Terence Crawford has long held a spot in the mythical pound-for-pound ratings that boxing people like to argue about when all the fights are done for the day.
What Crawford is still waiting on is the one signature fight that will put an end to all those arguments.
Crawford won’t get that Saturday night when he defends his piece of the welterweight title against England’s Kell Brook. But he figures to get a stiff challenge — along with a measuring stick of the state of his many talents — when he takes on the former champion in a fight that is both risky and needed for Crawford.
“I’ve always felt that I’m No. 1 pound-for-pound in the world,’’ Crawford said this week. “This is what I do.’’
Crawford returns to the ring for the first time in nearly a year in a scheduled 12-round fight from the Top Rank bubble at the MGM Grand hotel. The fight will be televised on ESPN, with the card starting at 10 p.m.
For Crawford it’s both a chance to get back in the ring again and to make a statement. At the age of 33 he still is in his prime but he has yet to fight the big bout that could end up defining his career.
Promoter Bob Arum says that could come next spring with a possible fight against Manny Pacquiao in Qatar, something Arum said he has been pursuing even though he doesn’t promote Pacquiao.
“I’m optimistic that if Terence wins, we can put the fight on and if Terrence doesn’t win and Kell Brook wins, maybe I’ll make Kell Brook with Manny,’’ Arum said.
Crawford, who has never been beaten in 36 fights, has had more success inside the ring than he has in creating a buzz outside of it. His skills are excellent, and he has power, but his subdued personality and the fact he lives and trains in Omaha, Nebraska, has made it difficult for him to become a breakout star.
Meanwhile, one of the other fighters who can claim pound-for-pound status, Errol Spence Jr., holds other pieces of the 147-pound title and is scheduled to defend his belts Dec. 5 against Danny Garcia in Texas. A bout between the two unbeaten title holders could be difficult to make since they are with different promoters and would likely have to wait until more fans are let in to happen.
Crawford is a huge favorite in Las Vegas sports books to beat Brook, who is coming down from his recent weight of 154 pounds to challenge Crawford. Brook (39-2, 27 knockouts) is a former 147-pound champion whose only losses are to Spence and middleweight titlist Gennadiy Golovkin.
“I think Terence knows I’m not an easy fight,’’ Brook said. “I want him to bring the best out of me. I’m pushing myself to perform the best I can.’’
Brook, who fought at 160 pounds when he was stopped in the fifth round by Golovkin in 2016, said he started losing weight early for this fight so he wouldn’t have to starve himself late. But there are questions not only about him coming down in weight but also the wear and tear he’s had in his years in the ring.
At the age of 34 it could be his final hurrah if he can’t come up with the performance of a lifetime against Crawford.
“I’m in the best condition of my life, and I’m ready to become a two-time champion,’’ Brook said. “I’m like fine wine. I’m getting better as I get older. I’m ready.’’