There are aspects to the life of Terence Crawford that make the up-and-coming lightweight's ascension toward stardom more improbable than most. For one, he hails from Omaha, Nebraska - a fine city, to be sure, but one not exactly renowned for producing a conveyor belt of boxing stars. For another, in 2008, he narrowly escaped serious injury, or worse, when he survived being shot following a dice game.
Since that incident, he has turned his life around. He is a father, a contender and an HBO regular. As part of a series in which we get to known HBO's boxing stars better, we sat down with the soft-spoken Crawford and asked him a few questions about himself.
Tell us a little about how you got into boxing. Do you remember your first fight?
I got into boxing because a guy called Carl Washington saw me out on the streets. He knew I was one of the kids who was running around and getting into a lot of trouble. He asked me if I wanted to take up boxing, and I didn't know him, so I said, 'I can't talk to strangers' and I ran home. I'm telling Mom [about him] when he comes 'round the house, and Mom says, 'Hey Carl.' She asks, 'Is this the guy who was trying to talk to you?' She goes, 'That's Carl Washington. Your dad boxed for him.' And she asked me, did I want to box? And I told her yeah, and that's how I got into it.
My first fight, I actually lost. My trainer knew I was one of them tough kids from the jump. My coach believed in me, and he matched me up with a kid who was 8 to 10 pounds heavier than me, and taller - because I was a short kid - and all we did was slug it out. His arms were a lot longer than mine and we just slugged it out, and I lost. But it made me stronger.
Did you instantly like boxing?
Oh, I loved it. Always did.
You talk about being a kid who got into scrapes. You got into a really close shave not too long ago, when you got shot. Can you explain what led up to that, and whether having a second chance subsequently has helped you with your dedication and focus?
It was just being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. It made me real angry inside. But believing in God made me change. My son was born [in 2011], and when he was born, I was like, 'OK, I'm living for him.' After I got shot, it was like God gave me another chance. It was like he was saying, 'You weren't supposed to be out here this late.' I was supposed to be sleeping, running. So I took the initiative to do what I had to do.
Bernard Hopkins is still motivated by mistakes he made, by the fact he went to jail, and by the determination never to allow himself to fall into that kind of mistake again. Does what happened to you motivate you in that same way?
Most definitely, because I don't want my son growing up the way I did. I don't want him to have to settle for less. I want to be there for him until the day I die.
What would you like your son to be?
I want my son to be whatever he wants to be. I'm not the type to say I want my son to be a boxer, because I don't. If he chooses boxing, then I'll support him 110%. But I'd rather he went to college and learned to do something else. I feel like I'm fighting so he don't have to fight.
If you weren't fighting, what do you think you'd be doing?
There's no telling. Can't even call it.
Fighters often say that boxing saved their lives. Do you feel that way?
Oh yeah. Because I was always a hothead. Always. So when I started getting really into boxing, taking it serious, it was taking up a lot of time, so I wasn't doing things I wasn't supposed to do.
Are there other sports you're into that you either play or watch?
I play basketball, football. I used to wrestle. I played a little baseball here and there.
What else do you like to do with your life?
Play with my kids. Be around my family. That's all I do. I don't party, I don't drink, I don't smoke.
Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I love to fish. That's one thing that I've been doing since I was probably five years old. River fishing, lake fishing, pond fishing, wherever fishing. I just love to fish.
Is there anyone now, or at any time in history, you'd like to fight?
If I could go in a time machine, I'd go way back and fight my coach. The man's a nightmare. Because he always says he would have knocked me out. He weighs 98 lbs. and fought at 112. If I could go back, I would go back for that, just so I can say I would have cleaned his clock. [Laughs]
Finish this sentence: I will retire when I ...
Did everything I wanted to do. When I have nothing else left to gain, that's when I'll retire. When there's nothing left to prove or accomplish.