Crawford postfight

Terence "Bud" Crawford poses with Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, left, and hip hop mogul Rick Ross after beating Jeff Horn for the WBO welterweight title in Las Vegas.

Taking stock of our sports world and wondering who the favorite is to win the College World Series:

What CWS team does Bud Crawford play for?

Crawford continues to elevate his stature and place in boxing. But how high is up?

Here at home, the Omaha boxer is quickly moving up the ladder. Take The World-Herald’s rankings of Nebraska's 100 greatest athletes. During the last update, Crawford weighed in at No. 35.

Time and history will change that. And have. Based on Bud’s fast-moving career, I would put him in the top 10 now. If he continues to dominate every fight put in front of him, he could easily end up in the top five.

Don’t ask me who’s coming out. The list of our state’s top 10 is an incredible group. Omaha’s list alone is a Mount Rushmore.

What’s more intriguing to me is how far Crawford can go in a sport that is no longer part of the national mainstream.

There’s no reason to think that, health willing, Crawford can’t dominate the welterweight class the way he did at 140. For me, his career elevation is all about two things: media and image.

Is Bud willing to embrace and work on those two?

If last week was any indication, he will. And that’s good news.

Crawford is quickly becoming the face of ESPN boxing. Say what you will about ESPN’s future or place in this cord-cutting world, but it’s still extremely powerful. And influential.

In the run-up to last week’s bout against Jeff Horn in Las Vegas, there were no shortage of Crawford sightings.

He had a terrific appearance on "SportsCenter" with Scott Van Pelt. And while this wasn’t exactly Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell on ABC's Wide World of Sports, it worked. 

Crawford also appeared on an ESPN show Friday in which he talked about his fights with ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas as they went through several of his fights on a big screen. Good stuff.

Once thought to be a tough interview, there is evidence that Crawford is opening up. He allowed Mark Kriegel of incredible access into his family and life for a long piece that ran last week. Our own boxing writer, Tony Boone, said Crawford gave him one of the best interviews he had in recent weeks.

Either Crawford has figured this out or he’s getting great advice. Regardless, it’s good news for the boxer. And the sport of boxing.

Crawford is in his prime, with a whole, wide world of opportunities ahead. Not just lucrative bouts, but endorsement deals and all the trimmings.

Boxing kingmaker Bob Arum just compared Crawford to “Sugar” Ray Leonard. Time to seize the moment.

I’ve often said that Crawford was born about 20 to 30 years too late, that he would have been a national celebrity had he fought in the 1960s or ’70s. The cover of Sports Illustrated. “Wide World of Sports” national fights. All that.

Time was when boxing was bigger in this country than the NFL and exceedingly bigger than the NBA. The nation stopped for major prize fights.

Now, ESPN chose to put Crawford’s fight on Saturday night on a new “plus network” you can find on a phone — not one of the ESPN channels. But that wasn’t a slap at Crawford. Actually, it was a compliment.

ESPN thought so much of Crawford’s name and the buzz surrounding his fight that he was used to attract a following and jump-start ESPN’s new network.

There’s every chance that Crawford can do the same for the sport of boxing. He’ll need to flash a smile and some charisma. But for the Omaha kid there’s no challenge he can’t conquer, and he’s done it with ease.

» I don’t know where Crawford will end up on the Nebraska 100, but I know this: Bob Gibson isn’t going anywhere. Nobody, but nobody, will ever supplant Nebraska’s No. 1.

Gibson could have been great at any sport, including boxing. Think about his footwork, athleticism, intelligence, reach and, of course, attitude. Imagine coming out of a corner having to face that.

» I try to stay out of addressing politics, but I was frustrated seeing Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook get shouted down for declaring his desire to take his national champion team to Washington to meet the president.

There doesn’t seem to be room for civility or compromise anymore. A coach wants to take his students to tour the national government landmarks and the White House. How can this be a bad thing?

» Watched the ESPN documentary on Warren Morris again on Sunday, so I had to drive to Rosenblatt and park next to the right field foul pole. Morris’ famous 1996 CWS knock sailed just left of that pole. This might be a good ritual to start every CWS week.

» Texas is coming back to the CWS without Augie Garrido. I hope the Longhorns still pull the bus up to Lo Sole Mio in South Omaha for a team dinner. Their former coach would insist.

» Kyle Peterson tells me a College Baseball Hall of Fame in Omaha isn’t done yet, but things look good.

Stay tuned for news during the CWS. I’ll keep you updated.

» If you have a problem with Kevin Durant joining Golden State, let me introduce you to a guy named Reggie Jackson. Free agent in 1976. Signed with a ballclub called the New York Yankees in order to get rich, win World Series and enhance his Hall of Fame résumé. Everybody won. Well, except the Royals and Dodgers. Ugh.

Folks who say Larry Bird or Magic Johnson wouldn’t have done with Durant did don’t know or don’t remember. In 1980, Bird and Magic joined iconic brand teams that were NBA Finals-ready. Magic won an NBA championship as a rookie, Bird in his second year. Bird played in five NBA Finals and won three; Magic won five rings in nine Finals.

Why would they leave great teams playing for titles? They wouldn’t.

It would have been like Michael Jordan leaving for Boston or L.A. in the late 1980s when his Bulls couldn’t beat the Celtics or Pistons. Maybe if Chicago hadn’t hired Phil Jackson, Jordan could have eventually chased it elsewhere. Who knows? I wouldn’t have blamed him.

I also disagree that Durant has ridden coattails to two titles. He joined a Golden State team that had won one title but was coming off a loss to Cleveland. There's a strong case that Durant has been the difference in their winning the last two titles. That was the idea, for both him and Golden State, right?

» Justin Rose wins the U.S. Open.

» Hope Bill Moos wore the appropriate boots on his trip to the Twin Cities on Monday. That’s Twin Cities as in Scottsbluff and Gering. But you knew that.

» One more and I’m outta here: I dare Bud Crawford to move up to my weight class.

Sports columnist

Tom is The World-Herald's lead sports columnist. Since he started in Omaha in 1991, he's covered just about anything you can imagine. Follow him on Twitter @TomShatelOWH. Phone: 402-444-1025.

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