The top two 140-pound fighters on the planet meet Saturday at Las Vegas’s MGM Grand to unify the junior welterweight division. WBO champion Terence Crawford, the favorite, and WBC champion Viktor Postol each sport unblemished 28-0 records, with Crawford holding the knockout advantage, 20 to 12.
So rare is the opportunity to watch two world-class fighters meet to unify the belts of a division that the title fight, at least on paper, is probably the most-hyped bout of the year thus far. And while both preternaturally talented fighters are unbeaten in the ring, Crawford holds a number of critical advantages that will put him over the top.
Opponents land 7.5 punches per round against Crawford, the sixth-lowest total in the sport, according to CompuBox data — and among all fighters, Crawford allows opponents to connect on the second-lowest rate (19 percent) of total punches.
Most of Crawford’s professional track record follows a similar cadence: patiently allow opposing fighters the chance to establish the tempo, watch them exhaust their energy, then utterly outclass them in the later rounds.
This is problematic for Postol: According to Freddie Roach, the Ukrainian’s trainer, Postol is “going right at him from the opening bell.” In other words, should this not be a product of typical pre-fight bravado and media-placed manipulation, admittedly well-worn tactics in boxing, Postol plans on falling face-first into a trap Crawford has rinsed and repeated countless times.
Much of Postol’s attack strategy, like many fighters, is predicated on a strong, consistent jab, which, in turn, opens up opportunities for power punches. While hardly an executioner in the ring, having knocked out less than 45 percent of his opponents, Postol has dropped two of his past three.
Those knockouts were set up by a continual peppering of jabs in the early rounds. In his knockout win over Lucas Martin Matthysse, arguably the biggest victory of his career, Postol’s knockout blow was a feint-jab-straight-right combination, the seeds of which were planted long before the 10th Round.
Should Crawford prevent Postol from creating momentum with his jab — which he will likely attempt to neutralize by switching to southpaw — Postol’s strategy would implode.
“Everybody’s talking about Postol’s jab,” Crawford mused in the pre-fight news conference Wednesday. “We’re going to see who has the better jab.”
The 32-year-old faces a tall order in Crawford, one of the sport’s top defensive fighters, a man who frequently keeps his opponent flummoxed. Many have referred to Crawford as the best switch-hitting fighter since “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, a lofty and apt comparison. The high-risk, high-reward move paid off in his win over Yuriorkis Gamboa, just as it did in his four victories since.
The Omaha world champion is a tactician who will pivot from orthodox to southpaw in milliseconds, relentlessly keeping opponents off balance. Postol hasn’t fought a southpaw since Baxrom Payazov in 2013. Talent-wise, Crawford and Payazov may as well be from different planets. This switch-hitting ability allows Crawford to bring different playing cards into the ring with him, each of which he’s sent opponents sprawling to the mat with. Postol is stuck with one — having to guess which card Crawford chooses to play from the deck each round.