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BOXING

Amir Khan is ready for ‘a massive fight’ against unbeaten champ Terence Crawford

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Bud Crawford

Terence "Bud" Crawford and Amir "King" Khan meet Saturday at Madison Square Garden in the main event of Top Rank’s first pay-per-view venture with ESPN. The televised four-bout card is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.

When Top Rank looked to set up Terence “Bud” Crawford’s second welterweight title defense, it hoped to match the three-division champion from Omaha with the best opponent available.

The search ended in January, when the promotional company landed British superstar Amir “King” Khan.

Crawford and Khan meet Saturday at Madison Square Garden in the main event of Top Rank’s first pay-per-view venture with ESPN. The televised four-bout card is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.

The welterweight championship pits one of the top two pound-for-pound fighters in the world in Crawford (34-0, 25 knockouts) against one of the sport’s most well-known boxers in Khan (33-4, 20 KOs).

“There’s going to be a lot of eyeballs on it,” the challenger from England said. “It’s a massive fight.”

Khan, a former unified champion at junior welterweight, will be the biggest-name opponent Crawford has faced since he knocked out Yuriorkis Gamboa in his first world title defense at lightweight in 2014.

The 32-year-old from Bolton, England, has been in the boxing spotlight nearly half his life. Khan signed a major promotional deal after winning an Olympic silver medal in Athens at age 17.

Amir Khan is ready for ‘a massive fight’ against unbeaten champ Terence Crawford

Canelo Alvarez, left, is hit by Amir Khan during their WBC middleweight title fight.

“My first fight as a professional, I was the main attraction on television,” he said. “I had all the media and the press conferences and the conference calls and everything. I have had a lot of media attention from Day 1 as a professional, and I have been going 14 years strong.

“The big media coverage comes with it.”

That isn’t the way it worked for Crawford.

Though he was a top-ranked amateur in the U.S., the 31-year-old spent his first three years as a pro fighting in relative anonymity.

It wasn’t until Top Rank claimed Crawford from struggling TKO Boxing Promotions in 2011 that his career began to take off. That deal made news recently when a federal judge in Nebraska ruled that Top Rank owed Chris Mittendorf, formerly with TKO, more than $500,000 for a percentage from Crawford’s bouts.

Before his move to Top Rank, Crawford’s career wasn’t moving as quickly as he would’ve liked. While Khan fought in big arenas in England, Crawford was buried on undercards in small venues in the United States.

The unbeaten champ said the struggle for recognition has made success more joyful.

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“When you get it from the ground up, you feel great about it,” he said “It means more to you, and it’s more special to you. And people will respect you more because they know you didn’t get no handout.”

Crawford’s head trainer Brian “BoMac” McIntyre said he was always certain that things would work out.

“I never was worried about it because his talent just speaks for itself,” he said. “He always wanted to be in big fights. He wanted the toughest guys in his weight class so he could prove himself to the world.”

Red Spikes, Crawford’s former amateur stablemate and current co-coach, said the team may have benefited, too, from having to grind to the top. Being overlooked provided extra motivation.

“It makes us have that edge,” he said. “It makes us feel like we always have something to prove. We know what it was like to come up that hard way and not have promotional companies initially taking a chance on you.

“He wasn’t highly touted out of the amateurs, and he should’ve been. He should’ve had that recognition. He should’ve had that push that the other guys had. I think it was kind of a blessing in disguise in a way.”

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