A day with the champ

More than 10,000 people attend Terence "Bud" Crawford’s fights in Omaha. Nearly a million others, sometimes more, tune in to watch the champ showcase his gifts on Saturday nights on HBO. But very few get to see him — or any other world-class boxer — hone his craft during a grueling training camp that precedes fight night. The World-Herald did that, joining Crawford for a full day (and a few hours) during the third of his six weeks of training.

By staff writer Tony Boone; photos by Sarah Hoffman / The World-Herald / World-Herald staff writer

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Boxing: Terence "Bud" Crawford vs. "Hammerin" Hank Lundy
» When: Bouts start at 9 p.m. Saturday
» Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
» TV: HBO

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Terence “Bud” Crawford is at his home away from home.

Hours away from family, friends and his daily life back in Omaha, the two-time world champion trains at altitude — and in virtual anonymity — for his upcoming junior welterweight title defense in New York City.

This is the eighth time Team Crawford has relocated to Colorado to prepare for a fight. On the first trip, before a bout with Alejandro Sanabria in June 2013, the champ’s entire crew crashed in a single hotel room. Now 10 or more team members, depending on the day, share space in a five-bedroom, $650,000 house in the hills near the Rocky Mountains that the owner rents out as a vacation home.

The scenic views of snow-capped summits and the city below mean little to Crawford, almost universally recognized as one of the 10 best fighters in the world. He has a job to do — prepare the best he can for Saturday’s bout against Hammerin’ Hank Lundy at Madison Square Garden.

More than 10,000 people attend Crawford’s fights in Omaha. Nearly a million others, sometimes more, tune in to watch the champ showcase his gifts on Saturday nights on HBO. But very few get to see him — or any other world-class boxer — hone his craft during a grueling training camp that precedes fight night.

The World-Herald did that, joining Crawford for a full day (and a few hours) during the third of his six weeks of training.

Follow along, from dawn until dusk, to see what it’s like in camp with the champ.

*   *   *

6:34 a.m.



The L-shaped couch is full in the living room of the home Team Crawford is renting for training camp. Head trainer Brian “BoMac” McIntyre has been awake for 45 minutes. He lounges, listening to Anita Baker on his mobile phone, while those around him look like a casting call for extras on “The Walking Dead.”

It’s early, but daily training begins when WBO junior welterweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford is ready to start. Those in the living room don’t want to be left behind. Crawford emerges from the hallway moments later and heads straight to the refrigerator to chug water from a gallon milk jug. And, with that, this day of training camp is under way.

“Work time!” McIntyre shouts as they quickly head out the door. “Gotta be about that life!”

Crawford, at center with a hood on, and his crew leave the Southeast & Armed Services YMCA in Colorado Springs with boxers DeLorien Caraway, left, and Steven Nelson, right.

7:01 a.m.



Team Crawford files into the Southeast & Armed Services YMCA for the first of its two daily workouts. There is no preferential treatment here. The crew from Omaha work out side by side with the locals, many of whom come from the nearby Army base in Fort Carson.

Megan Hooper, a personal trainer at the Y, said the staff is well aware that Crawford is “a big deal.” The public, however, has no idea who the Omahan is. That is readily apparent as the champ steps onto a treadmill for a 30-minute run. An older man wearing an Army shirt works out next to him, completely unaware that he is jogging stride for stride with one of the top boxers in the world. Crawford trains in a sauna suit and stocking cap, wearing headphones personalized with his TBC logo.

When the champ trains, everybody trains. Team Crawford soon occupies eight consecutive treadmills on the YMCA’s second floor. Others at the Y pay no mind.

Swimming is one thing. Holding your breath as long as possible while doing it is another. It’s part of expanding lung capacity, which could come in handy during a fight’s later rounds — if needed. Here, Crawford surfaces for a breath after swimming the length of the pool at the Southeast & Armed Services YMCA.

8:09 a.m.



Pikes Peak, with the highest summit along the Rocky Mountains southern Front Range, looms in distant view out the window of the first-floor pool area at the YMCA. Crawford, fresh off leg work with strength and conditioning coach Desmond Wilford, has broken away from his group for water training. An elderly woman occupies one of the four lanes in the 25-yard lap pool as the champ enters another. His water work begins with four laps of 3-5-7s, where he alternates taking a breath on every third, fifth and seventh stroke.

Before long, Crawford is pushing off the side and swimming underwater for as long as he can. He makes it about 20 yards each time. McIntyre tells him he can’t even exhale while submerged.

“Hey, lifeguard!” Crawford shouts. “Tell that dude that, if I’m underwater, I’m not breathing.”

McIntyre laughs. This is all about expanding the lungs, he explains.

Crawford wraps up the morning workout with 10 minutes of underwater shadow boxing with two-pound weights and some cool-down laps. He spends a few minutes in the hot tub before leaving the Y.

A water exercise class for senior citizens, which had been going on in the same room since before the champ arrived, continues as he exits.

At the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Crawford meets several amateurs who tell him they look up to the champ. At top right, in black, Crawford laughs while talking with his fellow boxers.

11:06 a.m.



Normally, the hours between workouts are a down time for Crawford. But not today. The champ has relocated to the U.S. Olympic Training Center to watch Omaha native RaVaughn Perkins compete in a Greco-Roman wrestling tournament. While there, Crawford makes new friends between matches. U.S. Olympic Trials boxing champions Shakur Stevenson and Paul Kroll are thrilled to meet the WBO champ and ask to hang with Team Crawford for the rest of the day. Stevenson even talks Crawford into climbing into the ring at the OTC for a playful impromptu sparring session. The 18-year-old U.S. bantamweight champ gets excited when he’s shown a picture of himself blocking one of Crawford’s jabs.

“You blocked it, that’s good,” Crawford tells him. “Now, you’ve got to come back with something.”

Stevenson pauses for a second, but can’t come up with a plan that’ll work against a seasoned pro.

“It’s kind of hard,” he says.

Crawford cuts off the youngster before he finishes his thought.

“Because you know I’m going to counter with something,” the champ says, laughing.

For the rest of the day, Stevenson intently soaks in everything Crawford has to say. The Olympic hopeful tells the champ that he can’t wait to become a professional as well. He wants the red-carpet treatment.

“Just because you turn pro, they ain’t going to give you that treatment,” Crawford responds. “You have to earn that.”

At left, trainer Brian "BoMac" McIntyre prepares jambalaya for Crawford and company. At right, training for a world championship fight isn’t all work all the time. Crawford, left, makes sure of that as he plays a video game in the rented Colorado Springs home that is Team Crawford’s training headquarters. The living room’s L-shaped couch is often packed between the multiple daily workouts, and the occasional haircut doesn’t interrupt the “NBA 2K” video game competition — only trash talk does that. In this instance, Crawford claims a comeback win.

12:27 p.m.



It’s nearing lunch time back at the house, and Crawford heads straight to the refrigerator again upon his arrival. He visits it often throughout the day, usually scanning its contents before settling on a drink of water. The champ limits himself to three meals per day during camp. He opted for oatmeal and orange juice after the morning workout, devouring it quickly before leaving for the OTC.

“I don’t even like eating breakfast,” he says. “But I have to up here.”

Jambalaya is on the menu for lunch. McIntyre, an executive chef in his life away from boxing, makes everything from scratch, serenading the household while doing so. Crawford’s weight at this point of camp is in a good place — around 155 pounds, he estimates. He’ll need to hit 140 at the official weigh-in in New York, which is still weeks away. The jambalaya is a hit with everyone. McIntyre has made two pots, claiming the one on the right burner is spicier than the one on the left. No one can tell the difference.

“I feel like I’m sweating,” Crawford says as he plows through his bowl.

There is still plenty of time before the day’s second workout. Some members of Team Crawford elect to rest, but most are in the living room fixated on the latest NBA 2K battle. Stevenson has challenged Crawford to a game. The Olympic hopeful plays with the Thunder while the champ selects the Warriors. Trash talk about video games is commonplace in this camp. Crawford doesn’t say a word during this matchup as his team trails nearly the whole way. He’s seated right in front of the TV, focused only on the game. Stevenson, however, is joking around. He’s working the controller while former amateur champ Steven Nelson cuts his hair, at least until the Warriors rally behind the Splash Brothers. Crawford comes from behind to pull out a win. Stevenson is ridiculed by the entire room for blowing a big lead.

This was not shot in the sauna. Crawford, left, drips with perspiration produced by running 30 minutes on a treadmill in a plastic sauna suit, followed by movements on weight room leg machines and some stretching. Oh, and that stocking cap also helps bring on the heat. Crawford will lose at least 15 pounds while in Colorado. At right from top to bottom, Crawford does crunches, takes repeated blows below the ribs from Esau Dieguez and jokes around with 18-year-old Olympic Trials bantamweight champion Shakur Stevenson.

3:52 p.m.



The second and final workout of the day, one dedicated to boxing, is under way at the Triple Threat Gym. Everyone is involved, even more so than this morning. The Olympic hopefuls are here also. Some fighters will spar this afternoon, but not Crawford. After jumping rope with Wilford to warm up, he focuses on working the mitts and pads with coaches Esau Dieguez and Jacqui “Red” Spikes. It’s a fairly intense workout that wraps up with the champion peppering a heavy bag. But the most grueling part comes after the gloves are off.

Crawford wraps up his training day with crunches — but no ordinary crunches. McIntyre lies across his feet, and Wilford bounces a heavy medicine ball off his stomach and sides. And after that, the champ stands in the corner with his hands above his head while Dieguez pounds his midsection with body shot after body shot. Crawford takes three sets of 40 heavy punches below his ribs before the day is done.

It’s dark outside by the time Crawford exits the building nearly three hours after arriving. The crew heads home for the night. There’s an early wake-up call tomorrow.

At left, Crawford runs through the bleachers at Garry Berry Stadium in Colorado Springs under a scenic skyline that includes Pikes Peak. At top right, Crawford, on the far right, and his crew pound the pavement at altitude on a neighborhood road near his rental home. At bottom right, the champ prepares a salad for dinner after a long day of training.

Epilogue



The intensity of Crawford’s training camp varies little from day to day. The workouts, however, are constantly differing, especially in the early hours. The following morning, the champ and his team are running sprints and bleacher stairs outside at Garry Berry Stadium. The day after that includes roadwork in the hilly neighborhood in which they’re staying — a route the boxers unanimously conclude is more grueling than a nearby mountain on which they occasionally run. Before the end of the week, if weather permits, Team Crawford plans to tackle the Manitou Springs Incline — a nearly milelong trail on a former railway that gains 2,000 feet of elevation at a grade as steep as 68 degrees at times.

“You’re training at the highest level because you’re the highest-level fighter,” McIntyre tells Crawford.

It’s all done in preparation for Saturday night, when Crawford steps onto the biggest stage of his professional career as the headline act of an HBO card at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. The hard work, in his mind, has been done in training camp. Now Omaha’s champ just has to go perform.

Contact the writer:
402-444-1027, tony.boone@owh.com, twitter.com/BooneOWH

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