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Terence Crawford vs Egidijus Kavaliauskas preview: A championship doubleheader at MSG

Terence Crawford, one of boxing’s finest fighters and Teofimo Lopez, one of its best prospects are in action Saturday in Madison Square Garden.

Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Top pound for pound boxer Terence Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs) will defend his WBO welterweight title against Egidijus Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KOs) while in the co-main event top lightweight prospect Teofimo Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs) gets his first shot at a world title against IBF champion Richard Commey (29-2, 26 KOs).

Terence Crawford was one of the best lightweights in the US in his amateur days but turned pro after failing to make the 2008 olympic team. He’s enjoyed great success in the pros, he became the WBO lightweight champion in 2014 and from 2015 to 2017 he unified all the superlightweight titles. He moved up to welterweight in 2018 and took the WBO belt from Jeff Horn and defended it against José Benavidez Jr and Amir Khan to go 3-0 with 3 KOs at 147lbs. He hasn’t faced the top names in the division yet but his results, skill and previous achievements have led him to be considered the best at the weight along with Errol Spence Jr by most observers.

His opponent Egidijus Kavaliauskas, who seems to have been officially renamed as Mean Machine by Bob Arum, was a solid amateur himself. He represented Lithuania at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and won a bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships before turning pro. He has compiled a solid record in the pros but has yet to face top level competition. He was unlucky to only get a draw in his last outing against Ray Robinson, but he wasn’t to get much going against the tall southpaw. Kavaliauskas has a rather classic game for an Eastern European with his amateur background. He boxes from the outside behind a very hard jab and hammers the opposition with right hands once he’s established it. His inability to establish his jab against a southpaw Robinson was the root of much of his struggles, preventing him from ever really getting into his rhythm. He is a very good fighter and would be a tough out for most fighters at welterweight.

But Terence Crawford isn’t most fighters. He is perhaps the most versatile fighter in boxing, capable of countering or pressing the action, whether from the orthodox or southpaw stance. He is an expert at reading defenses and finding holes in them. He could counter Kavaliauskas’ jab with crosses from the orthodox stance, as he did against Khan. However, given the Lithuanian’s struggles against southpaws and Crawford’s ease from that stance and great work with his left hand to the head and body, that seems like an easier path to victory for him. In short, Kavaliauskas is a very good fighter that represents a respectable stay busy defense but will find himself too limited to deal with the toolbag of a legitimate pound for pound talent. I’m expecting Crawford to take a couple of rounds to read Kavaliauskas’ timings and then dismantle him for a stoppage towards the middle rounds.

In the co-main event, Richard Commey’s IBF title, the only lightweight belt not vacant or held by Vasyl Lomachenko, is on the line against extremely promising prospect Teofimo Lopez. Ghana’s Commey first got on boxing fans radar with a couple of razor-thin losses to Robert Easter Jr and Denis Shafikov in 2016, the former of which was for the IBF title. He’s racked up five wins since including four KOs and captured the vacant IBF belt against Isa Chaniev earlier this year and defending against veteran Raymundo Beltran in June.

Commey is is a very aggressive and physical pressure fighter and bullies opponents with a high volume of powerful if a bit wild punches, particularly his right hand. As I’ve mentioned twice already, Lopez is one of the best prospects in boxing and is looking to graduate to top fighter with a win over Commey. He’s stepped up his opposition in 2018 and looked great apart from his last win over Masayoshi Nakatani. Nakatani is nothing special but his height made him a unique challenge at lightweight and despite not looking as scintillating as he had in his five previous wins, he got the job done and won comfortably on all cards. Stylistically, I’d categorize him as an aggressive counter puncher who uses a shoulder roll defense to pick off punches to counter off usually with a right hand or a left hook to the body. Commey is by far the biggest test of his career and should give him a tough and fun fight and could potentially knock him out but I think Lopez should be able to get out of a few tough spots and use his counters and cleaner technique to get a decision win and the first world title of his career.

The main event should be an interesting fight despite the result not being in too much doubt and combined with a very interesting co-main event that could see the arrival of a potential future great on the world stage, that should make for a very good night on boxing.

Prelims (ESPN+, 5:45 pm ET)

  • George Kambosos Jr (17-0, 10 KOs) vs. Mickey Bey (23-2-1, 11 KOs), lightweights, 10 rounds
  • Josue Vargas (15-1, 9 KO) vs Noel Murphy (14-1-1, 2 KO), junior welterweights, 10 rounds
  • Edgar Berlanga (12-0, 12 KO) vs Cesar Nunez (16-1-1, 8 KO), super middleweights, 8 rounds
  • Julian Rodriguez (18-0, 12 KO) vs Manuel Mendez (16-6-3, 11 KO), junior welterweights, 8 rounds

Main Card (ESPN, 9:00 pm ET)

  • Terence Crawford (35-0, 26 KO) vs Egidijus Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KO), welterweights, 12 rounds
  • Richard Commey (29-2, 26 KO) vs Teofimo Lopez (14-0, 11 KO), lightweights, 12 rounds
  • Michael Conlan (12-0, 7 KO) vs Vladimir Nikitin (3-0, 0 KO), featherweights, 10 rounds