Terence Crawford doesn’t do mythical rankings. Sure, he belongs in the short discussion of who is boxing’s pound-for-pound best, but the undefeated welterweight from Omaha, Nebraska couldn’t care less. That’s what the wisdom of growing up in the sport and the confidence of a three-division champion sounds like.  

“I already rank myself No. 1 so it really doesn't matter what the next person thinks or say,” the 31-year-old Crawford says. “You know, when you compare me to all the other fighters that's the top five, you can't argue it.”

You really can’t unless you haven’t been paying attention to Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) who is about to step into the ring in Madison Square Garden Saturday (ESPN PPV, 9 p.m. ET) for the highest profile fight of his career. The WBO welterweight champion is facing Amir Khan (33-4, 20 KOs), the respected fighter from the UK in a bout that ideally will aid Crawford’s pursuit of division unification. Because while everyone has opinions about the pound-for-pound rankings, only one guy can own all the belts that proves he’s really the best.

Before he steps into the ring, Crawford dropped by Complex’s Los Angeles office to talk about defending his belt, his steps toward unification of the welterweight division, who else he admires in boxing, and what it feels like to deliver a knockout.  

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

I can start this interview a million different ways, but it's a big step up with ESPN doing its first pay-per-view for this fight. Obviously promotion around it is gonna be significant. Your profile is definitely rising. Do you feel, though, that you deserve a higher profile on the American sports scene than what you're getting right now?
Of course. I felt like I've accomplished a lot in the boxing world that a lot of people don't give me credit for. But it's life. I don't trip over it.

How much is that a motivating factor for you, though?
Everything motivate me. If I see a fan talking down on my resume or another fighter, it just motivates me to go out there and prove them wrong and fight the fighters that they say will beat me or that will give me trouble in the ring. They ain't going to never really give you no credit, no matter what you do. Some people get credit, some people, they hold to this high expectation, so. I'm happy they hold me to that high expectation, you know, because it tells where I'm at in my career. They expect a lot from me.

The hardcore boxing fan knows your story. But for the casual sports fan out there that's still trying to get into this fight, what do they not know about you that they really should know about you?
Well, a lot of the casual fans, you know, they, I would say, really don't know boxing. You know, they will go read a blog or go read somebody's status and go from there. I would just tell them do your research. That's the best way I can put it. Do your own research and get to know who Terence Crawford really is. That's the best thing I can say. Look up his resume. Look up the fighters that he's fought. Look up all the accomplishments that he's done in the boxing world, so. A lot of people, they really just go on Twitter or Instagram.

I already rank myself No. 1 so it really doesn't matter what the next person thinks or say. You know, when you compare me to all the other fighters that's the top five, you can't argue it. I didn't get to where I'm at right now bragging and boasting.

I'm curious if growing up, and knowing that you wanted to be a professional boxer, if you always put that star up there that I wanna be a pay-per-view fighter, I wanna be a headliner on pay-per-view?
I never thought of that.

Why not?
Because my dream and my goals was just to be a world champion. I never put it to where I say, "I'm just this big pay-per-view star," or "I wanna be the No. 1 pay-per-view star that got all the ratings." No, I was just like, "I'm gonna be a world champion. That's what I'm gonna be."                

This fight coming up with Amir Khan, some people would classify as a mismatch clearly in your favor. How do you view this fight?
Well, it's a good fight. Amir Khan never lost in the welterweight division. He's fast, he box real well. I'm not taking this fight lightly. He's a dangerous opponent. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I can't go in there thinking like everybody on the outside that this is going to be an easy fight, because by no means I don't believe it's going to be easy. It may look easy in certain fights, but I don't believe that no fight is easy.

What was so appealing about taking the fight with Amir?
Well, he was the best opponent available. You know, when you looked at the other top welterweights in the division they all had dates. So you know he was the one that was available that I took the fight so, this was the best fight to make at the time.

What about the feeling of delivering a knockout? I ask this to a lot of guys and everyone has very different ways of describing what a knockout feels like.
It's the same. It depends on the fight. You know, of the magnitude of the fight. Most of the time you can't even put a grasp on it. You know, you're just excited and happy. And sometimes you don't even feel the shot that you knock them out with. It's like, "Man, I don't even felt like I hit him hard." But then when you watch the replay, you threw it so naturally, you know. It was hard. And the ones that you hit hard and you feel it all through the back. You're like, "Dang."

Is there one knockout throughout your career that you love the most? That you kind of take the most pride in? No. [Jose] Benavidez was the one of the most joy-fullest ones, because I told him I was going to knock him out. But I have to say the most devastating one had to be between my first professional fight and Andre Gorges.

And what do you remember so distinctly about that fight?
The first fight it was 26 seconds. And I was orthodox and I remember [Brian Cummings] coming in with a right hand. And I switched to southpaw at the split second and caught him with a hook. And I just knocked him out cold, complete. He just fell right on his face. They had to wake him up and everything. He was like dead to the world. And then Andre Gorges, when I hit him with the overhand right, he was another one that was out before he even hit the ground. And the ref tried to catch him before he fell. It don't take that much to knock nobody out.

Terence Crawford Vertical Getty 2018
Image via Getty/Bradley Kanaris

But do you take a step away and you see the power, the devastation that you can bring? Does that bring a different set of emotions when you take one step away from it?
Not really because I always believed and knew that I had the power to do those type of things. So when I turned professional, it didn't come by surprise. I was actually like, "Ah man, I'm going to kill somebody with these gloves." You know, when I first put a pair of eight-ounces on. It wasn't nothing that surprised me.

A lot of guys obviously model their styles and to a degree they're careers after individuals. Is there anyone that you've really modeled your game after now?
No. I'm myself.

Why didn't you want to model yourself after somebody else?
Because I'm me. You know, I felt like, you know, I might take something off a fighter that I like and try to put in my arsenal. But at the end of the day, I want to be me. I don't want to copy my style off of another fighter.

But you had to admire the guys growing up.
I admire a lot of people. That don't mean I try [to] fight like them.

What fighters have you admired the most throughout your life?
Roy Jones Jr., Floyd Mayweather, Pernell Whitaker. I even admire, you know, Marco Antonio Barrera. You know, for him changing his whole fighting style. He was a banger and started boxing and countering. Those was the type of fighters that I like to watch.

Would you rather be the undisputed welterweight champion of the world or the pound-for-pound best boxer in the world?
Undisputed. Pound-for-pound is an opinion. I always say you can say I'm No. 1. The next person might say I'm No. 2. But it's just an opinion. You might like my fighting style more than the next people that are talking about the pound-for-pound list. It's just a status that people carry and say before we fight and that's it.

But is there something deep down inside you that does want to be recognized as the best pound-for-pound fighter? I mean, the competitor in you that would have to be part of it.
I already rank myself No. 1 so it really doesn't matter what the next person thinks or say. You know, when you compare me to all the other fighters that's the top five, you can't argue it. I didn't get to where I'm at right now bragging and boasting. You know, just because I say, "Oh, I'm No. 1" and I brag about, "Oh, I'm pound-for-pound No. 1. And this and that, and that and this." That ain't going to make me No. 1 in everybody's eyes. They're still going to have their opinion so why waste my breath and energy telling people, you know, I'm No. 1 and this is why I'm No. 1 when it really doesn't matter what I say because they're going to still ride with who they ride with.

Who do you fight for?
My family. I've been accomplishing all my dreams. You know, and it was in 2014 when I became champion of the world. That was my main ultimate dream. Everything else is just extra. You know. Now that I'm fighting for my family and, you know, just the competitiveness that's in me. You know, not to lose and because I love to fight.

And you're fighting for your legacy, too. Do you give that much thought?
I don't ever think about, "Aw, man, my legacy. My legacy this." No, I just want to fight the best fights out there to fight just to prove to the world that I'm the best fighter in the world. And I'm the best welterweight in the world. That's what I want to prove. It's an ego thing.

 

On Instagram, very curiously, a lot of your captions are these motivational things that you put out, these like one-liners. Where are you getting those from?
I don't even know, man. There's a lot of them, and some of them kind of have a lot of similarities. But is there one saying in your life.

Is there a motto you live by or kind of adhere to?
Hard work. You know, nothing comes easy. Yeah, man, you got to work for it. If you don't work, you don't eat. You don't grind, you don't shine.

Is there any criticism that does bother you about your fighting style and the way you go about your business?
No. They ain't in there getting hit. So I don't care what they say. Until they put a pair of eight ounces on with no headgear and get in that ring in front of 15,000 people, then they can't really say nothing. You know, half of them never even boxed before let alone spar. So I really wouldn't care what somebody would say on the outside.

We always talk about the next fight after the next fight. And everyone keeps bringing up Errol Spence Jr. and the potential for that fight. I think it’s a little far fetched for that to happen in the very near future. But for boxing fans it would be amazing to happen. I know you've kind of talked about being extremely focused on Amir. But down the line for the rest of the year, do you have to have plans mapped out?
I don't have nothing mapped out. Anything can happen. You know, I don't plan for the future, you know, in a boxing game. So I take one fight at a time. Amir Khan my main focus. All the other fights down the line we can talk about that after the fight. But as far as me planning for this fighter and this fighter and this fighter, no, I can't do that because you know, you never know what'll happen. It's boxing. Anything can happen.

Who do you admire in other sports?
I don't know.

I mean, when you're watching other games, other sports—whether it be a LeBron out here in LA or some other people. Are there other guys that your really admire?
I can't admire somebody that I don't know. It's kind of hard.

So then who do you admire in the boxing game because you have to know guys in the boxing game?
I admire Floyd [Mayweather]. His mentality, you know. His way of thinking. You know, his business mind. And the skills that he presents in the ring. Sharpness. You know, everything.

How many conversations have you had with Floyd?
A lot.

Has any piece of advice resonated with you more so than others from him? His success is obviously the prime example of what guys want to be because he's made a shit ton of money.
I don't never try to, like I said, be like anybody else or copy they style. You know, I just look on the outside-looking-in and see what have they done to take they career to the next level and try to put it in useful for me.

So what's the one thing that he's done that's been the most useful in terms of your taking from him to incorporate into what you're doing?
Take less pain. It's called boxing—hit [and] not get hit. So the less punishment you take in the sport of boxing, the better your life is after boxing.