The fight the boxing world has been waiting to see — Terence “Bud” Crawford versus Errol Spence Jr., a modern-day Sugar Ray Leonard versus Thomas Hearns — is on hold after Spence sustained serious injuries in a violent car crash in October.
There is no indication when Spence will fight again, leaving Crawford to look elsewhere for quality opponents. The fighter many consider the best pound-for-pound boxer on the planet continues his quest for greatness Saturday night at the Garden when Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs) defends his WBO welterweight championship against Egidijus Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KOs) of Lithuania. Tickets remain available.
In the co-feature, Teofimo Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs) of Brooklyn is seeking his first world title when he takes on IBF lightweight champion Richard Commey (29-2, 26 KOs) of Ghana. Michael “Mick” Conlan (12-0, 7 KOs) of Ireland is also on the card, taking on Vladimir Nikitin (3-0, 0 KOs) of the Russia. The bouts will be televised on ESPN.
There are perhaps better known potential opponents on the horizon, like Shawn Porter or Danny Garcia, but Crawford insists he’s focused on Kavaliauskas.
“I’m not focused on no other opponent besides the opponent that’s in front of me,” Crawford said. “My goal is to make sure I get the victory, and that’s the only person I’m focused on now. Anyone else is talk. It goes in one ear and out the other. He’s young, hungry and I’m not taking him lightly.”
Kavaliauskas has no fear.
“I’m happy for this fight,” he said. “When the fight was made officially, I was super happy. I was smiling all day and we’re going to fight in the Mecca of Boxing.”
Lopez, 22, thinks he’s ready for his title shot.
“It’s a breathtaking moment,” he said. “It’s just something I have to visualize and just know that at 22 years old, I have a great opportunity here to do a lot. What better way to finish off the year than fight in the Mecca of Boxing, Madison Square Garden, for my first world title.”
Conlan, meanwhile, is seeking revenge. He lost a chance in 2016 at an Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro when the judges awarded Nikitin the decision in a quarterfinal match most thought Conlan won. The Irishman gave the judges the middle-finger salute while leaving the ring. He plans to dish out his own brand of justice Saturday night.
“It’s very fitting for me to be boxing here, having this rematch in MSG,” Conlan said. “This is where I restarted my boxing career after the Olympics, and this is where I’ll close the chapter. We’ll put everything in the past and we’ll stop talking about him because I’m fed up with it. I just want to take care of business and move on.”