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In the eight years since Terence Crawford first arrived on the national scene, the dynamic boxer/puncher has grown to become a three-division champion and a stalwart atop the pound-for-pound rankings.  

That doesn't necessarily mean anyone can confidently claim to know just how great the 34-year-old Crawford (37-0, 28 KOs) actually is. This weekend, at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, that will all change. 

With boxing politics being as forever frustrating as it can be, Crawford has spent the majority of his career feasting on second-rate and long-faded opponents. But thanks to the WBO naming former two-time champion Shawn Porter (31-3-1, 17 KOs) as his mandatory opponent, the two fighters from the opposite sides of the network and promotional divide will square off on Saturday in a pay-per-view showdown that's expected to sizzle.  

At 34, Porter can make a claim to being the most active and ambitious member of a star-studded welterweight division over the same period Crawford has slowly moved up in weight. The two-division champion has shared the ring with Devon Alexander, Paulie Malignaggi, Kell Brook, Adrien Broner, Keith Thurman, Andre Berto, Danny Garcia, Yordenis Ugas and Errol Spence Jr. throughout his run at 147 pounds, with the majority of fights coming against prime versions of those fighters. 

While Porter hasn't won all of the big challenges he has taken on, he has been both competitive and exciting in each one. Even more, he has evolved his style along the way. 

Originally a bruising brawler who bullied his way inside like a fullback bursting through the line of scrimmage, Porter has added feints and quick footwork to his game while improving his pure boxing ability along with it.

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Finally, Crawford finds himself staring across the ring at an opponent who is capable of bringing out the best in him and the native of Omaha, Nebraska, seems to be just as excited about that as his critics.  

"I respect everything that Shawn does. Shawn is athletic, he can box, he can bang, he can move around in the ring, he can cut corners and take angles. I'm not going to sit here and say that I don't respect anything that he does," Crawford said. "I'm just going to say that I do a lot of things better than Shawn. I'm going to show him come Saturday.

"Once we signed that contract, the switch was already flipped and I can't wait to go out there Saturday to display my talent and look good doing it. Until then, right now I'm just chilling, playing Call of Duty in the room by myself all day. I've been in the room all day isolating." 

Porter, who grew up in suburban Ohio, has crossed paths with Crawford ever since their amateur days and has been pushing behind the scenes for a fight between the two for years, even despite Crawford's claim that Premier Boxing Champions founder, Al Haymon, has been purposely freezing him out.  

From Porter's perspective, Crawford has already established himself as a future Hall of Famer and would like to cement his own status with a victory over him.  

"I'm pretty sure I am on the brink of the Hall of Fame," Porter said. "And with that, this fight is not win or go home for me, it's win or nothing else. My life, right now, is depending upon winning this fight and beating Terence Crawford. He is a dominant fighter and everyone he gets in the ring with, he dominates. 

"For me to be that guy he can't dominate and that beats him to the punch and finishes the exchanges, everything that is required to beat Terence, I've got it."

Despite suffering a flash knockdown in his 2019 stoppage win against Egidijus Kavaliauskas, Crawford has been virtually untouched at both 140 and 147 pounds. One would have to go back to his breakthrough 2014 win at lightweight over unbeaten Yuriorkis Gambos to see a fight in which Crawford was forced to make key adjustments in order to change the momentum while also absorbing punishment in order to hand out his own.  

The good news for fans is that Crawford has no plans to try and box Porter from the outside and expects to stand strong in the face of Porter's trademark pressure.  

"Unlike other fighters that [Porter] fought, I'm different," Crawford said. "The more you push, I'm going to push. The more you come, the more I'm going to come. Everybody is always saying, 'Why would you throw fire with fire when you can just outbox him?' It's because I love that, I love that. You hit me hard, I'm going to hit you even harder. Let's see who can last." 

Crawford's impending free agent status makes it unsure whether he will ever land the superfight against Spence that fans have coveted for years. Entering his last bout on his Top Rank deal, Crawford has been largely quiet of late regarding his future, as has Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum. 

The focus, understandably, has been instead on the here and now. And Porter expects to push Crawford in a way no other opponent has been able to accomplish. 

"There are people you can get to, and there are people that you can't get to. I'm one of those people that you can't get to, and I got a feeling that you can get to him quicker on the microphone than you can in the ring. In the ring, he is solid, but there may be something that is posted or said that might have an affect on him [during] the fight," Porter said.

"I'm relaxing, I'm drinking water and just biding my time. I am a showtime fighter, and I can't wait for showtime on ESPN+ PPV. I'm a really even-keeled type of guy. I like things to be easy, and fight week is always easy for me."

The undercard fills out with a few interesting names. Former junior featherweight champion Isaac Dogbe is back in a preliminary bout against Christopher Diaz at featherweight. Dogbe, who owns the NABF title at 132 pounds, enters on a two-fight win streak. Diaz is coming off a loss to Emauel Navarrete in April. Plus, middleweight prospect Janibek Alimkhanuly is back as he looks to continue his undefeated run against Hassan N'Dam.

Also on the preliminary card, rising junior lightweight prospect Karlos Balderas is back as he takes on Julio Cortez. Balderas, the 25-year-old from California, is 10-1 with nine knockouts so far in his career. He bounced back from a TKO loss to Juan Rene Tellez in December 2019 with a TKO win in August over Fidel Cervantes. Cortez enters with a 15-3 mark, but coming off a decision loss in his last outing.

Below is the rest of the PPV portion of the card along with a detailed prediction for the main event.

Fight card, odds

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook

  • Terence Crawford (c) -700 vs. Shawn Porter +500, WBO welterweight championship
  • Esquiva Falcao -650 vs. Patrice Volny +475, middleweight
  • Janibek Alimkhanuly -2500 vs. Hassan N'Dam +1200, middleweight
  • Raymond Muratalla -2200 vs. Elias Damian Araujo +1100, lightweight

Prediction 

Let's not bury the lede here: this has all the makings to be tremendous theater and a perfect example of high-speed chess between elite stars.  

What was somewhat lost in the aftermath of Porter's thrilling split-decision loss to Spence in 2019 was how Spence admitted afterward to completely abandoning the gameplan in order to stand and brawl with Porter. The reason was because he openly took Porter lightly and was convinced he could walk him down and stop him with relative ease.  

Crawford likely won't be as willing to accommodate Porter as easily. Yet, true to his comments above, he will stand and trade with him provided Porter can consistently force him to by getting inside.  

This is where the effectiveness of Porter's helter-skelter style will decide whether he truly has a shot of winning this fight or if he is simply selling his name to Crawford as a way to cement the unbeaten champion's resume.  

Porter is at his best when he combines the aggressiveness he showed early in his career with the darting footwork and feints he added later. But it's a style most effective against elite fighters with slower foot speed, which is why it was so effective in his 2018 title win over Danny Garcia.  

Crawford is too quick for Porter to be able to overwhelm him with movement alone and will need to harness the perfect mixture of his two styles to have a shot at keeping Crawford guessing. The problem with that, however, is that Crawford is even more versatile than Porter and able to switch stances with such ease that it might perfectly neutralize Porter's best-laid plans.  

The prospect that Porter enters the second half of the fight down on the scorecards and in need of an all-out blitz remains high. Luckily for fans, the results should be pure excitement as Porter goes for broke like a runway train at an aggression level he hasn't fully shown since his 2017 dismantling of Berto.  

Porter will likely succeed in being the most difficult challenge Crawford has yet to face. But playing the bull against a matador like Crawford successfully is a hill even too large for the ambitious Porter to climb.  

A late stoppage for Crawford by hitting Porter with something he doesn't see isn't out of the question. Either way, this will one should live up to all of its lofty expectations, mostly because Porter is one of the only fighters skilled and daring enough to make Crawford prove just how great he really is.  

Pick: Crawford via UD12 

Who wins Crawford vs. Porter? And which prop is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see Brandon Wise's best bets for Saturday, all from the CBS combat sports specialist who has crushed his boxing picks in 2021, and find out.