Terence Crawford's rise from obscurity has been nothing short of startling and illuminating. Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Crawford toiled in virtual anonymity until March 2013, when he was summoned as a late sub for then-140-pound titlist Khabib Allakhverdiev to fight Breidis Prescott. After decisively out-pointing Prescott, Crawford rolled off five more wins that included a WBO lightweight title and a 2014 campaign that many thought was worthy of Fighter of the Year status.
Now, the "Hunter" is seeking new prey in a new weight class. The one-time sub for a junior welterweight titlist is fighting for a vacant belt at 140 against once-beaten and one-time super prospect Thomas Dulorme. Will this story come full circle? We'll see.
Statistical factors that may determine the outcome include:
Crawford's Many Sides: During his run Crawford has proved himself to be, arguably, the most versatile fighter in the sport. Not only can he switch-hit with fluidity and equal effectiveness, each fight appears to reveal a new wrinkle. Against Sidney Siqueira Crawford was a volume puncher (81 per round) that featured an excellent body attack (40 body connects among 101 landed power shots). In beating Prescott he threw far less (43.2 punches per round) and he boxed more than he slugged (286 jabs, 146 power shots) but he was very efficient, especially in his power punching as he boasted a 44%-19% bulge). As in the Presoctt fight, Crawford proved he could out-box a taller man in Ricky Burns. There, he upped his punch rate to 67.6 per round, used a balanced attack (422 jabs, 389 power shots) and produced lopsided numbers (213-76 overall, 52-27 jabs, 161-49 power). Against Alejandro Sanabria Crawford featured an almost perfectly balanced offense (112 jabs, 121 power shots) but was extremely accurate (36% overall, 50% power) and defensively responsible (23% overall, 27% power) and showed off one-punch explosiveness as a hook dropped Sanabria in the opening moments of the sixth.
Against Yuriorkis Gamboa, Crawford proved he can come back from a slow start and show off a previous untapped wild side in producing the knockout. From round five onward he out-landed Gamboa 116-41 overall and 80-38 power and was extremely efficient in his power percentages (78%, 53%, 71%, 73% and 67%).
During his most recent victory over Raymundo Beltran, Crawford showcased his extraordinary jab, which was also effective against Andrey Klimov (36.5 thrown/8.8 connects per round). The Beltran numbers were eye-popping: His 12.5 connects per round more than doubled the 5.1 lightweight average and he reached double-digit connects in eight of the 12 rounds, including a stretch of 20, 18 and 18 in rounds four through six and finished the fight with four more in rounds 9-12. That table-setter allowed Crawford to post massive connect gaps (243-96 overall, 150-23 jabs, 93-73 power) and impressive accuracy across all phases (38% overall, 34% jabs, 46% power). The only cause for pause -- Beltran landed 36% of his power shots, a higher figure than in other bouts. Crawford's put up good numbers in his last 4 fights. He landed 46% of his power punches (wgt. class avg.: 36%). He also landed 8 jabs per round (wgt. class avg.: 5)
The Comeback Trail: Dulorme has won six straight since his disastrous seventh round TKO loss to Luis Abregu in October 2012, a fight that saw the prospect dropped twice and hammered consistently (121-54 overall, 103-29 power while tasting 46% of Abregu's power shots). While Dulorme has won, he hasn't shown the same explosiveness that marked his rise to prominence. He has scored two KOs in those six fights as compared to the 12 KOs he scored in 16 fights before facing the Argentine.
In six pre-Abregu fights Dulorme averaged 60.5 punches per round, averaged 27.2 thrown jabs and 5.7 jab connects per round and landed 46% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts while his opponents averaged 35.8 punches per round, landed 1.6 of their 11.9 jabs per round and connected on 23% overall, 13% jabs and 28% power. Conversely, in three CompuBox-tracked post-Abregu fights the numbers have dropped precipitously. Dulorme's work rate plunged to 39.5 per round to his opponents' 34.8. He has landed 3.9 jabs and thrown 18.8 jabs per round to his foes' 2.4 and 13.8 and the accuracy gaps in Dulorme's favor have shrunk to 30%-25% overall, 21%-18% jabs and 38%-30% power.
Not only has he become a more reluctant fighter offensively, he has shown signs of fatigue late in bouts. Against Francisco Figueroa Dulorme started well as he averaged 51.8 punches per round in rounds 2-5 and out-landed Figueroa 48-21 overall and 48-20 power in that stretch. But in rounds six and seven Dulorme's output dipped to 47 and 34 respectively (40.5 per round) and out-landed Figueroa 16-9 overall and 13-8 power before scoring the TKO in the eighth.
Karim Mayfield's ugly style induced a mauling, slow-paced fight (30.8 per round for Dulorme, 28.4 for Mayfield) that included underwhelming accuracy (27%-21% Dulorme overall, 22%-20% Mayfield jabs, 36%-21% Dulorme power). Dulorme established a lead in the first six rounds by prevailing 47-28 overall and 31-20 power. But in round seven Mayfield led 11-8 in total connects while Dulorme's work rate dropped from 35 punches to 26. In fact, in three of the final four rounds Dulorme's output was below 30 (26 in the seventh, 27 in the ninth and 24 in the 10th) while Mayfield's rose from 31 in the sixth to 33, 35, 39 and 29 in the final four rounds. Dulorme hung on to lead 83-61 overall, 34-25 jabs and 49-36 power, but he failed to put the hammer down when he could have.
Dulorme's most recent fight with Hank Lundy was a tale of two halves. Dulorme kicked off the fight with a first-round knockdown and a first half that saw him build bulges of 74-66 overall and averaging 48.6 punches per round to Lundy's 42.2. But the fight turned in the sixth round and from that point forward his output dropped to 40.8 per round while Lundy's surged to 48 and saw Lundy prevail 85-80 in total connects, thanks largely to a 10th round in which Lundy out-threw Dulorme 62-37 in thrown punches and out-land him 25-17 overall. In the end, Dulorme clung to a slim 152-151 lead in total connects, which accurately projected the split decision that would follow.
Needless to say, this habit of fading late in fights could be disastrous against a multi-faceted yet consistently excellent fighter in Crawford.
Prediction: Crawford is a man on the rise while Dulorme, while still winning, is not the same fighter who caused so much excitement early in his career. Yes, Dulorme is the naturally bigger guy (he's had seven fights where he's weighed 145 or more while Crawford's career high was 142 against Andre Gorges in April 2012) but the Nebraskan's talent level has proven to be elite while Dulorme has yet to reach that plateau. Crawford by late-round TKO.