Crawford-Kavaliauskas tonight on ESPN
By Robert Ecksel on December 14, 2019
"Kavaliauskas is a two-time Olympian," said Crawford, "and I can’t take him lightly."
Tonight at New York’s Madison Square Garden, in a fight televised live on ESPN, pound-for-pound stalwart Terence Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs), the Fighting Pride of Omaha, Nebraska, will defend his WBO welterweight title against Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KOs), his two-fisted mandatory from Kaunas, Lithuania.
Because Crawford has not had a career-defining fight, having been relegated, until tonight, behind paywalls, on either pay-per-view or ESPN+, ESPN’s streaming service, he has not been embraced by the casuals who have yet to see him in action. That may change if the “Mean Machine” lives up to his nom de guerre and provides a stiff enough challenge for Crawford to dig deep and look impressive in the process.
But Kavaliauskas, unless he pulls an Andy Ruiz, or at least a semblance of the Andy Ruiz who defeated Joshua in their first fight, is still an unknown quantity.
“Egidijus Kavaliauskas is a two-time Olympian,” said Crawford, “and you can’t be a bum as a two-time Olympian. I can’t take him lightly. He’s got everything to gain and nothing to lose and that makes him dangerous.”
Kavaliauskas is a seasoned battler, if not a seasoned professional, but he always comes to fight.
“My father was a fighter,” he said, “something like martial arts—karate, Thai boxing, kickboxing, judo, everything together. He was training when I was a little kid.
“When I was seven, he started training me and a couple of other kids. But martial arts in my country, people train just for hobby. Then when I was 13, he just put me to the boxing.”
Kavaliauskas is a pressure fighter with fast hands and killer instinct. On the downside, he tends to throw caution to the wind, which could be disastrous against a thinking man’s like Terence Crawford.
“I have prepared my whole boxing career for a fight of this magnitude,” said Kavaliauskas. “Terence Crawford is an excellent fighter, but I fear no man. Nobody has seen the best of the ‘Mean Machine’ yet. I am going to shock a lot of people on December 14, but it won’t be a surprise to me. I earned this title shot. It is my time.”
It is also Crawford’s time. But time stops for no one and Crawford is at the tail end of his fighting prime. He has not fought an elite welterweight champion or challenger, each of whom is aligned with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions and prefers to fight each other.
The enmity between Haymon and Top Rank’s Bob Arum is a given. But the two men were able to put aside their differences to make the fight between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, and continue to negotiate a possible rematch between the two best heavyweights in the world in February. Unfortunately, no such talk about Crawford to fight PBC’s Manny Pacquiao, Errol Spence, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, or Danny Garcia appears to be forthcoming.
“I don’t get down on [not getting the fights I want] because I’m still making a living to provide for my family,” Crawford said. “It’s kind of disappointing that I can’t get the fights I really want to get. I don’t feel that I need to chase anybody, or call anybody out because I’m the number one fighter in the division. I’m the best fighter in the world. If the fights happen, they happen. If they don’t, they don’t.
“They can criticize me all they want. I’m going to get that. I’m not worried about what the critics say, or how they feel I should go with my career. Bob Arum knows what I want, and how we want to pursue the next two fights. They understand what I expect out of them. I want to continue to be successful with the challenges they put in front of me and make sure I win them in tremendous fashion.”