Crawford-Postol and 140-pound supremacy
By Hector Franco
This Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada boxing fans will get the answer as to who is the best junior welterweight in the world. WBO champion Terence Crawford will face WBC champion Viktor Postol in a unification bout. It’s a rare bout in this era in boxing. Seldom do we see unification bouts in boxing and in this era bout’s that make the winner the clear best in the division are even rarer.
Crawford for all intents and purposes is the favorite going into the fight with Postol. The Nebraska native has been featured on HBO multiple times showing a vast array of skills. We’ve seen him travel to Scotland to win his first world title against Ricky Burns. We’ve been witness to him electrifying his hometown in title defenses. Most notably against the then undefeated Yuriorkis Gamboa. This fight brought him from being just a champion to the stature of one of the best in the world. Now with the possibility of facing a legend in his next fight, Crawford stands at the crossroads of superstardom.
On the other side of the corner, Viktor Postol stands to change the course of the plans of not only Crawford but Top Rank as well. Postol first got into the boxing fans consciousness by defeating the likes of Demarcus Corley and Hank Lundy. Postol’s two knockout wins with beautifully placed punches against Selcuk Aydin and Lucas Matthysse not only gained him a world title but also gave him the argument that he was the best at 140 and not Crawford.
As history will tell us, no idea is original. Everything that will take place has already happened in some form or another. This is no different in the sport of boxing. The 140-pound division has a history of big fights. Some of these fights are among the greatest to ever take place in the sport. Stylistically it seems that the Crawford-Postol bout may not live up to those kinds of expectations. Until they step into the ring with one another we won’t know. Let’s take a look back at some of the biggest fights to take place at 140 pounds.
Timothy Bradley vs. Devon Alexander
January 29, 2011
Silverdome – Pontiac, Michigan
This is one bout within the annals of 140-pound history that fans would prefer not to remember. Besides the 2013 bout, between Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse this was the last big fight at 140-pounds to determine the best in the division. Unlike the Garcia-Matthysse bout, this was promoted as a huge fight by HBO to determine the best at 140. It was given PPV-like treatment as a main event and episodic featurettes to boot. Just like Crawford and Postol both Bradley and Alexander came into the ring undefeated.
The fight itself was a disappointment. Both men filled it with an enormous amount of smothering and holding. Bradley came out victorious after nine rounds winning a technical decision. This bout is the cautionary tale of fans getting what they asked for. The best fighters’ facing against one another is a necessity in the sport of boxing. This doesn’t mean that the fight itself will always be entertaining enough to live up to the hype. Hopefully, Crawford-Postol doesn't fall in line with Bradley-Alexander.
Kostya Tszyu vs. Zab Judah
November 3, 2001
MGM Grand – Las Vegas, Nevada
2001 was the year of the boxer. It was the year where Floyd Mayweather put on the best performance of his career against Diego Corrales. Marco Antonio Barrera outboxed and punished Naseem Hamed in a bout where he was a massive underdog. Bernard Hopkins systemically outboxed and ultimately stopped the undefeated, Felix Trinidad. The bout between Tszyu and Judah followed in line in 2001. The only difference was that it ended much quicker.
Many fans may not remember, but just like Terence Crawford is now considered one of the best in the world, Zab Judah had the same hype around him in 2001. He was thought along with Floyd Mayweather to be the next superstar in boxing to lead the way for the next generation.
Tszyu was the long-time gold standard at 140. He held the WBC and WBA titles ahead of the Judah bout. His only loss coming in 1997 to Vince Phillips in one of the biggest upsets of the 1990’s. With Judah being the IBF champion, the Tszyu-Judah bout would be for three world titles. It would crown the winner as one of the best in the world and the undisputed champion at 140-pounds.
In the first round, Judah showed not only why he was the favorite coming in, but also why he was considered one of the best in the world at the time. His hand speed was second to none and on full display. Kostya Tszyu, however, was no ordinary fighter and knew how to deal with speed. You deal with speed, with timing. In the second round, Tszyu landed a right hand that dropped Judah on his back. Judah attempted to get up but fell back down immediately prompting referee Jay Nady to call a stop to the bout.
Afterward, Judah became enraged at the referee’s decision and put his hands on Jay Nady. The loss changed the directory of Judah’s career. For Tszyu, it was the exclamation point needed to prove that he was the best at 140 of this era.
It seems unlikely that Crawford-Postol would end in the manner that Tszyu-Judah ended. However, nobody expected that ending for Zab Judah either.
Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Meldrick Taylor
March 17, 1990
Hilton Hotel – Las Vegas, Nevada
There are some fights that words aren’t enough to describe. A bout so amazing that the action, skill, and story embody everything that boxing can be at its best. Just over a month after Buster Douglas upset Mike Tyson in Tokyo, it seemed impossible that something could surpass such an event.
Julio Cesar Chavez was considered one of the best fighters in the world and was making his run through his third weight class at 140-pounds. His counterpart in almost every way except in heart and toughness was Meldrick Taylor. Taylor was an Olympic gold medalist with the 1984 team that featured the likes of Evander Holyfield and Pernel Whitaker. Taylor at the time was the stand out of that class. With his high volume and the way he put punches in combination, Taylor was considered one the most exciting fighters in the sport.
The Chavez-Taylor bout lived up to every expectation and more. A story unfolded of a young man on the brink of greatness by winning round after round against one of the best in the world. The punishment laid on both by one another was brutal and one man eventually broke. Similar to watching a marathon runner collapse before the finish line, in the twelfth round, Chavez landed a right hand that put Taylor down with less than a minute left in the round. When Taylor got up the referee, Richard Steele, felt he was unresponsive and stopped the fight with 2 seconds left on the clock.
The ending was controversial and many will still argue that the bout was stopped too early. Regardless, of the outcome fans had witnessed one of the greatest fights in boxing history. If Crawford-Postol were able to reach the heights of Chavez-Taylor, it would elevate both men no matter the winner.
Alexis Arguello vs. Aaron Pryor
November 12, 1982
Orange Bowl – Miami, FL
1982 is one of the best years in the history of boxing. It’s hard to imagine that the first fight between Alexis Arguello and Aaron Pryor didn’t win the fight of the year. The fight, however, took place the same year as Lupe Pintor-Wilfredo Gomez and Bazooka Limon-Bobby Chacon IV. In any other year, it would have been given the award on a silver platter.
Alexis Arguello was already a hall of famer going into the bout with Aaron Pryor. He was a three-division world champion who had the respect of the boxing world. The man from Managua, Nicaragua had won titles at 126, 130, and 135. When Arguello decided he wanted to become boxing’s first four-division world champion it was seen as a foregone conclusion that he would accomplish his goal.
Standing in his way was a fighter from Cincinnati, Ohio. A fighter who felt that the politics in boxing had left him on the outside from receiving the paydays and recognition he deserved. Pryor won his 140-pound title against one of the division’s all-time best, Antonio Cervantes, by knockout. After years of seeing fights fall through and never come to fruition with the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, Arguello was Pryor’s saving grace.
The bout took place in the rare location of the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. Florida isn’t known as a state that is big into boxing, but Alexis Arguello was so popular in that area that the bout deserved a big arena.
To get an idea of just how action packed Pryor-Arguello was, one only needs to watch the first round. The fight as a whole was a back and forth affair that featured many swings in momentum for both men. The fight came to an end in the fourteenth round as Pryor got Arguello against the ropes and unloaded a brutal combination that left Arguello slumped on the floor.
The bout had its share of controversy as Pryor’s trainer at the time could be heard just before the start of the fourteenth round to give him the bottle that he “mixed”. Nonetheless, history had been made on this night. In one of the greatest decades in the sports history, this bout still stands out as one of the best. Neither man was the same after the fight. A rematch occurred the next year for Pryor to prove that the “mixed” bottle had no bearing on the outcome of the first fight. Pryor proved his point by stopping Arguello once again.
In many ways, the fight was so great that Pryor and Arguello didn’t need to accomplish anything else in their careers. Arguello may not have become the four-division champion he wanted to be, but his legend in the sport still lives on. His countryman, Roman Gonzalez, is an example of this. Pryor got his big fight and big victory that will forever certify him as one of the best ever at 140-pounds.
On Saturday, there is a pressure on both Crawford and Postol. They will be fighting against one another, but also for their place in history. It’s a fight that could go a number of different ways. For Crawford, it’s a chance to solidify his status in the sport as one of the best. For Postol, it’s a chance to show the world that they stood behind the wrong man.
The next chapter at 140-pounds will be written on Saturday, the name on the title of that chapter will depend on the fighters.
(Featured Photo: Lina Baker/ instantboxing.com)