Terence Crawford defends his WBO welterweight title Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York against Egidijus Kavaliauskas.
The Omaha, Nebraska, native is hailed as one of the best boxers in the world, but he’s the type of individual who lets his actions do the talking. He’s as introverted outside the ring as he is versatile inside of it.
But that’s just his public-facing persona, and oftentimes those who know famous athletes best experience an entirely different version of that person. Take Andre Ward, for example, who learned about how far Crawford’s competitive streak goes when he lost a game of pingpong to Crawford and had to do 50 pushups as a punishment.
With an eye toward learning a little bit more about him, we asked those who know Crawford to share some of their favorite stories and memories.
Timothy Bradley, multidivision world titlist, on the first time he met Crawford
So I’m getting ready for Devon Alexander, and I was sending everybody home. I was in tip-top shape, going through everybody. I went through like four sparring partners. I was breaking ribs, I was vicious.
I called my manager, Cameron Dunkin, and I was like, “Hey, I need a southpaw, a good one.” He was like, “Well, I got a kid, Terence Crawford.” I was like, “Where is he from?” He said, “Omaha. I’ll fly him out to you.” So I said, “OK, cool.”
My brother-in-law picks him up, he comes to the gym and I see this kid, and I’m like, “Ahhhh, he don’t look like much.” He was slender, a little cut up. Let me see what this kid knows. I think he was 13, 14-0 at the time.
He got into the ring, and I tried to rush this kid — but he was boxing my ears off. I mean, he was beating me up, to the head, to the body, and it seemed the more I tried, the more I got hit. I think we were supposed to go six rounds that day, we went four rounds because it was that bad. I got out of the ring, I was like, “Whoa!” He was shadow-boxing after we were done, and I go up to him and go, “Who are you?”
He said, “I’m Terence, I’m from Omaha.” I said, “Dude, you ain’t no sparring partner, man.” He said, “Why do you say that?” I said, “Man, you’re a world champion. I’ve never been in the ring with someone like you, someone so crafty, someone so polished with the ring IQ that you have. I’ve been a world champion for several years now and I’ve never been in the ring with your type of skill.”
And he goes, “Thank you, thank you.” Immediately after the gym workout, we dropped him off, I called Cameron up. “Cameron! Hey …” And he’s like, “Don’t tell me, don’t tell me — you sent him home, too.” I was like, “No, man, he was great.”
After that, we became really close. It was a different bond than I’ve had with any sparring partner that I’ve ever brought in my camp.
Joe Tessitore, broadcaster, Top Rank Boxing (and Monday Night Football) on ESPN
I think he’s unique compared to any pro athlete I’m around. There are those who are natural-born badasses. There are guys who are just nasty people, who are in the hurt business. Terence, to me, has the ability to be a humane, wonderful, civil, doting father, loving family man, and a loyal friend.
He’s as good and sincere as anybody is, but when he’s about 48 hours out from a fight, that dude can flip the switch and get to that place where he’s in the hurt business
Having said that, I’ve had opportunities to have personal moments with him that have been counter to that guy you see in the ring. I’ve called all of his recent great moments, and I’ve been with him where he’s the most passionate, die-hard Green Bay Packers fan. He has spent the last two Lambeau Field Monday Night Football nights with me in Green Bay, being as knowledgeable and passionate a football fan as I am with Boston College. I’ve been able to experience that side of him, where he’s totally flipped the switch off, and he’s just a fan and his eyes are wide open.
The morning of the Packers-Lions game in October, I invited him to be the guest speaker at the Monday Night Football crew meeting, which is massive. Everyone from ESPN executives, through production, through the executive producers, to the on-air talent — it’s a massive meeting every Monday morning of the game.
We played a sizzle reel of Terence, we played a feature that Mark Kriegel did from April on the relationship with his crew and the bonding, that then pays off in the ring, it was our training camp feature piece. Then we had him speak to the crew and they were blown away by him because they only knew him as like this welterweight champion who knocks guys out.
He spoke to the crew about how critical it is to have trusting relationships in your preparation. How much he trusts Esau Dieguez, how much he trusts BoMac (Brian McIntyre), how much he trusts Red Spikes, so that when it’s time to perform — the final moments in the locker room, when it’s the ring walk, when it’s the moment right before the fight, the 60 seconds between rounds — there’s calmness, everything slows down, communication is clear. The crew got a lot out of it.
I’ve also experienced his humanity firsthand. During his last fight, in April, I had a medical episode. I was battling a gastrointestinal thing all day, I was dehydrated, I just felt weak. Ten minutes before we go on air, I collapsed, my blood pressure gave out, they brought me down to the medical office at MSG. I was hooked up to heart monitors, then I lost consciousness, they threw me in the ambulance, they rushed me to the hospital. I was out, I couldn’t feel the majority of my body, my blood pressure had dropped. It got very serious.
I eventually signed out of the hospital, I raced back to call his fight. Well, word has gotten back to him because he’s in the locker room, watching the fights. He’s like, “Joe Tess isn’t on the air, what the hell is going on?” They told him I had to be rushed to the hospital.
Then he comes out, he fights Amir Khan, he realizes I’m there. I still have the sticky patches on me from the EKG. And after the fight, he waited around, he knew I was laying down in the locker room afterward and he heard I had broadcast the fight with my shirt wide open after discharging myself from the hospital. He came over to make sure I was OK.
We walked out of the MSG together, he embraced me, and said “Hey, are you OK? I heard what happened.” He wasn’t talking about his title defense or what happened with him that night — it was all about making sure I was all right. And it’s not like we’re the closest of friends, but I just think he feels he has a relationship with someone who has been the voice and face of his big moments in his last X-amount of years.
Jamel Herring, WBO junior lightweight titlist, stablemate of Crawford
Terence Crawford doesn’t expect to ever fight Floyd Mayweather, and he doesn’t see a fight with Errol Spence happening in 2020.
Everybody thinks he so uptight and stuck up, and just mean all the time. But “Bud” can actually be a clown and a comedian. If you’re around him long enough, you really get to see the other side of him. But he’s real cool and he’s humble. A lot of people don’t know that his gym, B@B Boxing Academy, is open to everyone, especially kids, [for whom it’s] free of charge, because he knows that he never had the opportunity, like with the other major boxing cities have with big gyms. He basically opened up the gym to everyone who’s able and willing to come down, who wants to learn the sport.
There’s a lot of things people don’t see behind the scenes, because he doesn’t care to brag about it, or put it out to the public.
Yesterday, I was doing questions from the public on my Instagram, and one particular guy asked me: How is it to be a stablemate with Bud? And I responded by saying that I didn’t look at Bud as a stablemate. Bud considers me as family. Bud, he actually posted my video that I put out there, and put it on his Instagram stories. That goes to show you, right there, he genuinely cares.
Last week, he just randomly texted me out of the blue, “I love you, bro.” And I said, “I love you, too, bro.” That was it. He genuinely cares. He checks up on me, even when I’m in camp. He’ll just randomly fly into Colorado Springs to training camp and check on me to make sure I’m doing alright. You can see that he’s been at each and every one of my fights since I’ve been with Top Rank. So I’m definitely going to do the same thing for him. It’s a family-orientated thing between us.
Joe Hernandez, driver for Top Rank during fight weeks on the West Coast
The first time I met Terence Crawford, before the Viktor Postol fight, Angie Jackson from Top Rank had called me to pick him up at the airport. His flight was delayed. Me and my brother Victor, we’re waiting for him, and he showed up three hours late. They had lost his luggage, his training equipment, and I think his belt.
The following day, I pick up a couple of his coaches — “Red” Spikes and Brian McIntyre (who we call BoMac) — plus Terence and another guy who was with them to do a couple of interviews and stuff. We get to the second interview spot, we were in Burbank and I took them in my van and we’re headed to Crenshaw Mall. They wanted to get some stuff. So BoMac asks me, “Joe, are you hungry?” I said, “Nah, not really, but I’ll get you something to eat.”
We got to Wingstop, he had a 20-piece, and a six-piece, separate, he gives me the six-piece. He eats the 20-piece, and then he tells me not to tell Crawford anything because he was supposed to be on a diet. So we pick up Crawford after a while and he goes, “Hey man, it smells like food, who the hell ate in here?” I didn’t say anything, he’s looking at BoMac and he’s looking off with his eyes like, “Yeah, I got busted.” So he yells to BoMac, “What the hell did you eat? You’re supposed to be on a diet?” “I only had a couple of wings!!!”
Terrence goes, “Man, go sit your ass down in the back seat”, and you know how big “BoMac” is, especially being in a little Honda van. He sent him to the back. Then Crawford starts messing with me. I didn’t know he was messing with me, to be honest, at first, because he was telling me, “Hey, y’know what man? Bo was telling me you guys don’t give a s— about nobody else.” I said, “Yeah, that’s about right.”
He goes, “Man, y’know what, I can kick your ass, right now.” I go, “Really?” “Yeah, I’ll beat your ass, right now.” I said, “Man, you ain’t nothing but a flyweight, you probably hit like a baby doll or something.” I really didn’t know who he was. He keeps talking smack to me, but he never cussed at me, he just said, “Y’know, I could knock you the hell out.”
I had my armrest, I picked it up and I put my hand down. I said to myself, if he starts hitting me, I swear, I’m going to uppercut his ass. Because I’m not going to take s— from nobody. He keeps at it and he goes, “Man, I’m going to f— you up, right now.” I said, “Really? Well go for it.”
Then he turns around and goes to Bo, “Man, this m—–f—– don’t give a s—, I told you he and his brother were nuts.”‘ So I go, “Well, what’s up?” He goes, “Man, you’re cool, you don’t give a s—, you’re all right.” I said, “I thought you were serious!” He said, “Nah, I’m just playing with you. We’re cool, we’re cool.”
So they had to come back two weeks later and I started talking crap to Bo, just joking around and stuff. Crawford’s back there just laughing his ass off. And then Red starts and we get on his butt, too. We just formed a friendship there, and ever since then we’ve been really cool.
Cameron Dunkin, Crawford’s original manager, on his early struggle to get fights
He was quiet, but he was very sure of himself. He had no fear of anyone. He was so sure that he could beat anybody at any time, anywhere. That really helped him. It was hard building him. I flew him out to Las Vegas and he sparred with Sharif Bogere, dropped him and destroyed him in sparring. And Bogere’s trainer, Kenny Adams, went crazy: “Who is this guy? Where did he come from?” and everything.
Terence was supposed to fight that week, that Saturday, and I took him over and his opponent didn’t show up. And he told me, “Y’know, I’m just going to quit, I’m not going to fight. I’ll just do something else, I’ll go back to Omaha.” I said, “What are you going to do if you don’t fight?” He said, “Well … I don’t know.”
I gave him 300 bucks and told him, “I’m sorry, I’ll get you on the first show I can find, I’ll get you a fight.” I rushed around to find him one a week or two later because he was so distraught. But he wanted to quit boxing, he really did.”
Brian McIntyre (BoMac), Crawford’s trainer, on their relationship and Crawford’s competitive drive
Terence “Bud” Crawford’s three trainers have helped guide him to success, and their relationship resembles one of a family.
I’ve been knowing “Bud” before he was born. I grew up with his dad, his mom, his uncles. We all grew up in the same neighborhood. I boxed with his dad, I boxed with his uncle. So that’s how I know him.
I remember he was little, like 8, 9 years old, Bud used to play in the gym a lot — all he did was play. And one of the trainers always used to say, ‘Bud, stop all that playing. Stop all that god damn playing!’ And Bud used to run around the gym and say, ‘F— you, you ain’t my daddy!’ He’d get kicked out of the gym every week.
He quit boxing, and then he came back. He got serious when he was 11 or 12. The first one or two tournaments he lost, he was 12. I was like the referee and then he quit for a minute, came back again and then he just kept winning, and winning, and winning.
When he lost, it wasn’t like, “OK, I lost.” He was bad, like, “F— man, I f—ing lost.”
And it’s that way with everything. If you beat him in a game of dominoes, he’s going to keep trying to play you ’till he wins. But I know how to catch him off guard, like in chess — I’ll catch him first thing in the morning when he’s waking up.