LAS VEGAS — The very thing that makes Shawn Porter unique and a most difficult opponent to handle may well be the thing that enables Terence Crawford to, once and for all, prove his greatness.
Porter’s pressure has been his calling card for as long as he’s fought. It’s almost as if Porter doesn’t understand how to take a step back. He’s always on the attack and always trying to create the fight.
The pair will meet for Crawford’s WBO welterweight title on Saturday at Michelob Ultra Arena, and Porter’s pressure presumably will help him jump to an early lead, given Crawford is a notoriously slow starter.
That is, at least, the conventional wisdom. An alternate theory is that Porter’s pressure will force Crawford to be ready at the outset, and while it may take away the Nebraskan’s time and space, his quickness and ability to spot openings will more than make up for it.
It’s the subplot of this fight that makes it so compelling. Crawford hasn’t fought anyone like Porter — few have, until they fight Porter — and his opposition has generally been less than might be expected.
So Porter — a +450 underdog to the -800 favorite at BetMGM — is not only a step up for Crawford in terms of talent, but a seemingly difficult match in terms of style.
Crawford, though, is a guy who constantly walks around with a chip on his shoulder. And that’s especially true in the ring, where he feels he hasn’t been given enough credit for his greatness.
Trainer Brian “Bomac” McIntyre said Crawford’s notoriously high intensity level has increased for this fight. He knows the stakes, he’s heard the critics and he knows the significance of an impressive victory.
“When the conversation first came up about Porter, and it got real serious, I seen a different Terence Crawford,” McIntyre said. “The man himself told us, the coaches, ‘This is going to be one of the hardest camps ever.’ It was like that from Day 1 until the last day we broke camp from Colorado Springs. It’s been focus. It’s been tunnel vision. It’s been nothing but, ‘Let’s go get Shawn.’ [He’s had a] way, way higher level [of intensity than before].”
That final point didn’t exactly make a lot of sense to Porter and his father/trainer, Kenny. They’re intense from the first yawn in the morning until the lights go out at night.
It may be a case of looking for an issue where none exists, but McIntyre’s insistence that the intensity level went up in Crawford’s camp was a red flag to the Porters.
“If someone’s telling me they’re more intense this camp than they’ve ever been before, I’m probably looking at them and saying, ‘Why?’ ” Kenny Porter said. “You’re a professional. You’ve been doing this a long time. You should always be serious about what you do and there should never be any letdowns. So what was it before? Was there letdowns before?”
Crawford’s record suggests there have been few, if any, letdowns in his career as a pro. He’s 37-0 with 28 knockouts and on a streak of eight consecutive KOs or TKOs. He rarely loses more than a round or two before finishing his opponents, so if there has been a lack of intensity from Crawford, it’s been momentary.
The fight is on pay-per-view, and Crawford hasn’t been a big seller. It’s not unlike early in Floyd Mayweather’s career, at the time when he was known in the business as “Pretty Boy.” He was a great fighter almost from the day he debuted, but he wasn’t much of a ticket seller in the Pretty Boy days.
Once he became “Money May” in the Arturo Gatti fight, he was selling.
Crawford isn’t much of a mind to sell his bouts, and it’s kind of late in his career to start. When he was asked his reaction about Kenny Porter’s comments about intensity, he smiled and gave a simple answer.
“I’m ready for Saturday,” he said.
He’d better be ready because if he’s not, he’ll be left to explain away his first defeat. And this intensely proud man couldn’t stomach a loss in clearly the biggest fight of his career to date.
So it seems a good bet that Porter’s pressure will work to Crawford’s advantage, by forcing him to raise his game and be better than he’s been before.
The greatest have a way of lifting their games when it matters most. Don’t be surprised Saturday if Terence Crawford does the same thing.