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Fun with GIFs: Terence Crawford - Boxer, Puncher, Rising Star

Terence Crawford's skill is evident, but sometimes his power and nastiness are still overlooked.

Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Terence "Bud" Crawford has won world titles at 135 and 140 pounds, and on Saturday night the 2014 Fighter of the Year returns to his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, to make the first defense of his WBO junior welterweight title against Haitian-Canadian challenger Dierry Jean.

Jean (29-1, 22 KO) is a solid fighter and a fringe type contender, whose one world title shot thus far came in January 2014. He was outclassed by Lamont Peterson on that night, and Crawford (26-0, 18 KO) is more highly regarded right now than Peterson was then. In short, it's not shaping up to be a great night for Dierry Jean in Omaha.

Crawford, 28, has come into consideration for the pound-for-pound top ten since his HBO debut in 2013, as he's shown a variety of ways he can win and dominate in fights, against fighters of various styles, at home and abroad. He's a true switch-hitter, deadly effective from both orthodox and southpaw stances, and a fighter with a mean streak that equals his quiet personality and patient, studied approach in the ring.

Crawford came to HBO in March 2013, taking a calculated risk to fight at 140 pounds on two weeks' notice against Breidis Prescott, a limited fighter but a good puncher who was still most famous for once knocking the crap out of Amir Khan in 54 seconds.

Crawford kept a longer, taller fighter at bay with an effective jab, and at times unleashed some furious combinations, targeting Prescott's head and body simultaneously with power shots.

Two and a half months later, Crawford was back on HBO against Alejandro Sanabria, a Mexican fighter entering with a 34-1-1 record. Sanabria was aggressive and fought with confidence early on, but Crawford's superior skill and sharper punches beat that out of him en route to a sixth round stoppage. Sanabria has not fought since.

Here's a slow motion shot of Crawford lacing Sanabria with a left hook, from two different angles. 2 ANGLES, 1 GIF! Only here at Bad Left Hook or anywhere else that makes GIFs.

Following an unmemorable shutout win over Andrey Klimov in October 2013 on HBO, Crawford went to Scotland to challenge Ricky Burns for the WBO lightweight title, a fight that HBO did not pick up. Burns had struggled through two straight fights, rallying to stop Jose "Chepo" Gonzalez and receiving a gift draw against Ray Beltran, and seemed ripe for the picking.

Though Burns actually fought better against Crawford than he had against Beltran or during the first seven or so rounds of his win over Gonzalez, Crawford's offensive prowess and more dynamic style and skills gave him his first world title on the road in Glasgow, not an easy thing to accomplish when something goes to the cards. He didn't blow Burns out of the water, but dominated enough of the fight that he was the clear victor. Much of his best work was very clear stuff, like this bit where he whacks Burns to the body, busts through the guard a couple of times, and has the titleholder at his mercy against the ropes.

That victory enabled Crawford to secure his first HBO main event slot, and Top Rank even brought the fight to Omaha, not exactly a hot fight city going in. The Nebraskans turned out in big, vocal numbers for the hometown hero, coming home as champion of the world, as Crawford was matched against talented but inactive Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa, a natural featherweight who by this point was willing to fight at just about any weight as long as it meant a chance to get on TV again.

Gamboa used his outstanding natural hand speed to give Crawford some fits early on, but by the fifth round, it was clear that no matter how good Gamboa was, he was fighting uphill against the bigger, naturally stronger Crawford. The first knockdown came in that frame, when Crawford clipped an aggressive Gamboa, wobbling him and then following up with a violent overhand shot that put a prone Gamboa on the canvas.

Crawford and Gamboa kept slugging it out in the sixth and seventh rounds, but Gamboa found himself caught similarly in the eighth round. The Cuban kept throwing, and Crawford just kept catching him wide open, with four power shots that rattled off Gamboa's face and put him down again.

Two knockdowns in the ninth round finished the fight. There was some Roy Jones Jr vs Vinny Pazienza flavor in the first one, Crawford sort of shrugging his shoulders before letting go with more power shots, flooring Gamboa with a sweeping left hand.

Like Pazienza, Gamboa just kept fighting and giving every ounce of effort he had. But he was just physically overmatched, and Crawford caught him wide open once again, connecting with a right uppercut that forced the stoppage.

That night proved that Omaha could be a great fight city, at least in support of one guy, so HBO returned five months later for Crawford's defense against Ray Beltran, felt to be the second-best lightweight in the world at that time. Beltran was bigger, more rugged, and less reckless than Gamboa, so the fight didn't live up to the sort of highlight reel action we'd gotten in June, but Crawford had his way throughout, winning wide decision scores. Beltran's best shot in the fight figured to be getting into close quarters, putting Crawford on the ropes, and unloading on offense. Here, Beltran gets Crawford into position, then not only loses the advantage, but finds himself on the defensive in short order.

Crawford had said he expected the fight with Beltran to be his last as a lightweight, and indeed he moved up to junior welterweight this year, a division with bigger names, and one step off from the welterweight ranks, boxing's glory division for now.

Vacating his lightweight belt, he moved up with an immediate chance to win the WBO junior welterweight title, which had been quite curiously stripped from Chris Algieri for taking a fight with Manny Pacquiao after beating Ruslan Provodnikov for the title. Usually, a fighter is given some leeway in a situation like that, but there was chatter at the time that Pacquiao might move back to 140 after his fight with Algieri, which was a catchweight bout. That wound up not happening, but if Pacquiao had moved to 140, the WBO would have loved to put their belt up for him at that weight, and having Algieri in that position just didn't make business sense on the sanctioning body's end.

Of course Pacquiao did not go down to 140, Algieri was stripped for no particularly good reason whatsoever, and Terence Crawford got to face Thomas Dulorme for the vacant belt, with nothing major on the horizon, but the belt still in good hands with an expected Crawford victory.

There was some doubt once the fight got underway, though. Dulorme, a Puerto Rican fighter who had once been a top prospect before getting hammered by Luis Carlos Abregu in 2012, was the aggressor and was looking good through five rounds. Crawford certainly had moments, but Dulorme was the fighter who appeared to be controlling the fight's pace. Crawford scouted the first five rounds for the most part. Then his corner calmly told him to "pick it up," as if they knew it was just a matter of unleashing the beast. It was.

Crawford pretty much had Dulorme finished on this right hand in round six, from which the Puerto Rican never really recovered:

After Crawford flicked out his left hand, Dulorme never saw the right hand coming, and really, how could he? It was there in a split second, flying through his jaw and putting him on his heels. A precision flurry of offense followed, and Dulorme had no chance.

For five rounds, Terence Crawford had been in a competitive fight with Dulorme. Then he decided it was time to take it home. It was a stunning offensive display and the sort of switch-flipping few fighters are capable of pulling off. He went from a 50-50 battle to a wipeout win in the blink of an eye, courtesy one right hand that led to three knockdowns.

What can Dierry Jean do against someone like Terence Crawford? On paper, not a lot. Jean is 5'6", so he'll be giving up height. He does have a very long reach for his height, though, at a listed 72", longer than Crawford's 70" reach. He's a solid boxer with a little pop. But there's nothing special about his game, and there's some special stuff in Terence Crawford. Unless Crawford has a major off night or gets caught cold with something early, it's hard to imagine Jean pulling the upset. Crawford just has too much talent and too much momentum right now, and going back to Omaha gives him the huge home field advantage.

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