Terence Crawford’s world tour in search of competition has taken him through opponents from Ukraine, Haiti, Cuba, England, Russia and French Guyana in the past four years.
Saturday, the unbeaten, two-belt junior-welterweight world champion from Nebraska goes to Madison Square Garden to take on Puerto Rican challenger Felix Diaz in a fight that continues Crawford’s slow creep toward a deserved mega-fight against Manny Pacquiao.
“I train very hard to be the best that I can be and adjust to anyone I fight in the ring, so this is just another day in the office for me,” Crawford (30-0, 21 knockouts) told the Los Angeles Times in a telephone interview this week.
In former Olympic gold medalist Diaz (19-1, nine KOs), Crawford will make his eighth World Boxing Organization title defense and second World Boxing Council defense.
It’s expected that African Julius Indongo (22-0, 11 KOs) will be at ringside Saturday to help promote a summer showdown for all four 140-pound belts.
While that matchup may lack the buzz that a gifted fighter like Crawford, 29, is worthy of at this point in his career, promoter Bob Arum says patience has worked thus far for Crawford.
“One step at a time,” Arum said. “The thing is to keep him active, not once or twice a year. … The fight that I would like to make if everything aligns is Pacquiao looking for a big fight in November or December, probably do it for Manny’s [WBO] title at 147.”
Diaz, 33, lost a close decision to Lamont Peterson, but beat Adrian Granados and Sammy Vasquez to get here, and his promoter Lou DiBella didn’t take kindly to the suggestion his fighter has “no chance” against the peaking Crawford.
“I don’t agree,” DiBella said. “I think he has a chance by throwing a lot of punches, being active, being strong. Sort of the fight [Cuban Yuriorkis] Gamboa fought against Crawford, but my guy’s the bigger guy. He’s an Olympic gold medalist. He’s not a schmo.
“I give great credit to Crawford – terrific fighter -- but he’s been protected. He’s fought much smaller guys. This is not a smaller guy. It’s a good fight and if he’s looking past Diaz, it’s a mistake.
“But if Crawford handles my guy impressively, then 147 should be around the corner. This will be a rougher fight for him than Indongo.”
Crawford, one of boxing’s top five pound-for-pound fighters, said his diligence in the gym to address “mistakes” he wouldn’t reveal has boosted his rise. He said he’s fine to “wait and see” what lies before him.
“Right now, I’ve got this fight and that’s all I’m focused on,” Crawford said.
The HBO-televised card that also includes a lightweight bout between Southland-trained Ray Beltran and Jonathan Maicelo will be preceded by the second pro fight of U.S. Olympic silver-medalist Shakur Stevenson, who endured head butts to win his debut less than a month ago at StubHub Center.
“I had a lot of that in the amateurs, where guys start getting beat up by me and start doing the dirty stuff,” Stevenson said. “It just shows it’s not going to get to me at all.”
Stevenson, from Newark, N.J., anticipates the warm ovation he’s expecting while fighting so close to home.
“It’s amazing, being 20 minutes from here. I’ll be bringing a lot of people here,” Stevenson said.
He trained alongside Crawford before this bout.
“Terence Crawford is a beast," Stevenson said. "I love his skills. He's real focused. He is what everybody makes him out to be."