CRAWFORD “Don’t Blink”
By Bill Green
The old cliché goes stay ready at all times, the phone will ring, and it will be time to work. That cliché definitely remains true as HBO received bad news time after time. First powerhouse and cash cow Canelo Alvarez, would suffer in injury in his last bout, forcing him to withdraw from the Dec 10 scheduled date. Next, negotiations failed for GGG vs Daniel Jacobs, pushing that highly anticipated Middleweight clash to presumably, March 2017. So that brings us to Crawford vs Molina. On nearly just 6 weeks to prepare, opponents were sought, all the while, Crawford has made it very clear to all “I want all the belts, to unify, to clear out the division, whoever has a belt I want them.”
Easier said than done, for Top Rank matchmaker’s and HBO executives, as opponent after opponent pulled the normal, asked for crazy amounts of purse compensation, declined when found out the fight would take place in Omaha, or simply despite the above mentioned cliché, frankly weren’t ready for a fight of that magnitude. All promoter’s need an ace up their sleeve, and Hall of Famer, Bob Arum, decided to use it. That ace happened to be a call to Al Hayman, yes the same Al Hayman, that both Top Rank and PBC once had a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against. However, cooler heads prevailed of late and plenty of key matchups and money can/will be made. The call consisted of inquiring about Hayman’s roster, asking who could/would be ready for Crawford on short notice. Just like Crawford, Molina lives by the code, stay ready and good things will happen. Sam Watson, Hayman’s right hand man, hopped on a plane and next thing you know the boxing world was amped for not only Crawford vs Molina, but the big picture…. Top Rank, PBC and HBO doing business together.
Great fights are not based on records; instead great fights are made when both fighters have everything to gain.
For Crawford, a win over a top ten rated contender such as Molina, especially in exciting style, could catapult him to the eventual Pacquiao showdown. After a near flawless and as Bob Arum stated “a beautiful jazz-like performance” over former undefeated #1 rated Super Lightweight champ, Viktor “Iceman” Postol, Crawford 29-0 (20) still wasn’t satisfied. He has stated to many that he could’ve and should’ve “put him away”.
Molina 29-6 (23), fresh off upsetting Ruslan Provodnikov, didn’t have to take this fight, but knows a win over Crawford, would make him an instant target by others, especially in the money department…. not to mention how much an immediate rematch could be worth.
Crawford may be a smaller in stature Super-Lightweight compared to the nearly 6 ft. Molina, but make no mistake, he enjoys being the bigger man/puncher when the bell rings. Molina believes in his power, let’s not forgot that one punch that ended Mickey Bey’s night, after trailing on the scorecards for 11 rds.
At this stage, all fights matter and all title defenses are dangerous. The old cliché goes, you don’t play boxing and I’m willing to bet that both Crawford and Molina definitely won’t be playing tag in there lol
Just a mere 6 days before the bell rings, I caught up with Crawford.
BG: How was camp? I know that you have been doing this awhile now, especially in Colorado Springs. How do you stay motivated, how do you avoid the redundancy?
CRAWFORD: Camp was intense and grueling, we anticipated that we may fight before the end of the year. Every fight is a new challenge. I mean it has to be, you have new opponents, new styles. My team mixes things up all the time, you can never stop learning or sharpening your craft.
BG: We know you train hard for every opponent, but each challenger clearly wants what you have. On paper most see this as a mismatch, but would you agree that the quiet fighters and fights with less theatrics are the most dangerous?
CRAWFORD: I do agree; we were just talking about that. There has been zero trash talk for this fight, all respect. I met John few years back at an event, always new our paths may cross. He’s dangerous, he comes from what we call good people. He always comes to fight, never stops punching.
BG: Certain champions struggle to stay on top, they tend to cut corners, become relaxed, made their money in the sport and stop investing in their craft so to speak. How do you stay disciplined? Will we ever see you unmotivated in the sport why or why not?
CRAWFORD: Again, different challenge, they are all threats. They want what I have, my job is to make sure that I protect it. He’s a solid and seasoned guy, worked his way to the top, nobody gave him anything, he earned it, that’s how I felt 90% of my career. He’s getting another crack, could be his last, I’m sure he won’t lay down, he’s coming to fight. Once you or your team stop paying attention to the little things, that’s when things go south. No, you will never ever see me underestimate anyone, because where I’m from, my struggles, you never forget. We stay grounded by living in the same area, same city, a reminder to not only me but those less fortunate that something good can come from North Omaha. How can I be undisciplined when I’m in the gym everyday trying to motivate the kids and other fighters? I want to be a person they look up to, that’s my job.
BG: Molina is nearly 6 ft. tall and under his new trainer, is using his jab as a major weapon. Most believe that he will come straight at you hoping to land a Sunday punch. Would you be surprised if he tries to outbox you and if so, are you prepared to be the aggressor in this bout?
CRAWFORD: No, not at all. We watched his fight with Provodnikov, his new trainer is making adjustments, fighting tall and his confidence is high right now. He is seasoned, he has seen a lot of styles, so just like our team they are going to plan a way for him to be successful. We train for everything; I’m going to be me. Whatever job is necessary to win, that’s what I’m willing and going to do on the 10th.
BG: Most fans don't understand the mental pressure of not only fighting at home, but to not just win, but be impressive each and every time that bell rings. Do you believe that you can silence those critics if you don't KO Molina on Dec 10?
CRAWFORD: No, critics will be there win, lose or draw. I have zero pressure from the press. Everyone keeps saying I need this or that to get Pacquiao….no I need to be me. That is what got me here. What’s important is winning, providing opportunities for my city and to put food on the table for my family. Knockouts come from being focused, capitalizing on your opponent’s mistakes, not by being careless and pleasing others.
BG: Upsets happen in boxing, especially in a fighter’s home town. Why won't we see an upset next Saturday night?
CRAWFORD: Because, we work. We put the time in not just in camp, but each and every day. We live boxing, this is part of our life. Just like anything else in life, you have to be dedicated, make sacrifices and remain focused. We respect him, but once that bell rings, he’s facing not just me, but Omaha, all our struggles. I promise you one thing…that place is going to be lit.
BG: What can fight fans expect on Saturday night?
CRAWFORD: I’m excited to be defending the belts again in the city that built and supported me. I’m excited for Keven Ventura and Steven Nelson to fight on the same card as me. Happy for them and like what they have been writing in the media, they will start the night off and I will finish it…. don’t blink.