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February 13, 2021

Fight Report: Crawford TKO4 Brook

by Matt O'Brien

An edited version of this article was originally published on on November 15th, 2020:

Pound-for-pound lists are not to everybody’s taste, but regardless of how you choose to rank the best fighters in the world, there’s no denying that Terence Crawford is one of the most outstanding talents of the last few years. The WBO welterweight champion from Omaha, Nebraska, is now 15-0 in world title fights across three weight classes, winning his last eight contests all by stoppage. If anything, Crawford only looks to be getting better.

His latest victim, Kell Brook (39-2), boxed an excellent fight for three rounds, before being clinically dispatched at 1:14 of the fourth round. The former IBF world champion, hailing from the famous Ingle gym in Sheffield, England, had not fought at welterweight since losing his title three and a half years ago, but he came into the fight in great shape, made weight comfortably and looked ripped and focused on the scales. The Englishman’s natural size advantage and world-championship pedigree made this an intriguing clash on paper, and “The Special One” made a very positive start.

Brook stuck out a sharp jab in the opening session, measuring the distance well and landing most of the scoring punches. “Bud” circled and began to press the action towards the end, but a lovely, clean counter-left hook from Brook got through as they exchanged in the final seconds, and the challenger took the round.

The Englishman kept his jab popping out in the second and began to mix in a few right hands to follow it up, even landing a crisp right uppercut at one point. Crawford also started to throw out some exploratory right-hand counters, but then switched to lefty for the first time with about half a minute left in the round. The action was tense, but Crawford wasn’t really landing anything significant up to this point, and seemed content to bide his time.

There was a sense that the champion was about to move up a gear in the third, though. Making a permanent switch to southpaw, he stalked more purposefully and began closing the space ever-so-slightly, landing his own right jab and firing quick counters. To his credit, the challenger adjusted too, using the right hand lead more effectively to deal with Crawford’s change in stance, and landed some of his own scoring punches towards the end of another competitive round.

At this point, it looked like this could be turning into a tricky night for Crawford. Brook had banked at least a couple of rounds and the effects of his accurate jabs were apparent from a slight swelling on the champ’s right eye. Only weeks ago, we saw another pound-for-pound stalwart, Vasyl Lomachenko, fall behind after a slow start and never make up the lost ground. But one thing that makes Crawford so impressive is that he brings a vicious streak to the ring that stands out even among the sport’s elite fighters.

Less than a minute into the fourth, as Brook jabbed and began to throw a right hand behind it, Bud read the move perfectly and stepped in with a beautifully timed, short, stiff right lead of his own. The punch itself wasn’t a devastating shot, but the speed combined with the force of Brook’s own bodyweight moving directly into it amplified the impact, and the challenger’s legs buckled. He stumbled back, grasping at the ropes to steady himself like a falling drunk grabbing onto to the side of a bar before he topples over.

As Bud pursued and followed up with two hard left hooks and another powerful right, referee Tony Weeks saved a disoriented Brook by issuing a standing count, ruling that only the ropes had prevented a legitimate knockdown. Brook nodded to signal he was okay, but the look on his face said, “What the hell just hit me?”

One thing that separates great fighters from good ones is their instinct in the heat of battle – something Crawford possesses in spades. He makes instinctive adjustments with his feet to counter his opponent’s offense, but even more scary is the killer instinct he possesses when he smells blood.

Tony Weeks waved them on, but with Brook stuck in a corner and Crawford in finishing mode, it was only a matter of time. A signature, two-fisted assault of arcing, slashing punches reigned down, and all Brook could do was cover up. As he fell back into the ropes yet again, he was mercifully rescued – still on his feet, but almost certainly saved from being brutally knocked out. In the blink of an eye, the contest had gone from a competitive scrap to another conclusive stoppage win for the champ.

No doubt some will question whether Brook was a suitably tough challenger, given that he had taken heavy physical punishment in his previous two losses to Gennadiy Golovkin and Errol Spence several years ago. Perhaps. But I tend to think that assessment is a little bit too harsh on the Englishman. He boxed competitively and proved his worth in those fights against two elite operators, one of them at a much higher weight, before succumbing to serious eye injuries on both occasions. And the fact that neither GGG nor Spence achieved such an impressive, clinical finish speaks volumes for the Nebraskan.

So, while it’s true that Bud’s career has suffered from his inability to get the biggest rivals at welterweight into the ring with him, he’s taken care of the best opposition available, given the promotional obstacles in his way, in pretty emphatic style. At 33 years old though, he doesn’t have many more years to enhance his legacy and needs to face his biggest rivals sooner rather than later.

Crawford’s promoter, Bob Arum, indicated that a fight with aging legend and rival WBA champ, Manny Pacquaio, was almost sealed earlier this year, before the Coronavirus scuppered a planned event in the Middle East. The Filipino legend is almost 42 now, and it’s a fight that Crawford would be heavily favoured to win at this stage. Still, if that fight could be rescheduled for the spring, it would certainly help to boost Crawford’s drawing power, and perhaps help build the cross-promotional bridges needed to make the fight we all really want to see – and the sport desperately needs – a showdown between Crawford and undefeated IBF/WBC rival, Errol Spence.

Let’s hope reason prevails and those fights get made. In the meantime, we just have to enjoy Crawford for what he is: probably­­­­­­ the most talented fighter alive.

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