And to put it bluntly, Amir Khan doesn't really give a fuck what I think. I would if he did. That EverybodyFights in Gotham is beautiful; and on Tuesday, NY Fights goes deep into this delectably dark, underground Batcave of a gym enclave, to discover that everybody fighting this Saturday night at Madison Square Garden on ESPN PPV (69.99 @9pm/ET, courtesy of Top Rank), will be fighting with a vengeance from the opening bell.
Accompanying me is Debo, your typical angry-for-nothing-or-anything blue collar couch critic/fight fan, skeptical of The Bobfather (or, just all white people in general), and is nervous about the prospect of smashing “Buy” on his beloved remote control. I remind the sideways essence of fandom, that Bob Arum, arguably the pound-for-pound greatest sports promoter of all-time, knows what he's doing with rare exception, and that the PPV price of $69.99, in this case, is cheap.
Crawford vs Khan the event, is getting a major boost from ESPN's sister company Marvel Entertainment. They drop Avengers: End Game on April 25, and made sure to team up in their marketing universe by plugging the PPV card in a 30-second ESPN clip released to promote Marvel's blockbuster film earlier this week. That means all-world and unbeaten WBO welterweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford (34-0, 25KOs) and British superstar Amir Khan (33-4, 20KOs) were seen all over the nation in the company of Thanos, Iron-Man and Captain America.
As soon as we step into this very 21st century fight factory built for Madison Ave types made of steel, I spot Hanna Gabriels, one of the best female boxers on the planet. The super welterweight wonderkind gave unified middleweight champion Claressa Shields complete hell and very much wants a rematch. This time, in her realm. With class, she dishes on Christina 🔨 short of the diss; and with authority, co-signs the readiness of an adjacent hubby in Bryan Vasquez, who'll reveal once and for all if Felix Verdejo is promise bygone or still capable of star ascension.
After eyeing Verdejo, I'm unconvinced; on the fence as to who will win, but certain that this is a solid opener to the telecast. “You good, Gatman?” Asks NYF's editor-in-chief and pure soul Michael Woods, as we exchange brotherly hugs and fight guy fist bumps. I'm ready. The atmosphere is Hollywood movie set electric, with a full spectrum of upper echelon baristas brewing nothing but anticipation related to a world class boxing event beginning to drip with buzz. You get the sense that Arum has yelled “Action!” long ago, and that you are more than an extra.
Every generation has a legend. I'm excited to receive a package from UPS on this morning and sign for it with glee. It's a t-shirt to be donned for the fight, featuring the haunting images of Angels fallen in the form of Aaliyah, The Notorious B.I.G and 2Pac.
Shakur Stevenson (10-0, 6KOs), 2016 Olympic silver medalist and rising star, meets every criteria for a generational icon.
I'll always be grateful for talented publicist Julie Goldsticker, who in late spring 2016 summoned this Jersey boy to Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn from Boston; to get a short notice, first hand look at Men's USA Boxing assembled for Rio. Without saying it directly, she really wants me to profile and scout another Jersey boy in Shakur. At the time, I wasn't aware that Floyd Mayweather himself had dubbed the Newark native “the next Mayweather.” After two days of examination up close and on film, I concluded that Shakur was the best amateur prospect to come out of the amateur ranks since Sugar Ray Leonard, and would compare favorably with Sugar Ray Robinson as a pro.
Smooth, loose in every limb with delicate feet and perfect balance, Stevenson's preternatural speed and unorthodox physical gifts, are matched by an innate ring IQ of rare nuance and calculation. I'm thinking about this inside of EverybodyFights on Media Day, while sizing up the seismic grit and granite resolve of Christopher Diaz (24-1, 16KOs), 24, the “Man” Shakur will face for sure on Saturday night, who doesn't (look for it) “beat up women or hit people when they're down on camera.”
On the fast track to elite and admittedly ‘off' against the solid Masayuki Ito, Diaz is the only undercard fighter I want a one-on-one with on Thursday media sessions at the swanky Stewart Hotel across the street from Madison Square Garden. He's been on 🔥for this camp according to his new Hall of Fame coach Freddie Roach, who expects Diaz to “manhandle” Stevenson. When I inform a cheerfully swaggering Shakur about all of this, while surrounded by indie press and roughly 15 feet away from Diaz, Stevenson's swagger grew sinister, before declaring with a mega-watt smile and energy, “Oh it's waaaaar time!!!!” Moments prior, he recalled private advice received from Andre Ward about this very moment– facing the media; and as if bracing himself for a difficult moment (which it was), he handled himself well.
This is the best fight on the card, and one that will end in spectacular fashion. Diaz….
..has devoted three months of detached intensity from his homeland of ravaged Puerto Rico at Wild Card Gym, with a practiced obsession on destroying Stevenson, whom he does not like. At all. Appearing for the eighth time at MSG in front of diehard NYC boriquas, Diaz witnessed domestic violence during his formative years and has a calcified disdain for anyone causing harm to a woman. As I'm speaking with him, I want so badly to suggest my personal analysis of that tape reveals a misunderstanding more than a misogynist; then again, I'm talking to a fighter who's gameplan involves a hatred of the 21 year-old for at least 30 minutes– so I'm not going there. He believes Shakur will [have to kill him] in order to win. But if I'm right about Stevenson (and I believe I am), then Diaz just might force him to.
This fight has forced me to go all the way back to September 1951, and the exaggerated call of Rocky Marciano for Sugar Ray Robinson Vs Randy Turpin II. There, the back of greatness was placed against a wall, producing the frontal violence of “special” response. I think that's what happens here in an instant classic.
Stevenson TKO 9
“Fuck Lomachenko,” spills Teofimo Lopez (12-0, 10KOs), 21, and the best ever fighter from Honduras. Eager to break “The Matrix” and turn him into a severly malfunctioned anomaly, Lopez (whose father, Teofimo Sr, seated next to Angel Garcia at the bar would make for quite a scene in the upcoming Sopranos movie), can't stand Vasily Lomachenko, and the feeling is mutual. While destroying the mitts in 16oz gloves with incredible speed and ferocity, you get the sense that this new age version of Roberto Duran is visualizing the face of Loma while striking, much in the same way it seemed Loma saw Teo's face before absolutely sledgehammering Anthony Crolla at Staples Center in Los Angeles last week.
Gareth A. Davies, star boxing columnist for U.K. daily “The Telegram”, is in Gotham for this event and he had an interesting comment. “I asked Loma to rate Richard Commey, Mikey Garcia and Teo Lopez from least difficult to most difficult,” said Davies, pausing and laughing for affect. “He said: Mikey Garcia, Richard Commey, and Mikey Garcia.”
Looking at the rigid framework and volume of long Finland product Edis Tatli (31-2, 10KOs), the positioning of his feet– especially, and the amount of unbalanced weight and pressure he places on his right foot, things won't end well here. He does have a toughness and resolve, but I see nothing that will stop Teo's extraordinary left hand in any way. Just for the hell of it, he'll probably end it with a right to the body in another savage affair complete with a back flip. Just give him a damn title shot.
Lopez KO 5
Amir Khan is, from this point of view, a Muslim family man of devout faith. Terence Crawford, from this perspective, is a Black man devoted to his family. When picking this fight, I more or less see a Holy War decided in fistic terms between two different men of fire. In fact, all four PPV fights take this form in one way or another, which is why you should absolutely smash “Buy” on this event for $69.99. It’s cheap. And its so far beyond brilliant matchmaking alone, because the implications of the outcome(s) will resonate culturally. In talking to Khan from the ring apron at EverybodyFights the other day, he genuinely doesn't believe he'll lose to Crawford, any more than he believes he'll lose his religion. But if that man's best friend is what some would call dogma, then that means his faith doesn't play politics with doubt. Amir Khan hasn't lost his speed and won't lose his faith, but that doesn't mean he will lose his fate.
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__Bud is a DOG, with all nine of em' intact, and I don't believe that a mere con has nine lives of a cat. Listen… This is mystical, tinged with metaphysical. By round six he's in the mix of unhinged and critical__
Similes, metaphors and any double entendres aside, we're living in incendiary times, and this fight will augment that fiery dichotomy. I can't see Ilhan Omar rolling with Bud, just as I can't see Donald Trump pulling for King Khan. Theoretically, no one should see the outcome of things through color lines; it's just that we do. We're a society accustomed to the cake and eating it too. I understand. It’s just that in the ring of perception, mano y mano in this headliner, the sweet science will have no tolerance for what it will see as a bitter religion. To which cake do you slice or discard? He won't do it with speed, rather, he'll take his time. But Bud, looking very much like a new age and irascible Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker, will eventually slice up and discard an Oba Carr-like Amir “King” Khan into bitter defeat.
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There, in EverybodyFights, Bud went through the motions of applied science with a sweet bitterness– he doesn't really care for media attention; whereas Khan knows how to be a mere con craving it, without being craven. But you're brave, and smoking some good shit if you think he'll win.
Bud KO 6