Let’s be clear: Dierry Jean is a borderline contender at best, and he has no signature wins; one of his best showings was a loss against top 140-pounder Lamont Peterson. But nobody thinks Peterson is “special,” and the difference was clear Saturday night on HBO when Terence Crawford was on the other side from Jean. One guy was special. And as a measuring stick, Jean was proof of it.
Crawford won every round, mostly from the southpaw stance, scoring a 1st round knockdown with a right hand and finishing things off in the 10th with a flurry that had Jean busted up and nearly exiting the ring between the ropes. Jean had his moments. He was one of the best boxers Crawford had ever faced, and he had excellent moments in the 8th round in particular, landing glorious flush counters. If anything, they seemed to focus Crawford, although, more on that in a moment.
The best thing that might have happened for Crawford in the fight came in the interview after. Crawford is one of the worst interviews in the sport, and there are pet rocks who sparkle with more verve in conversation. But he demonstrated a balance between his humble persona and one that is ultra competitive when asked about the trash-talking from Jean and his camp. He answered with his own question: “Did you get what you was looking for?” If Crawford can find this middle ground between letting his “XTREME competitor” come out while remaining a relatable Rust Belt boy, well, we could have not only a future pound-for-pound king on our hands but also a superstar.
It has taken some time, but Crawford has fully shed the “boring” label that this website thought was foolish from the moment he burst onto the national scene and that was alleged in many bouts since. While he looks the total package in the ring, he is not perfect. His instinct to make someone pay when he’s hit, to steal the round back, cost him Saturday, because Jean took advantage with counters. Whatever excellence Crawford has demonstrated to date, it has only been against sub-super-elite fighters. Yuriorkis Gamboa, which still might be his best win as a superb talent, was undersized. No one else on his list even comes close.
The talk of Manny Pacquiao next is terrific for Crawford and HBO and promoter Top Rank. Crawford needs a test against a name and a great. Whether Pacquiao still has enough greatness is an open question, but he’s the best chance at both. HBO and Top Rank would love to have Crawford take what a Pacquiao win would give him. Would Pacquiao risk it? It’s hard to imagine why, unless he was making a charity offering to his long-time patrons. He could very well lose, and lose badly, to Crawford, especially risky if Pacquiao’s last fight will be in April. But Crawford’s ascension depends upon it.