As expected, WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford will make the third defense of his title on December 14th, facing Egidijus Kavaliauskas at Madison Square Garden in the main event of an ESPN tripleheader that also features Richard Commey-Teofimo Lopez and the rebooked rematch between Michael Conlan and Vladimir Nikitin.
Bob Arum with the elevator pitch:
“Terence Crawford is a generational talent, but he’ll have his hands full against the ‘Mean Machine,’” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said. “Teofimo Lopez is taking a giant step up against Commey, and it will be a tremendous fight. Mick Conlan has been asking for Nikitin since the day he signed with Top Rank. He finally gets his wish, and I know he wants to correct the tremendous injustice of the Rio Olympics.”
Crawford (35-0, 26 KO), continuing his trend of two fights per calendar year that he’s followed since 2017, was last seen in April, dominating Amir Khan up until a bizarre low blow ending. He figures to be the massive favorite, as he would be against pretty much anyone at 147 pounds save maybe Errol Spence, but gave Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KO) his due.
“Egidijus Kavaliauskas is a two-time Olympian, and I can’t take him lightly,” Crawford said. “He’s got everything to gain and nothing to lose, and that makes him dangerous. I never overlook any opponent, and this will be no exception. I’ll be ready for anything and everything he brings on Dec. 14 when I return to my second home, Madison Square Garden, and live on ESPN.”
“The Mean Machine” is in a bit of a rough spot at the moment; despite his pedigree, history of knockouts, and longtime mandatory status, he’s coming off of one of the rougher performances of his career against perennial spoiler Ray Robinson in March.
“I have prepared my whole boxing career for a fight of this magnitude,” said Kavaliauskas, who fights out of Oxnard, California. “Terence Crawford is an excellent fighter, but I fear no man. Nobody has seen the best of the ‘Mean Machine’ yet. I am going to shock a lot of people on Dec. 14, but it won’t be a surprise to me. I earned this title shot. It is my time.”
Of the three bouts, the co-feature figures to be the most entertaining. Commey (29-2, 26 KO) returned from a knuckle injury to beat down Ray Beltran in June, successfully defending the IBF title he knocked out Isa Chaniev to claim.
“I’m very excited to fight at the Mecca of Boxing, Madison Square Garden, in my second world title defense against Teofimo Lopez,” Commey said. “My lifelong dream of becoming a world champion became a reality through many years of hard work in my homeland of Ghana through the U.K., Europe and finally in the United States. I want to thank everyone on my team for making this possible. On Dec. 14, I will put on another spectacular performance in defending my world title for my fans in the arena and those watching on ESPN and around the world.”
Lopez (14-0, 11 KO) has one of the more impressive track records among rising prospects, but looked weirdly mortal against the towering Masayoshi Nakatani in his last fight. Whoever wins this will definitely have earned their crack at Vasiliy Lomachenko.
“I’m finally back at Madison Square Garden, the place where I always wanted to win my first world title,” said Lopez, who has brought on former world titleholder and noted trainer Joey Gamache to serve as an assistant to his father, Teofimo Lopez Sr. “I believe this fight will shut up all of the critics and prove to everyone that I back up my talking in the ring. I respect Commey as a champion, but when we’re in that ring, it’s going to be lights out for him. Come Dec. 14, I am officially taking over the lightweight division.”
Conlan (12-0, 7 KO) vs. Nikitin (3-0, 0 KO) is the second attempt to make a rematch of the pair’s controversial Rio bout, which saw Conlan flip the world the bird after a decision loss. He’s been the more impressive pro of the two, but Nikitin is definitely game.
“I’m beyond excited to fight for the sixth time in my favorite venue in the world, the Mecca of Boxing, Madison Square Garden,” Conlan said. “The boxing fans in New York City have been incredibly supportive of my career, and I look forward to putting on another great show for them, as well as my Irish fans coming over for this massive event.
”Vladimir Nikitin and I have unfinished business from the 2016 Olympics, and I can’t wait to set the record straight.”
“Michael Conlan has done a lot of talking about me and our Olympic fight over the last few years. The talking finally ends Dec. 14,” Nikitin said. “He’s bitter over our last fight and can’t accept the result. Well, my hand will be raised once again.”