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HBO PPV boxing preview: Terence Crawford vs Viktor Postol

Terence Crawford takes on Viktor Postol in a big 140-pound clash on Saturday. Should you buy the pay-per-view?

Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

This Saturday night’s HBO pay-per-view (9 p.m. ET) main event may not be a star-studded main event, a blockbuster with the biggest names in the sport, but unlike most of what we see for extra money in recent years, this fight has one thing going for it: the best fighting the best, for real.

Considered the two best junior welterweights in the sport, Terence Crawford and Viktor Postol are set for battle. Here’s a look at this intriguing matchup.

Terence Crawford vs Viktor Postol

Terence Crawford

Terence Crawford v Hank Lundy Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Record: 28-0 (20 KO) ... Streak: W28 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'8" / 70" ... Age: 28

Thoughts: Crawford seems to have it all. At 28, he’s young, but in his prime, and vice versa. He hasn’t taken notable punishment in his eight-year pro career, and has been a titleholder at both 135 and 140 pounds, with eyes on the 147-pound division going forward.

We know Terence Crawford is good. We can see that he might be great. But he’s also yet to face a special opponent who might truly be able to push him. That’s not to say he hasn’t been in with some good fighters, but he’s not been in with a real elite fighter yet. That might come on Saturday, or it might not. That remains to be seen.

Here’s a look at the competition Crawford has bowled over since coming to HBO airwaves in 2013:

  • Breidis Prescott (UD-10)
  • Alejandro Sanabria (TKO-6)
  • Andrey Klimov (UD-10)
  • Ricky Burns (UD-12, won WBO lightweight title)
  • Yuriorkis Gamboa (TKO-9)
  • Ray Beltran (UD-12)
  • Thomas Dulorme (TKO-6, won WBO junior welterweight title)
  • Dierry Jean (TKO-10)
  • Hank Lundy (TKO-5)

It’s not a bad list, but it’s also not as impressive as Crawford’s fast-growing reputation might lead one to believe. In that list, you have gatekeeper quality fighters in Prescott, Sanabria, Klimov, Dulorme, Jean, and Lundy -- mostly quite good gatekeepers, high level gatekeepers, but not serious contenders. You also have Burns, who held a lightweight title, but had looked lousy in previous fights. That win has aged well, though, as Burns has regained some career momentum since 2015. There’s Beltran, who was a contender, a gritty fighter who was among the best at 135 at the time. Crawford won a belt against Dulorme, true, but it was a vacant title, and Dulorme is closer to a busted prospect than a world-level fighter. There’s also Gamboa, who is talented, but too small for lightweight and hadn’t fought in a year, with his career basically stalling dead after 2011.

None of this is Crawford’s fault, mind you, nor is it meant to be an assault on his achievements. Just to say that there are questions left to be asked and answered.

As a boxing fan, I personally like Crawford’s game a lot. To me, and I’ve said this before, Terence Crawford is everything Adrien Broner was supposed to be. He’s skilled, he’s poised, he can be flashy and exciting when he turns it on, and he’s got a mean streak that makes him stand out. When Crawford feels offended by trash talk or is just looking to prove a point, he can flat out light opponents up. He’s a very skilled, very well-rounded fighter from what we’ve seen so far. And there is potential for greatness, for pound-for-pound contention, for all the praise in the world to be heaped upon him. The hope is that he lives up to it. So far, so good, but it cannot be overstated: he still has something more to prove against better opposition.

Viktor Postol

Lucas Matthysse v Viktor Postol Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Record: 28-0 (12 KO) ... Streak: W28 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'11" / 73½" ... Age: 32

Thoughts: Is Viktor Postol that better competition? Boxing doesn’t always give us clear answers. Quality is subjective, records are often deceiving, and nobody can force fighters to do anything they really don’t want to do.

But Viktor Postol is the No. 2 fighter in the world at 140 pounds. That’s pretty much unanimous. Crawford is No. 1. This is legitimately the two best in the world facing one another. It’s so rare that this actually happens in boxing that I keep feeling the need to stress that statement. It’s not promoter talk or fan boy hype. It’s the real deal. This is 1 versus 2 in this division.

Postol, who holds the WBC title, has really launched his career just in the last year. He beat Hank Lundy back in 2013, and beat Selcuk Aydin in 2014, but those were wins over gatekeepers. He became the mandatory challenger to Danny Garcia, and then Garcia moved up in weight, so Postol faced Lucas Matthysse for the vacant belt.

Matthysse was the favorite. Everyone knew him, we’d seen him in a lot of fights, and he seemed to have enough power to overcome the height and reach difference, which he had done before. Plus, frankly, Postol just hadn’t proven to be a real top fighter. He was perceived as one, in part due to a fairly weak division around him, but we didn’t know that he was one, because he hadn’t done anything to truly prove it.

On October 3 last year, Postol neutralized, exposed, and broke Lucas Matthysse, who quit on his knees in the 10th round after being dropped. Postol and trainer Freddie Roach came up with a game plan, Postol executed it to near perfection, and Matthysse was left a frustrated, beaten man when he finally got knocked down. Roach saw it coming before it happened, telling Postol that Matthysse was ready to quit. He was correct.

It’s easy with hindsight, which is quite valuable and should be applied whenever possible, to see that Postol was a terrible style matchup for Matthysse. That was always a potential outcome, too, but the overwhelming sentiment was that Matthysse would eventually get to Postol and be able to break him down. He really never got close. Postol roughed Matthysse up until the referee had warned him enough to knock that stuff off, and then he picked Matthysse apart. It was one of the more impressive total performances of 2015.

He’ll have to be even better against Bud Crawford, though. Crawford does not have the T-rex arms or natural limitations of Matthysse. He’s a better, more dynamic fighter, smarter and craftier, and doesn’t rely on one dimension the way that Matthysse does. Postol did neutralize Matthysse, but he’s not going to truly neutralize Crawford. If he wins, it will again be an upset, and it will again be because he showed us something we didn’t expect.

Matchup Grade: A. Boxing really just does not deliver many fights this good. Not only is this the top two fighters in the division, but they’re both in their primes, both hot right now, and this fight is happening when it should, not too late. These two fighters have established themselves as the best in this division, now they will fight to see who is the real top dog. What’s not to like, other than the fact that this is sadly on pay-per-view due to budget concerns at HBO? Listen, if you only want to spend $60 on boxing pay-per-view between now and October, buy this fight and skip Canelo-Liam Smith in September. That’ll have more boisterous attempts to create buzz. This will be the better fight, by a lot.

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