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Introducing Custio Clayton

Custio Clayton is Terence Crawford’s No. 1 ranked contender and a former Olympian. Get to know him a little better.

PBC: Custio Clayton v Ronald Berti Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Now and again, I will be on the net, looking at the rankings for the various sanctioning bodies. And more often now than in decades past, I will see a name high atop the ladder that is unfamiliar to me.

This can occur now more than in days gone buy because the world is flatter. A better brand of athlete is being churned out by other nations, outside the US, and that means that there are A- grade pugilists who are a bit under radar as they climb the hill of prominence.

Here’s one for you: Custio Clayton.


Is that a misprint?

No, the No. 1 guy in the WBO’s 147 pound ranking is indeed a guy named “Custio Clayton,” and in fact he was born in Nova Scotia, lived in the community called North Preston and now Montreal.

The 31-year-old holds a 15-0 record, with 10 KOs, and has been skillfully steered by Camille Estephan, who also handles David Lemieux.

I checked in with Clayton, who filled me in on how he got that name, his upbringing, and when he thinks he will get a crack at the WBO 147-pound champion, Terence Crawford.

First off: Custio? Never seen that name.

The hitter, quite patient and affable on the phone, said that his mom had a boy and a girl, while on his dad’s side, he is one of 14 children.

He lived with grandma and grandpa until age nine, and an older cousin was boxing at a gym, told him to tag along.

“Me and grandpa used to watch, he used to watch it, and I’d sit on his lap,” he recalls. The gym owner was Gary Johnson, related to ex-heavyweight standout Kirk Johnson.

“Right from there it was that I wanted to be there all the time, I always went there constantly, and was there ever since,” Custio said. He was not one of those destined for the wrong side of the tracks kids, he reports.

OK, I’m dyin’ here. That name. What’s it all about?

Oh, yes.

Mom liked one of the soap operas, and a character on there was named Castillo. Cruz Castillo, as played by A Martinez, on “Santa Barbara,” perhaps? And she put her own take on it, with that novel spelling. Voila! Custio!

So, back to boxing. Custio, whose family has been a generational fixture in Nova Scotia, edged up the amateur ranks, and made it to the 2012 Olympics in London. He lost to the guy who eventually won in his weight class, Freddie Evans. This, after beating Oscar Molina and Cam Hammond at welterweight.

The Montreal resident Clayton, who has five kids, and a girlfriend, wanted to hone the craft a bit more after the Olympics, so he took more time to learn, and turned pro in 2014.

Trainer Daniel Trepainer is still in his corner, now joined by Eric Belanger. “I wanted to go quicker once I was in. And what have I gotten better at? At being patient, overall ring generalship, knowing when you gotta attack, picking your shots better.”

Hmm. I’m guessing maybe he likes to watch a craftsman like a Mikey Garcia do his thing, then, if he prizes patience as an in-ring virtue?

“I seen the Garcia-Robert Easter fight too, he was very good, timing, adapting. Did I learn from it? Every fight I look at, featuring special fighters, I try to pick up something.”

And when he had that pro debut in December 2014, against Sophyan Haoud? “It was different, no matter how many amateur fights you had, as a pro it’s a different feeling. It was good I turned pro when headgear was already off in the amateurs. The pace as amateur, it’s a whole lot different, not as fast paced in the pros.

“I try to learn each fight, I’ve learned that anything can change just like that, change at the last minute, and you have to adapt to what’s in front of you. In my second to last fight, versus Gabor Kovacs in March, that was a stay busy fight, but I train hard for anybody, and I was able to stop him.

“My last fight, against Stephen Danyo (14-0-3 entering), that was a very good fight for me. I’ve been asking for a top 10, he took the challenge. It was my first 12-rounder, I used my speed, endurance and stayed smart, I was using boxing skills. At my best, I’m being patient, working my jab, setting up my shots, I don’t just go there and throw and dance.”

I touched base with Estephan, get his take on his kid, who is in such a sweet spot as the WBO No. 1.

“We are working currently on a fight for him at some point in October,” the promoter told me. “Custio is currently the mandatory for Terence Crawford. Crawford has 17 months to face him but one thing is sure, we will keep pushing to bring Custio to his goal of being a world champion.”

So, it could be a lengthy wait for Bud?

“We don’t want to be sitting and waiting around, we want to be active, he’s still learning so when the time does come...

“He signed with us three fights ago, prior to that he was with Groupe Yvon Michel. The last fight his opponent was tall with a very awkward style. He fought Danyo, ranked number eight by the WBO and undefeated at the time.

“Custio had a lot on the line and he came through with the big performance, he’s a very clutch type guy. I think as well his amateur experience being at such a high level for a very long time gives him this additional poise which is crucial in boxing, which as we know 90% is mental.

“Being from Canada a lot of people have compared him to Jean Pascal, both Olympians with a chiseled physique, yet I feel Custio is a much better technician, maybe similar in physical strength but personally I see him as a much richer fighter in skills and more complete as a boxer.”

Back to the boxer. What does he think of Crawford, the WBO bossman and pound-for-pound top-tier dog?

“I said to myself, I like everything he does, I’ve always thought Crawford is one of the best pound-for-pound,” Clayton continued. “Welterweight is a tough division, no matter which champ, it’s not an easy challenge!”

All in all, Custio comes off as a humble and respectful sportsman, very “Canadian,” to me, to be stereotyping.

“For me whatever comes next,” Clayton says in summation, “I will be ready to take it!”

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