Undefeated World Junior Welterweight Champion and top pound for pound fighter Terence "Bud" Crawford will make his 2017 debut, Saturday, May 20, at the Mecca of Boxing, Madison Square Garden.
This will also be his debut headlining in the big room, a testament both to his talent and his growing popularity. Crawford will be defending his unified WBO/WBC/Ring magazine titles against former Olympic gold medalist and top-rated contender Felix Diaz in a marquee all-action fight. It will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing, beginning at 10:15 p.m. ET/PT.
"Crawford vs. Díaz was made for The Garden and I anticipate a battle between these two warriors worthy of its moniker as the Mecca of Boxing," said Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum.
"Come May 20, I will be ready for whatever Félix Díaz brings to the ring that night," said Crawford. "It’s going to be a great experience fighting at Madison Square Garden in the big arena where all the greats have fought. I’m looking forward to that night."
"We’ve got our work cut out for us fighting against another Olympic gold medalist," said Brian McIntyre, Crawford's trainer and co-manager. "It’s an honor to fight in the arena at Madison Square Garden. It’s a step up going from The Theater into the big room."
"First, I would like to thank the man upstairs for making my dream come true" said Díaz. "I would also like to thank Lou DiBella, Al Haymon, HBO and my manager Jose Nuñez for working around the clock to get me to this point".
"The time has finally come. I will share a ring with one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world and I tip my hat to Crawford for accepting me as an opponent on May 20 because I am no pushover.
"I'm coming to bring my A-game and I couldn't be more grateful to be able to showcase my skills on HBO and at Madison Square Garden, which is just 15 minutes from where I live. I will take full advantage of this opportunity. I respect Crawford and believe he is a great fighter, but every king can be dethroned."
"Félix Díaz is an Olympic gold medalist, a seasoned professional and the best fighter Terence Crawford has ever fought," said Lou DiBella, the promoter of Díaz. "We have been chasing this fight for a year because Felix and our team believe we can win. The fans will win when they see a terrific, competitive fight on May 20th."
"On May 20, unified champ Terence Crawford faces gold medalist Félix Díaz in a fight to light up Madison Square Garden," said Peter Nelson, Executive Vice President, HBO Sports. "Holding two belts and a place on any top pound for pound list, Terence Crawford looks to have his 2017 debut make a big statement in the Big Apple. Fans will see both fighters' mettle tested at the Mecca of Boxing."
Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs), of Omaha, Neb., is a two-division world champion who has won five of his last seven bouts by stoppage. He unified the 140-pound titles in a battle between consensus Top-10 pound-for-pound fighters on July 23, 2016, successfully defending his WBO junior welterweight title for the third time by winning a unanimous decision over previously undefeated WBC super lightweight champion Viktor Postol.
That victory also garnered him The Ring title, designating him the lineal champion. He made his first defense of his unified titles on December 10, stopping No. 1 contender and one-time world title challenger John Molina Jr. in front of a record crowd at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha.
The consensus Top-Five pound-for-pound fighter will be looking to keep building on his star-making 2014 which featured three world championship victories as well as Fighter of the Year honors from the Boxing Writers Association of America and major media alike.
Crawford, 29, captured the vacant WBO junior welterweight crown on April 18, 2015, via a devastating sixth-round knockout of once-beaten No. 2 world-rated contender Thomas Dulorme.
His title defenses include stopping No. 2 world-rated contender Dierry Jean in front of a packed house at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha on October 24, 2015, knocking out Top-10 contender Hank Lundy in the fifth round on February 27, 2016, at a sold-out Theater at Madison Square Garden, and headlining his first pay-per-view on July 23, where he totally dominated Postol.
Crawford began his career-best year on March 1, 2014, just 13 days short of the sixth anniversary of his professional debut. He captured his first world title, the WBO lightweight title, dethroning defending champion Ricky Burns on Burns’ home turf of Glasgow, Scotland.
Scoring a powerful and unanimous decision, Crawford put the boxing world on notice with his virtuoso performance as he pulled out all stops in dismantling Burns, rocking the defending champion throughout the fight, while switching back and forth between orthodox and southpaw stances.
He followed that with a dramatic and critically-acclaimed knockout victory of undefeated former world champion and Cuban Olympic gold medalist Yuriorkis Gamboa on June 28, 2014, in a Fight of the Year nominee. It was one of the most-watched fights of the year with over 1.2 million viewers catching the live, first-time airing of the fight, according to Nielsen Media Research.
He concluded 2014 on November 29 with a thorough shellacking of one-time world title challenger and No. 1 contender Ray Beltran, winning 11 of the 12 rounds. Crawford, who is friendly with Warren Buffet, is only the second Nebraska native to be recognized as a boxing world champion. Perry “Kid” Graves, from Rock Bluff, captured the welterweight crown, knocking out Johnny Alberts in Brooklyn, in 1914, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
Díaz (19-1, 9 KOs), from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, now living in New York, ended his outstanding amateur career with an exclamation point by winning the 2008 Olympic light welterweight gold medal. He was the first Dominican fighter to win Olympic gold and only the second Dominican athlete, joining Félix Sánchez, who won gold in the 400 meter hurdles in the 2004 Summer Games.
A natural junior welterweight, Diaz has been forced to campaign at welterweight because viable opponents in the in 140-pound division have been running from him. The only blemish on his record was a disputed 12-round welterweight majority decision loss to two-division world champion Lamont Peterson in 2015, a fight most observers thought Díaz deserved to win.
Díaz bounced back from that loss with a dominant unanimous decision victory over previously undefeated contender Sammy Vasquez and sixth-round stoppage of Levis Morales, both in 2016. A southpaw with excellent skills and movement and strong punching power, Díaz, 33, is world-rated No. 3 by the WBC. He is very experienced against very good opposition.
Promoted by Top Rank, in association with DiBella Entertainment, Tecate and Madison Square Garden, tickets to the Crawford vs. Díaz world championship event are priced at $250, $150, $100, $75, $50 and $35, tickets can be purchased at the Madison Square Garden Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, Ticketmaster charge by phone (866-858-0008), and online at www.ticketmaster.com and www.thegarden.com.