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Terence Crawford Makes His Case as a Top Pound-For-Pound Contender

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

The concept of the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing has always been important – a mental exercise to decide who is the world’s true No. 1.

There’s no way that 240-pound heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko is going to get in the ring with flyweight king Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, who weighs 112 pounds. It all comes down to which fighter is the most dominant in their weight class, and can beat fighters of different sizes.

For years, the pound-for-pound throne has been contested by two fighters, even if it took a decade for Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao to decide it in the ring. That fight made Mayweather the undisputed king, and his retirement this fall threw it open once again.

The obvious contenders are Klitschko, Chocolatito and Gennady Golovkin. The latter two had impressive victories earlier this month, and Klitschko is fighting British champ Tyson Fury next month. Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez will get a chance to stake their own claim when they fight for the middleweight title on Nov. 21.

Another claimant for the pound-for-pound throne was in action Saturday when No. 1 junior welterweight contender Terence Crawford (27-0) took apart Dierry Jean (29-2) in 10 rounds in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Crawford held the lightweight championship until moving up to 140 pounds this year.

With Danny Garcia moving up to 147 pounds, Crawford could grab his second true world title with a HBO fight against Viktor Postol or Adrien Broner, but the rumor is that he has a much bigger target in mind. Mayweather appears to be committed to his retirement, at least for a while, which means Pacquiao needs a new opponent for his own farewell fight next spring.

Originally, it looked like he would fight Britain’s Amir Khan, but while Khan has a huge following in the UK, his three losses have significantly damaged his drawing power in the United States. That has led to discussions about Pacquiao taking on Crawford in his retirement fight – a huge payday for Crawford and a chance to add Mayweather’s vacated welterweight title to his collection.

Normally, it would be a huge risk for a fighter to jump from 135 pounds to 147 in a year, but Pacquiao isn’t a natural welterweight – he began his career 20 years ago at 106 pounds – so Crawford wouldn’t be at a major disadvantage when it comes to size.

Beating Pacquiao would give Crawford a huge claim to the No. 1 pound-for-pound spot, and also make him the perfect opponent if and when Mayweather does decide to return for his 50th fight. It’s a risky fight, but he’d be going against a 37-year-old who has lost three of his last six fights and will be coming off shoulder surgery.

On the undercard of Crawford vs. Jean, No. 14 featherweight Evgeny Gradovich (20-1-1) took a small step toward regaining the top-five status he held a year ago. Gradovich, who held the IBF title, fought to a draw with little-known Jayson Velez last November, then was taken apart by England’s Lee Selby in May. Beating Aldimar Silva Santos (19-9) on a split decision isn’t going to do much for Gradovich’s career, but it at least gets his name back on boxing websites.

In England, seventh-ranked middleweight Chris Eubank Jr. (20-1) needed just two rounds to dispose of Tony Jeter (20-5-1). Eubank Jr. has a long way to go to match the achievements of his father, but a fight with Ireland’s Andy Lee would be a big draw in the British Isles, and the winner would have a chance to get a fight with either Golovkin or the winner of Alvarez-Cotto.

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