Photos: Ed Mulholland
By Kieran Mulvaney
NEW YORK -- At first glance, there isn’t much, beyond their shared their profession, that Gennady Golovkin and Terence Crawford would appear to have in common: not their nationalities, nor their upbringings, nor even their fighting styles. But scratch beneath the surface, and the similarities are there.
Quiet and respectful to interlocutors outside the ring, both flip switches and become stone cold destroyers when they step between the ropes. Neither appreciates the kind of pre-fight smack talk from opponents that they feel crosses into disrespect, not just of them but of boxing itself. When middleweight contender Curtis Stevens took to social media to post an image of he and some friends standing with a casket they had made for Golovkin, the Kazakh champion responded with a prolonged pummeling of his American foe, closing with an angry postfight exhortation to the beaten opponent – and the world at large – that “you must respect box.” After calling out Crawford and promising to take the Nebraskan’s junior welterweight title back to Canada, Dierry Jean received a 10-round beating punctuated by Crawford yelling at him, “Did you get what you’re looking for?”
But their greatest commonality is that both Golovkin and Crawford are extremely good at their job – so much so, in fact, that they have at times appeared to be too good for their own good. Golovkin has spent the past several years bludgeoning one overmatched foe after another while waiting for a meaningful challenge; he finally received that challenge in March, in the form of Daniel Jacobs, and his reward at overcoming the New Yorker is the matchup he has long coveted: a blockbuster showdown with Canelo Alvarez, which will take place on September 16 on HBO PPV.
Somewhat like Golovkin, Crawford has been going through the gears, taking on a succession of opponents who, through no fault of his own, have been no match for him. For David Lemieux, Martin Murray or Matthew Macklin, substitute Ray Beltran, Hank Lundy, or John Molina. But Golovkin’s plaintive call for a Canelo clash has now been answered; Crawford is more reticent about naming his would-be big-name foil, but his promoter has been more forthcoming. Should Crawford overcome Felix Diaz on Saturday (HBO World Championship Boxing, 10:15 PM ET/PT), and perhaps claim the last remaining belt in his division from Julius Indongo, then the reward that may very well await him, the bauble that has been dangled in front of him teasingly for over a year now, is Manny Pacquiao.
Step one, however, is Diaz – and in Saturday’s contest there could conceivably be another parallel with Golovkin. Like Daniel Jacobs before his encounter with the Kazakh in the same Madison Square Garden ring in which Crawford and Diaz will lock horns, the Dominican is an amateur standout with one defeat and a reputation as a tough and skillful fighter. The prevailing narrative surrounding Crawford-Diaz, as it was for Golovkin-Jacobs, is that the challenger is likely to provide a stern test before being overcome. In the event, Jacobs pushed Golovkin farther and harder than anyone had done before; Diaz will be aiming to do that and more – not just exposing vulnerabilities in Crawford but upsetting the apple cart entirely and taking the American’s place in the Pacquiao stakes. Crawford may be looking ahead to the prospect of the biggest opportunity of his career, but for Diaz, that opportunity comes this Saturday, and he does not intend to blow it.
Weights from New York:
Terence Crawford 139.2 pounds | Felix Diaz 139.4 pounds
Ray Beltran 134.6 pounds | Jonathan Maicelo 134.8 pounds