six rounds, Crawford was a volume puncher (81 punches per round) that featured an excellent body attack (40 body connects in 101 total landed power shots).
In beating Prescott, Crawford defied conventional wisdom by boxing the taller Colombian from the outside instead of boring inside his long arms. He threw far less punches per round (43.2) and he boxed far more than he slugged (286 jabs, 146 power shots) but it all worked because he out-landed Prescott 119-71 (total), 55-35 (jabs) and 64-36 (power) and proved the far more accurate fighter (28%-18% overall, 19%-16% jabs, 44%-19% power). His mesmerizing switch-hitting lulled Prescott into a boxing-oriented match, for the power-puncher ended up throwing more jabs (218) than power shots (185).
During his most recent outing against Sanabria, again a long-armed volume puncher who likes to rumble at close range, Crawford upped his output a bit (45.8), maintained a balanced attack (112 jabs, 121 power shots) but dramatically increased his accuracy (36% overall, 21% jabs, 50% power) while keeping Sanabria's down (23% overall, 20% jabs, 27% power). He also showcased one-punch power as a single left hook dropped Sanabria in the opening seconds of the sixth.
So what will Klimov see on fight night. God only knows.
Accuracy Issues: Klimov is a neat, points-oriented boxer from the European tradition. He works well from the outside, throws fast jabs and combinations and comes up with the occasional TKO victory. But Klimov has to work hard for most of his victories because his accuracy is below average.
In beating Molina, the man nicknamed "CompuBox Kryptonite" because when he trails the stats he wins and when he leads the stats he loses led Klimov statistically but ended up losing a majority decision. Molina averaged 71.8 punches per round to Klimov's 59.9 and led the Russian 192-166 (total) and 133-105 (power), mostly because Klimov's accuracy wasn't world class.
The average lightweight lands 30% of his total punches, 21% of his jabs and 36% of his power shots, and against Molina, Klimov struggled to get close to those norms (28% overall, 20% jabs, 35% power). Three months earlier against Matias Ezequiel Gomez, from whom he won a seventh round technical decision due to a severe butt-induced cut over Klimov's eye, Klimov landed only 23% of his total punches, 15% of his jabs and 21% of his power shots. His saving grace was that the aggressive Gomez landed even fewer of his punches (15% overall, 6% jabs, 21% power) and as a result Klimov won every round (70-63 on all cards) and led 119-80 overall, 38-14 jabs and 81-66 in power shots.
If Klimov has problems landing punches against the sieve-like Molina and Gomez, a lower-echelon fighter than Molina, how is he ever going to catch the slippery Crawford, whose only consistent trait is excellent defense?
Prediction: Crawford has too many tools at his disposal on offense and defense while Klimov lacks the power to earn his respect. Crawford will methodically pick apart the Russian before disposing of him in the later rounds.