Crawford vs Khan preview: American dream or nightmare for Khan?

Callum Rudge
16/04/2019 9:00pm

Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

On Saturday Amir Khan takes on three-division champion Terence Crawford in New York. Callum Rudge previews the Madison Square Garden showdown...

This weekend Amir ‘King’ Khan (33-4) gets what he always wanted, a fight with a top P4P fighter in America for a welterweight world title. While he long envisioned such a shot coming against Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao, he instead takes on three-division champion Terence 'Bud' Crawford in a fight that feels like the Bolton man’s final opportunity at elite level.

While this fight - in New York's iconic Madison Square Garden - may not offer the mega payday for Khan that a fight against Mayweather or Pacquiao would have earned him, it is an equally tough task. Former unified 140lbs champion Crawford has made the jump to 147lbs look easy in his two welterweight bouts to date, with a dominant performance over Pacquiao conqueror Jeff Horn to annex the WBO title and then, in his first defence, a stoppage of long-time rival Jose Benavidez Jr with a highlight reel knockout in the final round.

While Crawford has been impressive whilst building his unblemished 34-0 (25 KOs) record there has been the suggestion, mostly by Khan himself, that the Olympic silver medallist is Crawford’s toughest opponent to date. At first glance such a notion seems ridiculous - Khan hasn’t held a world title since losing to Danny Garcia in 2012 - at 140lbs - and during his last performance vs gatekeeper Samuel Vargas he was dropped and looked laboured in a wide decision victory.

However, it is true that it’s hard to look at Crawford’s record and find a defining win. His run at 140lbs is what stands out the most, a body shot stoppage of Julius Indongo and whitewash of then-WBC titlist Viktor Postol were impressive victories at the time but have not aged well with both men having lost convincingly since.

The last time Crawford was truly tested was his ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate vs Yuriorkis Gamboa in 2014, when the Cuban’s speed and movement troubled the Nebraska native in the early rounds before Crawford’s size and power forced a stoppage to cement his name as one of the big names in the sport.

Looking at Khan’s last two performances, he has started very quickly, stopping Phil Lo Greco in a round and dropping Vargas twice inside the first three rounds. Despite his frailties, he still has the speed and power to trouble fighters, particularly early on. Crawford is sometimes guilty of starting slow and will be facing arguably the sharpest puncher of his career. If there’s a blueprint to victory for Khan it is to start quick, rack up the rounds and hope to weather the late storm that eventually comes from the champion, similar to his win over Marcos Maidana.

However, that fight was in 2010 and there have been plenty of miles on the clock for Khan in the nine years since, be it the knockout losses to Canelo Alvarez and Danny Garcia, or the life and death struggles with Lamont Peterson and Julio Diaz. This is a fighter who you could argue has wasted his prime chasing a dream fight vs Mayweather instead of doing the things to truly earn it by beating peers like Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter or - dare I say it - Kell Brook.

This Saturday Khan will face a man in Crawford who hasn’t wasted time chasing fights, but has taken on all-comers and dominated them.

All things considered, the pick is for the champion Crawford to end things early again, dominating Khan and stopping him at the midway point to signal the end of the Brit’s time at the top level. Crawford TKO in round 7 seems about right.