Monday, July 25, 2016

Thoughts on Crawford-Postol

The unification clash between undefeated Jr. Welterweight world champions Terence Crawford and Viktor Postol was in many ways refreshing. Not only did the bout pit two undefeated rising stars against one another, but it also brought together two world champions who are regarded as the two best fighters in their division in a quicker way than most of the sport’s would be “Super Fights” have taken to materialize.

The fight itself appeared on paper to be evenly matched. The WBO Jr. Welterweight world champion Terence Crawford, who has over the last two years developed into one of Boxing’s hottest rising stars, who had already won world titles in two different weight classes in twenty-eight professional fights prior to entering the ring for this unification battle was looking to add the status of unified world champion to his resume.  The WBC world champion in the Jr. Welterweight division Viktor Postol was making the first defense of his world championship in this unification battle, but like Crawford had shown a high pedigree in terms of Boxing skill and also entered the fight off of a knockout win over Lucas Matthysse last October where he won the WBC Jr. Welterweight world championship.

Going into this fight I wondered whether or not Postol’s height of 5’11 and having a near four inch reach advantage would give him an edge over Crawford who stands 5’8 with a seventy inch reach. In his fight against Lucas Matthysse, Postol showed the ability to not only throw nearly all of his offense in combination, but also showed the ability to control distance in a bout where he dominated Matthysse before knocking him out in a tenth round.

It interested me to see how Crawford, who is a fighter that likes to switch between an orthodox and southpaw stance throughout his fights would approach a fighter who is not known as a power puncher, but does have a technical Boxing style in Postol. When the two fighters met on July 23rd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV I expected a tactical chess match between the two.

Although this observer felt that Crawford would have some difficulty getting on the inside of Postol, I felt that if he were able to deal with Postol’s reach and find ways to counter his opponent’s offense more than occasionally there would come a point in the fight where Postol would have to answer the question of whether he could deal with Crawford’s punching power. It is important to remember that even though Viktor Postol clearly dominated Lucas Matthysse, there were moments in that fight where Matthysse was able to stagger and hurt Postol. It was also of interest to me to see how Postol would deal with a fighter who was equal with him in terms of Boxing skill and one who is quicker than Matthysse.

The first three rounds were largely dictated by Postol and his ability to apply pressure on Crawford while at the same time using his jab to control distance. I felt Postol did enough to win the first three rounds based on this in rounds that were very difficult to score because of both fighters not leaving many openings for their opponent. There were moments throughout the entire fight, but especially in the first three rounds where both fighters had periods of effectiveness making their opponent miss and landing counter punches. It was setting up to be one of those fights where scoring could differ significantly among Boxing fans and experts alike.

In round four however, Crawford would begin turning the fight significantly in his favor. Crawford was able to step up his offense in the fourth round by landing flush left hands on Postol, but also was able to land some punches in combination as well in what was the first round of the fight that seemed to be clear as to who won the round. In the fifth round, Crawford continued to step up his aggression as he dropped Postol with a right hook to the top of the head at the beginning of the round. Crawford would drop Postol for the second time in the fight later in the round when a flush counter left hand to the head that staggered Postol and caused his gloves to touch the canvas resulting in a technical knockdown. Although these were more or less flash knockdowns, it was clear after rounds four and five that the momentum was in Crawford’s favor.

At this point in the fight, Postol appeared to have clear problems timing Crawford’s movement as well as when Crawford would come forward and land offense in short spurts. From rounds four through nine, Crawford was able to use his lateral movement to more or less pick his shots and although this fight was not one where there was a lot of offensive activity throughout, Crawford’s ability to counter effectively, make Postol follow him, and make him miss became the story of the fight in my eyes.

Although Postol continued to attempt to apply pressure on Crawford and had some moments as the fight progressed, the primary difference other than Crawford’s movement and hand speed was Postol’s inability to cut the ring off and trap Crawford. Postol was penalized a point in round eleven for hitting Crawford behind the head, perhaps in a move of frustration. Crawford would go on to win a convincing twelve round unanimous decision to unify the WBO and WBC world championships in the Jr. Welterweight division.

Unofficially, I scored this fight 116-110 in points or eight rounds to four  for Crawford. My scorecard was largely based on the success that Postol was able to have in the first three rounds of the fight as well as narrowly winning a round down the stretch due to Crawford not being as active perhaps in an attempt to conserve his energy in the later rounds. Although a margin of 8-4 could give the impression that this fight was close, it was a tactical contest from start to finish where Crawford nearly got the better of the action from round four on.

It will be interesting to see where Viktor Postol goes off of what is the first loss of his career. Even though he clearly lost this fight in the eyes of most observers, including this one, he is still one of the best fighters in the Jr. Welterweight division and one loss will not set him back too far where he cannot bounce back and/or potentially become a world champion again should the opportunity present itself. This should be viewed as a world champion having a bad night and the question that will be asked of Postol coming out of this fight will be what did he learn from this loss and how can he improve going forward.

As for what is next for Terence Crawford it appears obvious that he will be in consideration for a potential fight with Manny Pacquiao, who will be returning to the ring in November. Whether or not the fight would take place in the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division or in the 147lb. Welterweight division, where Pacquiao has fought the majority of his fights in the last several years is unknown.

Although this fight was not one that could be called exciting or one that had an element of doubt as to who won it, it still brought together the two best fighters currently in the Jr. Welterweight division and that in itself should be considered a win for Boxing fans who have more often than not been asked to wait  significant periods of time for a fight that is labeled a “Super Fight” to take place. In terms of what this fight might mean for a business standpoint, it will be interesting to see what the returns will be in terms of pay-per-view buys for this fight as it was the first of Crawford’s fights to main event a pay-per-view Boxing card.

Even though some may question whether or not this fight should have been on pay-per-view, it is clear that the powers that be in the sport are in the process of developing stars for the future as potential pay-per-view attractions as fighters like Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, two of the sport’s biggest marquee draws and pay-per-view generators near the end of their respective careers. Although it appears that Pacquiao has had a change of heart after announcing his retirement following his second victory in his third fight against Timothy Bradley earlier this year and will be returning to the ring later this year, Boxing is always looking for the next “Superstar” of the sport.

 Crawford may well be a “Superstar” in what will become the post-Mayweather-Pacquiao era. Whether or not Crawford will be the man standing across the ring from Pacquiao in November is anyone’s guess, but now that he has tested the waters in the pay-per-view medium and left the ring with a convincing decision victory and unified world champion status in the Jr. Welterweight division, he clearly has the momentum to secure a would be “Super Fight.” It remains to be seen if Crawford will get that opportunity.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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