Chris Algieri’s School Of Thought: Crawford Fighting Madrimov Makes As Much Sense As Ennis Joining Matchroom – And A Future Fight Between Them

It makes a lot of sense for Terence Crawford to move up to 154lbs to challenge the WBA champion Israil Madrimov. 

In the wake of Tim Tszyu-Sebastian Fundora, it seems natural for Crawford to fight for a title in a fourth weight class – and to put him on course to unify all four titles in a third. 

Though talented, Madrimov doesn’t have Crawford’s profile or experience, so many – myself included – will expect Crawford to win. Turki Alalshikh’s ability to broker these types of fights will also have delivered to Crawford the money his status deserves.

Crawford’s size at the press conference to announce their fight on August 3 surprised me – there wasn’t much, if any, difference between them, which is encouraging for Crawford. Crawford carries the weight well; though not tall, he’s got a good frame with long arms and a good build for boxing. He also has power, which, complemented by his timing and technical ability, suggests he will seamlessly adjust to fighting at light middleweight. He was certainly struggling to make weight for his last two fights at 147lbs – particularly his most recent one, against Errol Spence.

To say I was surprised to learn that Tszyu will fight Vergil Ortiz on the undercard is an understatement. It’s a dangerous fight for both – and looks a fantastic match-up of two fighters in their primes. 

But perhaps this is the era we’ve entered – one in which more undefeated fighters are willing to risk defeat. We’ve just seen Devin Haney lose to Ryan Garcia – who had already lost to Gervonta “Tank” Davis – in what’s likely to be one of the biggest fights of the year. The influence of Floyd Mayweather’s undefeated record, and his determination to remain undefeated, is perhaps waning.

A fight between Tszyu and Ortiz is even more appealing than would be Fundora-Tszyu II. Robert Garcia’s been telling me for years how hard Ortiz works in the gym, and how talented he is. I’ve heard similar things about the improving Tszyu, who against Fundora showed a lot of guts, and what’s required to be a champion.

Their fight feels particularly dangerous for Tszyu, because, regardless of the conditions surrounding his defeat by Fundora, if he loses a second successive fight his reputation will require rebuilding. He also confronts Ortiz, his most dangerous ever opponent, without momentum because of that defeat. 

Timing, as ever, is crucial. If I’d lost before I fought Russian Provodnikov in 2014, I’d never have earned that fight against him. But losing to Manny Pacquiao after beating Provodnikov didn’t hold me back – I still earned further big fights. Tszyu hasn’t yet earned that. The Fundora fight was supposed to be the fight that elevated his status, so the date with Ortiz might even prove make or break. 

None of which is to say that the stock from which he comes should be overlooked. His father, Kostya Tszyu, rebuilt his career after losing to Vince Phillips. Like his father, he seems determined to test himself again immediately and unwilling to be defined by a defeat.

Ortiz tore through opponents on his way into the light-middleweight division. His more recent inactivity makes it inevitable he will be questioned, and perhaps even levels the playing field. Tszyu, similarly, represents his toughest fight.

There was a time when we were expecting Ortiz and Jaron “Boots” Ennis to become rivals. My first reaction to the news of Ennis signing with Matchroom is how important it is that they get him fighting regularly – he’s one of the best fighters in the world but we too rarely see him. Not least given he’s only 26 and needs to continue developing and to enhance the star power we already know he has. 

The time may even come when we see him and Ortiz fight at 154lbs, because of the tension that exists between Eddie Hearn and Oscar De La Hoya, and the possibility for Turki Alalshikh to fund another “five versus five”. 

Matchroom have often prioritised, and succeeded, in building fighters’ profiles in their home cities, and their plans to work with Ennis in Philadelphia comes when it’s been a while since Philly has had a star of his potential. If a city with Philly’s history is behind him, it could prove massive.

Ennis is already Crawford’s toughest potential opponent. How many times, historically, have we seen the new kid on the block fight the old lion – the fight surrounding the potential passing of the torch? We’ve seen less of that nature of match-up in recent years – like Julio Cesar Chavez-De La Hoya. The changing landscape we’re seeing gives cause for optimism that the time will come when we’ll see Crawford-Ennis, when it had increasingly looked so unlikely. It may even transpire that Hearn promised to do all he can to deliver Crawford when Matchroom were negotiating with Ennis. 

First Ennis has to defend his IBF welterweight title against his mandatory challenger Cody Crowley in July. I sparred Crowley when I was preparing for Pacquiao in 2014. He’s talented, has plenty of heart, and is a hard worker, but Ennis is on another level.