It’s supposed to be a showcase fight for Terence Crawford on Saturday night, the first time he is headlining in the big arena at Madison Square Garden. It’s the next step in a journey he and his promoter, Top Rank, hope ends with him being recognized as one of the best ever to put on gloves.
“That’s going to be up to Terence,” Top Rank boss Bob Arum said. “But he has the tools, the personality and the ability to reach that goal.”
The next speed bump on the road to greatness is Felix Diaz, the only Olympic gold medal winner from the Dominican Republic, who is confident he can hand Crawford his first loss and capture the WBO and WBC junior welterweight titles that will be on the line. HBO will televise the card, which also features Ray Beltran (32-7-1, 20 KOs) of Phoenix facing Jonathan Maicelo (25-2, 12 KOs) of Peru in the other televised bout and Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson (1-0, 0 KOs) of Newark on the undercard in his second pro fight.
Diaz, who won Olympic gold in 2008, is no marshmallow. He’s 19-1 with nine KOs, his only loss coming in a close decision against Lamont Peterson.
“I’m going to shock the world,” Diaz told The Post this week. “I have the experience and the talent to give Terrence problems and beat him.”
No one has given Crawford much of a problem so far. He is 30-0 with 21 KOs. He has built a huge fan base in his hometown of Omaha, Neb., but is looking to broaden his appeal with this fight at the Mecca of Boxing after appearing in the Garden Theater in February 2016.
“For me, going from the Theater to the big arena, that says a lot,” Crawford said. “I have to keep winning and putting on great performances and eventually my name is going to be bigger than it is right now.”
Lou DiBella of DiBella Entertainment promotes Diaz and views him as a credible threat.
“This is a kid that grew up with nothing,” DiBella said. “A poor kid from the Dominican Republic that became a top amateur and became the Dominican’s only Olympic gold medalist in the history of the country. I think this is the toughest challenge that Terence Crawford has ever had.”
“I don’t think he’s invincible,” Diaz said. “I’m here to win. Since I turned pro, all I’ve wanted is to fight the best and he’s one of the best. I really believe it’s going to be a war, between Teence and I.”
Tickets remain available priced from $35 to $250 and a large walk-up crowd is expected. Boxing is off to a good start in 2017, and Crawford-Diaz should add to the Garden’s legacy of quality entertainment.
“A lot of great fighters and a lot of great fights have happened in Madison Square Garden,” Crawford said. “I’m just looking forward to Saturday and another great opportunity to show my talent and display what Terence Crawford is all about.”
There is talk of Crawford facing Manny Pacquiao in the near…