<
>

Crawford Q&A: 'I just need to be me'

Terence Crawford may be a new face on the scene in boxing, but the unbeaten lightweight titlist has quickly made a name for himself as a slick boxer.

Crawford, 26, will face his most difficult challenge to date when he defends his title for the first time Saturday (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT) against former Cuban Olympic gold medalist Yuriorkis Gamboa (23-0, 16 KOs) at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

The bout represents a homecoming for Crawford (23-0, 16 KOs), an Omaha native fighting professionally for the first time in his home city. It's also the first world title fight in Omaha since Joe Frazier defended his heavyweight championship against Ron Stander in 1972.

Crawford recently took time away from training to talk with ESPN.com about Saturday's fight:

What did you learn about yourself in the victory over Ricky Burns in terms of knowing you belong against the elite in your division?

It showed me a lot, but at the same time, I felt like I was ready before that. Like I told everybody else. It was just my time.

How hard was it to go into your opponent's backyard in Scotland, knowing Burns had been the benefactor of questionable scorecards in the past?

Actually, it wasn't hard at all because he had something that I wanted, and I had to do whatever it took to accomplish my goal.

In what ways has your abilities evolved over the last few fights?

I think I showed improvement in a lot of aspects of the game. I've become more seasoned in each of my past few fights and showed something different. I feel like I am still improving and still learning. I don't feel like I am at my best yet. I feel like I'm still growing, and I still have a lot to prove.

Your fighting style is very fluid, and you're not afraid to switch stances on the fly. Where does that come from?

It all comes naturally. I started doing that when I was a little kid and saw how effective I was doing it. I just kind of stayed with it.

There have been comparisons made in the past between your style and guys like Pernell Whitaker. How does it feel to be recognized early on as such a skilled boxer?

It's awesome. You never get tired of hearing those kinds of things early in your career. Even though I have been a pro for eight years, it has been a blessing all around.

This fight marks the return of boxing and a world title fight to Omaha. What has the vibe been like leading up to fight week?

Actually, I haven't been able to go out and experience it all because I have been focused on the job at hand. I don't want to get caught up in any distractions, so I have been kind of laying low.

How does it feel to be headlining a premium cable card in front of your home fans?

Oh man, it feels great. This is something that I always wanted and something that I always asked for. And now that it's here, I am just ready for the moment.

Do you feel any pressure to perform, considering you are defending your title in your hometown?

It motivates me a lot. There's a lot of pressure on me because this is my hometown and everybody wants me to win. But it motivates me to defend my title and go on to bigger and better things.

How much do you think Gamboa has changed as a fighter since moving up two weight classes to lightweight?

I don't know. We have only seen one fight of his at 135 so far. I can't really talk about another fighter that I don't know of. He might show up on [Saturday] or he might not. I know I'm going to be ready to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

How much will Gamboa's advantage in experience play into this fight?

I don't think experience is going to play a factor in this fight because I feel like I am experienced enough on my own. I feel like he is experienced enough to handle his own. It comes down to whoever fights the best. That is who is going to win the fight.

Because of how accomplished both of you are as boxers, do you believe there is potential for this fight to become a slow-paced chess match?

Who knows? Once again, everybody comes in with a game plan, and that game plan might go out the window in the first round. You never know.

What are the origins behind your nickname "Bud"?

Actually, when I was younger -- I was like 1 -- my mom said people were calling me "Spud." She was like, "Don't call him Spud. I will just call him 'Bud.'" And it kind of stuck with me. It has been my name since I can remember, so I don't have any choice but to like it.

You have competed at 140 pounds in the past. How much longer do you plan to stay at 135?

I think this might be my last fight at 135.

Considering the big names at 140 pounds, do you look at yourself as somewhat of a sleeper should you enter that division?

Oh, they know. They saw it at the [Breidis] Prescott fight [in March 2013]. They know I'm coming soon, so they have an eye out for me.

How much pressure do you feel to fight in an exciting style despite your strengths in boxing from the outside?

My thing is that I do what I need to do in order to get the job done. If the fight presents itself and I need to sit down and fight it out, then I got to do that. If I can just box and get the job done, then I can just box and get the job done.

What is the perfect scenario for how Saturday's fight against Gamboa plays out?

I just need to go in there and be me. That is the only thing I can say. I just need to go in there, be me, and get the job done.