By Frank Della Femina
Simply put, 2014 was one hell of a year for Terence Crawford. By year's end, the lightweight champion from Omaha, Nebraska was hearing his name bandied about in discussions about Fighter of the Year, Fight of the Year, and KO of the Year.
Fresh off his November win over Ray Beltran, Crawford says he may be eyeing a return to the ring sometime in the spring. But time away from the ring doesn't necessarily mean time away from the game, which is what brings Crawford to Denver for this weekend's fight between Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios.
"I know it's going to be a very exciting fight," Crawford said while on hand for Friday's fighter weigh-ins. "I fought on the undercard of Alvarado vs. Rios 2, and it was a great, exciting fight. So I was like, 'I want to be there for the third one.'"
"Neither one of them can afford a loss at this point in their career," Crawford continued. "That's why I think it's going to lead to more excitement in the fight, because both of them are going to throw their heart out there and throw it all on the line."
Headed into the first meeting in October 2012 both fighters put their undefeated records on the line in a fight that, in all likelihood, could have been avoided had either man chosen to do so. But they didn't then, nor did they in a 2013 rematch and, subsequently, still haven't decided to steer clear of one another, resulting this weekend's third chapter.
Action is just about the only thing guaranteed in this fight – the winner is very much up in the air. In 2012, Rios bested Alvarado in what the Denver native still considers an early stoppage. One year later, it was Alvarado who boxed his way to victory in a heated exchange that turned into an all-out war.
Crawford lends a bit of his boxing expertise to the mix as he makes his own pick.
"Honestly, I think Rios is going to get the edge in this one," he said. "I just feel like Mike has been in too many wars lately. Too many wars getting hurt with [Ruslan] Provodnikov and [Juan Manuel] Marquez. All those fights are taking a toll on him. I think he's been in more wars in the long run that hurt him."
Nevertheless, Saturday's main event is bound to be an interesting one between two fighters who enter the ring with everything to lose.
"They just go out with a bang," Crawford said. "I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of fireworks in this fight."
Alvarado vs. Rios 3 happens tonight at 9:45 PM ET/PT on HBO Boxing After Dark.