Terence Crawford earned a date in the big arena Saturday night at Madison Square Garden because the undefeated WBC and WBO super lightweight champion is considered among the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world. But Felix Diaz vowed to make it a “war” at the final news conference Thursday, and some experts believe the challenger from the Dominican Republic has the tools to be the most difficult opponent Crawford has faced.
“I acknowledge Crawford is a great fighter, but he’s not invincible,” Diaz said through an interpreter. “We’re going to have to wait until Saturday, but I really believe this is going to be a war between Terence and I.”
Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs) smirked when asked if Diaz (19-1, 9 KOs) might be his toughest opponent. He identified a bout with Angel Rios six years ago as rough affair when he still was learning the ropes and said his first title defense in 2014 when he scored a ninth-round TKO over former world champion Yuriorkis Gamboa was a tough battle because he had to overcome a cut.
“I grew a lot in that fight,” Crawford said.
Now, he’s a polished fighter who can adapt to most any challenge in the ring. Diaz, a southpaw who often has fought as a 147-pound welterweight rather than at the 140-pound level he must reach at Friday’s weigh-in, doesn’t have an impressive KO record but has shown good power at the lower weight level.
“I feel a lot stronger at 140,” Diaz said. “I’ve definitely been working on my power. I know Terence does adapt, but I cause problems for anybody.”
Diaz knows to expect Crawford to switch to a southpaw style at times, as he often has done in the past. But the former Olympic medalist said he has seen everything in his amateur career, and he sparred with lefthanders as well as righthanders in preparation for this fight.
Lou DiBella, who promotes Diaz, said his fighter “wanted to face the best” in Crawford and believes he’s in with a good chance of scoring the upset. Another person involved in negotiations for the bout said there was some pre-fight concern in the Crawford camp about the matchup of styles.
“Crawford has a lot of good qualities, and I know I have to be careful,” Diaz said. “But I’m going to bring it because I know Crawford is coming with his best. I’m going to adjust when I get in there, but the game plan is to have a war.”