Undefeated Omaha boxer Bud Crawford says Amir Khan fight could ‘push my career to the next level’

Undefeated Omaha boxer Bud Crawford says Amir Khan fight could ‘push my career to the next level’
Bud Crawford, shown during his win over Jose Benavidez in October, will defend his WBO 147-pound title against Amir Khan, a former junior welterweight champ. CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD

When Terence “Bud” Crawford last visited Great Britain, he returned with his first world title.

The Omaha native was back Tuesday morning to announce the biggest fight of his career to date.

The unbeaten Crawford (34-0, 25 knockouts) will defend his WBO welterweight championship against British star Amir “King” Khan (33-4, 20 KOs) on April 20 at a location still to be determined. The bout, expected to be the highest-paying event in Crawford’s career, is to be televised on ESPN pay-per-view.

The two welterweights met up in London on Tuesday to make the fight official. Crawford will be making the second defense of his 147-pound title against one of the bigger names in the sport.

The three-division champ from Omaha hadn’t been to Britain since winning a lightweight belt in Scotland.

Back in March 2014, he dethroned longtime WBO champ Ricky Burns at 135 pounds. Now two weight classes above that, Crawford looks to maintain his status among boxing’s elite in yet another spring fling.

Top Rank, which promotes the pound-for-pound star from Omaha, and Matchroom Boxing, handling Khan’s career, worked together to make the big fight — in one of the sport’s glamour divisions — a reality.

“The Crawford-Khan showdown is a very interesting matchup of two elite fighters,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said. “Khan, when fighting at welterweight, is as good as there is. But he is fighting the division’s best fighter and a pound-for-pound great. It will be an entertaining and competitive fight.”

Khan is Crawford’s highest-profile opponent since he knocked out Yuriorkis Gamboa in Omaha in his first fight as a world champion back in June 2014. And the Brit is arguably the best boxer he has ever faced.

“I’m excited about this fight because I believe it can push my career to another level,” Crawford said.

Crawford-Khan is a matchup of two of the biggest stars in the sport. Crawford has risen out of relative anonymity to become arguably the top fighter in the world. Khan, on the other hand, appeared destined to inherit that moniker himself at a young age, but has yet to reach that potential due to a suspect chin.

Three knockout losses have defined the British star’s career more than any of his wins, even though he unified two titles at junior welterweight and won minor belts at lightweight and welterweight. Crawford, meanwhile, left the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions as their lineal champion and currently holds one of the four world titles at welterweight. The Omahan has yet to be challenged deep in a fight.

Crawford will be a heavy favorite in the bout, but Khan is as gifted as and more experienced at the highest professional level than any boxer he has fought. The former Olympic silver medalist owns nine career victories over fighters who have held a world title at some point during their career.

Crawford has only six such wins, but he boasts a perfect 12-0 record with nine knockouts in world title fights. He has stopped the last five opponents he has faced, including his first two foes at welterweight.

“It’s always been my goal to fight the best fighters out there, and I look at Amir Khan as one of the top fighters in my division,” he said. “I know some people are writing him off. But I am, by no means, overlooking him. He’s a former unified world champion. And come April 20, I’ll be looking to go out there to seek and destroy.”

Matchroom had been angling Khan toward a colossal domestic showdown with fellow Brit Kell Brook, the former IBF welterweight champ. Then Top Rank approached Khan with the opportunity to fight Crawford. He said the decision to pass on the fight in the United Kingdom, for now, was a difficult one.

“Clearly, the UK fans want to see Khan vs. Brook, but I could not turn down the opportunity to fight for the WBO title,” Khan said. “That is not to say that the Brook fight won’t happen, as I want that fight to happen as soon as possible. Fighting a world champion won’t be easy, but this is exactly the challenge I need at this stage of my career. I am fully motivated and ready for the best training camp of my life.

“Crawford is beatable, and I want that WBO title. It’s going to be one hell of a fight.”

Khan has posted two straight wins since returning to welterweight, where he in unbeaten. In 2016, he moved up two divisions to challenge Mexican star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez for a middleweight title belt.

Winning that bout against boxing’s biggest attraction would have instantly vaulted Khan to the status he long has coveted. But he was knocked out by a straight right hand from Alvarez in a competitive fight.

Now he’ll get another crack at one of the best boxers in his sport when he faces Crawford in April.

“There has been a lot of speculation regarding Amir’s next fight, but the lure to trying to win another world title was too much to turn down,” said Eddie Hearn of Matchroom. “Now he faces arguably the No. 1 welterweight in the world in Terence Crawford. It’s a fight he believes he can win. And on his night, Amir has all the speed and skills to beat the very best. I believe it will be a fascinating and dramatic matchup.”

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