By Kieran Mulvaney
For many observers, one of the most notable and praiseworthy aspects of Terence Crawford’s performances in the ring is the way in which he is able to switch effortlessly and without warning between orthodox and southpaw stances in the middle of a fight.
Freddie Roach does not agree.
Roach, the Hall-of-Fame trainer who will be in the corner of Crawford’s opponent Viktor Postol in the main event of Saturday’s HBO pay-per-view card from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, even goes so far as to argue that switching stances confuses Crawford in the ring.
When a reporter suggested to him on Thursday morning that Crawford’s stance-switching was “seamless,” Roach countered that, “It might seem that way to you, but not to me. I don’t see it. I see he’s weak in the right hand stance and he’s strong in the southpaw stance, and that’s it. And when he’s in the middle and switching, he’s square. I think Crawford loops his punches a little bit, because he’s getting confused with the switching between stances. I don’t really believe it’s a good thing to do in boxing.”
In the unbeaten Postol, with whom he will be working for the fourth time on Saturday night, Roach has a boxer he clearly likes and in whom he believes, which is how it has been since he and the Ukrainian first came together in 2014.
“He showed up at the Wild Card Gym,” Roach recalled when talking to a group of journalists at the MGM Grand. “Manny was training for a tall opponent [Chris Algieri] at that time, and I needed some sparring partners to go to the Philippines with me, so I brought him over. He worked every day, he’s a very good worker. Being in the corner by himself while I was working with Many, he made adjustments on his own, and I saw that and I liked that. He’s a very nice guy. He’s never late. He shows up on time, he’s great to work with.”
Their first fight together saw Postol stop Selcuk Aydin at The Forum in Inglewood, California; but the fighter really raised eyebrows when he knocked out Lucas Matthysse at the StubHub Center last October – a finish that Roach admitted slightly surprised him.
“I didn’t expect that,” he acknowledged. “I thought [Matthysse] would get up. Everyone else was celebrating and I was waiting for him to get up. But when he didn’t get up, I was very surprised. I think he’s still suffering from that eye injury because he had to cancel a fight recently.
“I told him the round before he took him out, ‘OK, time to pick it up.’ When I tell him to pick it up, Postol knows what I mean. It means it’s time.”
The winner of Saturday’s bout may be in line for a November date with the returning Manny Pacquiao – a situation that, Roach admits, would mean he would have to find another trainer for Postol, should he be the one to emerge victorious, as Roach would have to remain loyal to his longtime charge. But, he said, the Filipino would not be watching the contest on television to eye up his potential next opponent.
“Manny’s not a TV guy,” he explained. “Manny took a picture the other month with [middleweight champion Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin] at the gym. GGG came to visit; he’s a very nice guy, very respectful. He waited for Manny to come out of the dressing room and take the picture. He took the picture, and later I’m working the mitts with Manny and he said, ‘Freddie, who was that guy I took a picture with?’ So I said, ‘Manny, don’t you watch TV?’ He said, ‘Not much.’”
Nobody would ever confuse the lanky, jab-heavy Postol with the explosive Pacquiao; but, Roach says, Saturday’s bout with Crawford reminds him a little of the first time he and Pacquiao worked together, when the then-unknown Filipino took on South African junior featherweight champ Lehlo Ledwaba in 2001.
“I come to Vegas and I tell everyone that my guy’s going to win and they all say no and shake their heads,” he said. “It was like when I brought Manny in to face Ledwaba, and when I went to the sports book to put money on Manny beating Ledwaba, they wouldn’t take the bet. And now the odds here are like 6-1, and nobody’s giving my guy a shot. And I feel good about that, because I know my guy does have a shot and we’ve done everything possible to get ready for this fight. I feel good about where we’re out right now.”
So did that mean he’d be laying a bet on Postol?