Terence Crawford, once shrouded in obscurity, is now a two-division titlist, a solid candidate for the pound-for-pound list and boxing's face of Nebraska the same way Virgil Hill's once was for North Dakota. On Saturday, before a boisterous throng in Omaha, he'll make the first defense of his 140-pound crown against Canada-based Haitian Dierry Jean, who will be making his second attempt to win a major crown.
Moving On Up: In a nod to Crawford's burgeoning star power, his debut at 140 was for a vacant belt and "The Hunter" had to work hard to bag his quarry. Crawford started slowly as he threw just 34 punches to Thomas Dulorme's 55 and was out-landed 10-6 in round one. The same thing happened in the second (out-thrown 55-35, out-landed 9-6) and after five rounds Crawford trailed 50-43 overall and 21-19 power. But lightning struck in round six as Crawford scored three knockdowns, out-threw Dulorme 62-14, prevailed 24-3 overall and 21-1 power and erased every numerical edge Dulorme previously had by scoring the TKO. In the rush of accomplishment, all was forgotten.
In the six lightweight bouts preceding the Dulorme bout, Crawford enjoyed sizeable statistical advantages in output (52 per round to 36.9), average connects per round (16.9 vs. 7.3) and accuracy (33%-20% overall, 23%-14% jabs, 46%-25% power). The slow start against Dulorme may be an aberration, but if it repeats against Jean, it's a trend.
A Matter of Levels: The last time Jean stepped up his degree of difficulty he lost a unanimous decision to then-IBF super lightweight king Lamont Peterson. Though the fight was staged in Peterson's hometown of Washington, D.C., this was no hometown decision as Jean was out-thrown (46.3 per round vs. 51.8), out-landed (230-123 overall, 69-35 jabs, 161-88 power) and was out-done on marksmanship (37%-22% overall, 21%-14% jabs, 56%-28% power). The 56% number remains tied for Peterson's highest power percentage in 15 CompuBox-tracked fights.
In the three CompuBox-tracked fights since losing to Peterson (KO 8 Mario Perez, KO 5 Daniel Ruiz, W 10 Jerry Belmontes), Jean, predictably, has performed better. He did to them what Peterson did to him as he threw a combined 65.8 punches per round to their 44.2, doubled their average connects per round (23.9 vs. 11.9) and power connects per round (15 vs. 7.4) and was the more accurate hitter (36%-27% overall, 28%-22% jabs and 44%-31% power). The jab that was absent against Peterson (20.6 thrown/2.9 connects per round) was in fine form afterward (31.3 thrown/8.9 connects per round). Red flag: Jean's last 4 opponents (Belmontes, Perez, Ruiz, Peterson) landed 40% of their power shots. Wgt. class avg.: 36%.
Prediction: Crawford is a world-class fighter, but even more so in Omaha. Also, Jean was wobbled by right hands from Ruiz, a lightweight, and Crawford's a bigger puncher. Jean is very talented but also vulnerable against the better fighters. Crawford by TKO.