Tonight Terence Crawford takes on Dierry Jean in Crawford’s first defense of his junior welterweight title.  While Crawford is the favorite, the jury is still out on his place in the division.  While 2014 was a sensational year for the up-and-coming lightweight, a handful of well chosen fights can be very misleading to fans speculating about a fighter’s ability.  I think I first took notice of Crawford when he dismantled Breidis Prescott, who I always considered a gatekeeper after he introduced Amir Khan to the canvas with his first knockout loss.  It wasn’t until very recently, however, that fans got a taste of what Crawford can really do.

Yuriorkis Gamboa was known among lightweights as an elite fighter.  Granted, he had technical flaws, but the undefeated Gamboa was universally regarded as a physical powerhouse with enough boxing ability to expose any pretender.  In June of 2014, fans expected another exhibition in Gamboa’s fight against the relative unknown Terence Crawford.  Gamboa came out aggressively and used his speed and defensive ability to control the much taller Crawford, while taking hard shots from the outside.  In round five, Crawford fought back, matching Gamboa for aggressiveness with superior control and accuracy, sending Gamboa to the floor.  When Gamboa attempted to even the score by increasing his aggression over the next few rounds, Crawford made the point even clearer, with three more knockdowns.  In this fight, Crawford proved he has the edge in technical ability that makes the difference,  but he also showed that he has formidable heart and power to be reckoned with even for top-level fighters.

To Crawford, Dierry Jean (29-1-0) will serve as a legitimate opponent, 20 of his 29 wins coming by knockout and having a single loss to a B+ fighter, but he’ll be nothing more.  Lamont Peterson handed Jean his only defeat, but Jean has fought no other higher-level opposition.  He’ll have more to prove than Crawford tonight, ironically, and it’s a hell of an opportunity to do so, but the task is unenviable, to say the least.  I see this as Jean’s promotional team identifying the end of a fighter’s peak and gambling on his remaining potential.  No one expects him to win, or even be competitive, but maybe if Jean puts up a good enough fight, he can continue to get lucrative matches as a gatekeeper.  I expect Crawford to remain on my Fighters to Watch page for the foreseeable future.  Crawford, by unanimous decision.

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