Nobody really expected Dierry Jean to beat WBO light welterweight champion Terence Crawford in Omaha, Nebraska on Saturday night. Yet, even as the favorite, fighting before his hometown crowd, Crawford had pressure on him. In the post-Floyd Mayweather world, every trip into the spotlight for a rising star carries particular relevance. American fans are hungry for a new star to replace Mayweather at the pinnacle of the sport.
But beyond replacing Mayweather, Terence Crawford was auditioning for a spot against Manny Pacquiao, in the Filipino’s projected return fight next April, which will also be his farewell bout, according to Top Rank CEO Bob Arum. After Mayweather, Pacquiao has been the greatest boxing star of this century. A chance to face him in his final fight is a life-changing opportunity for any fighter. It offers lifetime financial security, and beyond that, the chance to start forging a new legend.
To earn a spot like that, Terence Crawford needed more than to simply defeat Jean. He needed to do it in style. He needed to turn in the sort of performance that would leave boxing fans anxious for more.
Jean and his trainer made big boasts coming into the fight. It’s not unusual for fighters coming into a fight to trash talk a bit, but Crawford took the boasts personally, and made Jean pay for them, pounding on the overmatched Jean, before stopping him in Round 10. Crawford fought with a sense of belligerence, applying intelligent yet relentless aggression throughout the fight.
It was exactly the performance he needed to keep his name at the top of the list for the Manny Pacquiao sweepstakes. To be clear, Jean is not an elite talent. But he is a tough-nosed, athletic fighter. He’s a durable guy with a big right hand. He gave long-time IBF light welterweight champion Lamont Peterson a stiff test in January 2014, winning as many as seven rounds on one judges’ card.
Against Crawford, he had absolutely no answers. And he looked as fit and prepared for this fight as he did against Peterson. The only difference was Crawford himself.
There are other great fights out there for Crawford, aside from Pacquiao. I’d love to see him in a unification fight with WBC champion Viktor Postol. I think he’d knock out Adrien Broner, but it would have exciting potential.
But Terence Crawford vs. Manny Pacquiao could be one of the major bouts of 2016. It would represent a stiff test for the young Nebraskan. Although he adjusted and knocked him out, Crawford had trouble in the early going with Yuri Gamboa’s speed in June 2014. Pacquiao has similar speed, and much heavier hands.
But Terence Crawford would have the same sort of length advantages against Pacquiao that Mayweather enjoyed. He’s a smart, cagey fighter with a true warrior’s heart. There’s no better potential opponent for Pacquiao’s last round-up.