One of the only few undisputed boxers in the world, Terence Crawford has become a mainstay in the boxing world at just 31 years of age. Holding a professional record of 35 wins and no losses, Crawford has finished 26 of his opponents. He has held multiple world championships across three weight classes which include the WBO welterweight title which he’s holding on since 2018.
Apart from that, Crawford held WBO, Ring magazine and lineal lightweight titles along with the unified WBA, IBF, WBC and WBO titles for two years between 2015 to 2017. There’s a lot of his name than just these titles; he’s one of the very few gifted fighters blessed with the ability to adapt as per the situation.
After studying other top boxers, it’s time to add another feather to our cap by covering this extra-ordinary boxer with fantastic boxing skills. In this blog, we’ll be looking at Terence Crawford’s boxing strategy which makes him the finest among boxing’s current generation. Whether you’re a boxer or in any other martial arts discipline, you will drive home with some valuable points from this case study. So, tighten your seat belt, because we’re going for a ride.
By far, Terence’s most distinct boxing element is his ability to adapt his game plan as per the situation. It takes more than just physical shape and conditioning when you’re up against top competitors. And that’s what we’re going to analyse. The revered Terence Crawford ‘Ability to Adapt’ as per the situation. He’s also touted as the most complete boxer in current era mainly because of his ability to adapt, adjust his movements, speed and the entire pace of the contest. Let’s start with the clip below:
Crawford puts his lead foot forward and leans back to maintain a safe distance and keep his upper body out of his opponent’s reach and be able to bait him with a jab or hit a jab and get out of that position. Whilst in this position, he probes with a jab to open his opponent so he can reach him with a jab of his own.
His superior footwork allows him to step away from his opponent’s offence and counters, thereby enabling him to effectively land his own counters. Ideally, he stays ahead when an opponent is hitting him with a single shot. However, he steps back when he senses a combination coming his way.
His signature moves include using a jab as a distraction and following it up a right hook to the body and a dissecting uppercut. He uses his speed and movement effectively against slower opponents, especially when he comes up against opponents who telegraph their jabs.
You can see him throw a jab whilst establishing the lead foot positioning. This shows Crawford’s positional awareness. And we’ve learned how great boxers such as James Toney, Gennady Golovkin, Mike Tyson, and Floyd Mayweather use their lead foot to position themselves in an advantageous position. In this instance, Terence is following him up with the left hook-uppercut combination, as mentioned above.
Switch-hitting is the ability to change stances between offences. Crawford is one of the best switch hitters in boxing. If you’re a boxing fanatic, Crawford’s switch-hitting techniques will remind you of Marvin Hagler, who would change stances frequently in his fights. As we move forward, we’ll be studying more about Crawford’s southpaw abilities which make him one of the best southpaws alongside Manny Pacquiao in the boxing world.
In the clip above, you can see his opponent establishing a lead hand, trying to find the range. However, he commits a mistake of doing it twice as Terence is too quick in this case. He senses an opening, and as soon as his opponent stretches the lead for the third time, Terence catches him with a left.
We can see Gamboa getting tagged with a straight left hand by Crawford as he aims to establish the rhythm at a certain tempo. However, it backfires as Crawford reads it and knows what’s coming next. Thus, he is able to outsmart his opponent by shooting his straight left hand and catches him when he isn’t expecting it. Great disruption of rhythm. Brilliant boxing from Crawford.
Outstanding Reach & Jab Abilities
What makes Crawford terrifying is his great reach and outstanding jabbing. His long reach and jabs pose great amount of threats to his opponents especially due to his southpaw stance. Especially when he is operating from a southpaw stance, he is able to maximize the impact because it allows him to target his opponent with a stronger hand.
In the clip above, we can see Crawford jabbing extensively. He uses this kind of jab to attract his opponent’s attention. As a southpaw, he is able to hook and jab with his stronger hands. This allows him to add more speed and power as compared to a usual jab for a conventional stance. Additionally, Crawford is able to catch opponents with his long jabs, especially when his opponents don’t feel he can land the jab from what they think is a relatively safe distance. (It’s similar to the Jon Jones story in UFC).
Terence time and time against demonstrates his insane reach and strong jabs. As long as he manages to catch his opponent at a breakneck pace, Crawford will always have an edge regardless of how he is facing. The technique Crawford’s using on the jab is brilliant. Notice of his right shoulder is part of his movement, actively protecting his chin. His great fundamentals allow him to attack him with much freedom without worrying too much about the defensive discrepancies. You can also see Crawford holding the phone with his left hand. Overall, great defensive alertness.
Overall intelligence and In-Ring IQ
As said earlier, Crawford is a specimen in current boxing. Much of that can be accredited to his mind-blowing technical and mastery of fundamentals. You can see him displaying an incredible level of technical brilliance in a short amount of time. What you’ll read and see next is the brilliance of a technical fighter who can engage and disengage his opponent with his unique skillset.
Any fighter who has defence even close to Floyd Mayweather is an instant great in my regard. Overall, Terence’s defence is good. Though he’s not the best, sometimes, he shows the level of defence which is not very far from what we see in Mayweather’s bouts. What you’ll see next is one of the finest defensive techniques including blocking, rolling with punches and overall defensive skills.
In the clip above, you can see Crawford leaning towards his left and catching his opponent’s right to his elbows. He proceeds by beautifully rolling out of a left hook off his right shoulder. Incredible skills and awareness on display here. Again, he knows that the attacks aren’t going to stop. You can see him protecting his temple against a right hand, where he catches his opponent’s advancement. Finally, he is able to step around and finally roll his opponent’s left hand off his right shoulder. Brilliant Defense and great ring IQ on display here.
Adjustment of feet
Terence is amazing when it comes to adjusting his feet. We all know that Terence Crawford switches stances, but let us understand why he does it. Firstly, he does so because he gains numerous benefits by doing so. When he gets in a Southpaw position, he gets an instant edge over conventional fighters because they find it hard to adjust against the reversed angles. Moreover, it offers Crawford and better-attacking window as he can jab and hook with a stronger hand and can see the right hand coming easily from his original southpaw stance. So, not only does it provide him with an offensive edge but also presents a defensive guard.
Above you can see a perfect example of a Southpaw right hook counter for the straight right hand. Once committed to his right hand, it becomes impossible for a conventional opponent to see the right hook coming their way. Similar is the story for countering left hook on a southpaw. Regardless of stance, hooks are blindside punches and are very effective, mainly due to the power. And the biggest advantage of hooks is that most fighters don’t see them coming till the very last.
Overcoming a quicker fighter
In 2014, Crawford made his first title defence against 2004 Cuban Olympic Gold medalist and former unified featherweight and undefeated titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa, who was a slight favourite going into the right. Gamboa entered this fight, having not fought in over a year. As the match started, it looked as if, Gamboa was going to meal off Crawford. However, as rounds progressed, Crawford eventually adjusted and beat Gamboa at his own game.
Playing against the strengths of your opponent
Terence Crawford is one of the most cerebral and versatile boxers today. He is a master at identifying his opponent’s strength and weaknesses, which helps him to tailor his strategies accordingly. We’ve already learned that in his fight with Gamboa. In the initial rounds, Gamboa caught Crawford off-guard repeatedly with a throwaway left hook-right hand combination. In this fight, Gamboa had the superior hand and foot speed, which gave him an unusual edge over Crawford.
A switch to southpaw stance helped Crawford’s overall standing in the bout. It helped him take a step back and counter Gamboa’s left hook with a southpaw right hook. We’ve studied the unpredictability factor before and thus that came into play here.
Clips below showcase how Gamboa couldn’t adjust to what Crawford had just kept on the table. He found it really hard to adjust to the new tactic and thus kept on attacking in the same manner, which proved to be fatal in this case. As a result, he was continuously caught off guard.
Handling the boxer-puncher pressure
In his fight against Viktor Postol, Terence knew that if he allowed Postol to plant his feet and punch from the wide stance, he’d easily catch him. Thus, Terence kept feinting and circling away from his opponent so to ensure that he doesn’t set him and have room to punch from a wide stance. Simply clever use of movement against an opponent with a much better reach advantage.
The clip below shows Crawford’s excellence at what he does. He is actively nullifying Postol’s jab with the help of his right hand. Without a jab, Postol finds it really hard to find a foot in the fight, let alone establish himself over Crawford.
In the clip below, you can see how Crawford’s movements frustrate Postol. His inability to find a target made him attack carelessly. This was the opening; which Crawford has been looking for since a long time. Now that he had it, finally, he wasn’t letting it pass. Thus, he catches Postol with his left hand.
Handling a pressure fighter
One of Terence Crawford most exciting display of characteristics were seen in his bout against pressure fighter Felix Diaz. Fighting out of a crouch, Felix looked to get underneath Crawford’s jab and work him into a corner.
In the clip, you can see, that Crawford’s biggest concern is Diaz’s right hook thrown for a low stance. In order to overcome this, Crawford dropped his guard to protect his body and got caught moving straight back.
Knowing this, Crawford soon adjusted. He held his ground more so he is able to smother Diaz’s attack and kept his left glove close to his cheek to protect his face.
This is what champions do. They read the game. They read their opponents. No amount of training camp can actually teach a fighter this level of inquisitiveness. It all boils down to their understanding of the game. People who read their opponents and can anticipate what’s coming next are the ones who ultimately stand tall. And that’s the reason behind Terence Crawford being undisputed.
As soon as Crawford adjusted, he started meeting Diaz with an uppercut.
On Diaz’s part, by leaning forward, and carrying his weight on the front foot, Diaz just played himself into that uppercut. As brilliant as that was from Crawford, it was equally stupid on Diaz’s part. However, that’s what changes the game. One has the ability to adjust as per the situation, the other fumbles when his opponent has unlocked the door to what they thought was not enterable.
Diaz had an edge for a period. However, his biggest drawback was that he had no Plan B. As rounds progressed, he got beaten up with the uppercuts and was a beaten man.
Handling a Taller fighter
This aspect of Terence’s boxing strategy can be studied from his bout against Indongo. Instead of pushing forward and trying to get on the inside of the taller man as the conventional boxing wisdom suggests, Crawford waited patiently for his opponent to commit so he can catch him on the counter. He starts by studying his opponent in the initial rounds, and after he gets the rhythm, he then devises tailor-made strategies to diffuse his opponent. (A real boxing consultant indeed).
From the southpaw stance, Crawford was able to ride Indongo’s telegraphed left hand and then counter with his own left hand. Crawford knew that if he keeps countering the tall man with body shot’s, he’ll definitely weaken him entirely. And everyone knew that as the rounds progress, Indongo would have a decreasing chance of making it through the bout. And so, it happens as Terence puts him to sleep with a final body shot.
Handling a Brawler
Terence’s boxing strategies against a brawler can be understood against Jeff Horn. As a brawler, it was no brainer that Horn wanted to close the distance as soon as the bell rang. He wanted to close the gap behind his right hand and the rough Crawford up. But Crawford, as usual, had other ideas. Crawford stymied Horn’s attack with basic footwork, and with boxing’s most basic punch – the jab.
In the clip below, you can see Terence starting his movement with a pivot, then goes into reverse shuffling and follows that up with an L-step. Finally, when Horn managed to get close, Crawford shut down his roughhousing with basic wrestling.
In the clip below, you can see Lee Wylie pointing out how he uses underhook for control. He then turns his opponent towards the ropes to keep him in check. Terence’s basic orthodox-southpaw alignment helped him to keep his opponent in check. You can see even more examples of how he positions his lead foot to check his opponent in the video on the right.
Landing shots on the go
In the clip below, you can see Crawford moving laterally to his opponent’s weaker left side; he is able to counter with the no-sit double-cross, landing the 1st, as a guard splitter mainly due to the angle. Through this visual case, we can make up that over-thinking the foot positioning is not something you do on the go. It’s the bodywork that pays a dividend, always. With Crawford, the flurries of punches can come in many forms as he is not only versatile with stance but also with shot selection.
It’s always a pleasure to learn about these boxers. It helps to add so much to our own game. The fact that the majority of these skills can be implemented in any martial arts makes learning about it worth the time and effort. Terence Crawford is truly a complete boxer and one who is far from a done deal at just 31-years of age. He still has 8-10 years in him and who knows what will he accomplish by the time we reach mid-way through the next decade? Simply unfathomable.