It is only right that when discussing greatness references are made to the history books.

At 34, time is not really on Terence Crawford’s side as he looks to make his way up the imaginary lists of all-time greats and while Shown Porter might not feature so prominently he will affectionally be part of the conversation because of what he’s done in his 35 professional fights.

It’s unkind to call Porter a gatekeeper but he is. He’s just not your average gatekeeper, defeat him and you’re an elite welterweight, beat him decisively and you’re in the pound-for-pound argument. 

He’s legitimized a lot of talents as a measuring stick. Even if you can hang with him, you’re world class. And Porter’s done it all with a beaming smile, unshakeable confidence and not just a willingness to fight the best but an insistence that he boxes the best. He’s also done it without an ego. Not on the A-side? So what. Not on the left-side of the poster? Big deal. Walking out and introduced first? Okay.

He doesn’t sweat the small stuff because he knows it won’t define his legacy. 

He also has taken his losses as lessons and grown from them, admitting about the 2014 defeat to a peak Kell Brook saying: “It definitely was a fight that I grew from.”

He admitted that he’d been overconfident and thought simply showing up would have got him over the line against the complex, heavy-handed and big 147-pounder from Sheffield. 

But rather than shirk the tough gigs, Porter has gone looking for Crawford. He’s mentioned the Ohioan’s name consistently over the last 12 months and said he had no interest beating up the Sebastian Formellas of this world. Formella, by the way, was 22-0 when they fought in August. How many fighters would have dined out on handing a 22-0 fighter his first loss rather than saying he wasn’t good enough to excite him? Too many, that’s the answer.  

Porter saw that last victory as a time-waster rather than a marking-time fight because it didn’t test him. This is a rare fighter, one who could make solid money chewing up fringe contenders and prospects but that doesn’t motivate him. And by saying Crawford’s name enough the WBO mandated that the two should fight – yes, a governing body wanted a fight the fans wanted for once – and, in need of a highly-credible dance partner at the weight, Crawford took the bait.

Of course, Porter is the underdog – a role he’s always relaxed in. 

Former champ Porter might not have a belt at present, but he’s fought all of the welterweight champions. Not many fighters in any weight class can say that but as Porter said recently, he wants every fight he’s in to be a Super Bowl contest, a cup final, he’s got no interest in qualifiers and play-off games. 

“Why would I want to get in the ring with someone no one cares about just to make some money,” he said, earnestly, explaining how people fondly and respectfully remember the likes of the late Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard.

The problem is, on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Porter faces a generational talent and is in as deep as he’s ever been.

There’s a difference between being a great fighter and an all-time great.

As well as the WBO mandating this fight, boxing fans know that if Terence Crawford dazzles in Vegas it will authenticate his spot atop the welterweight rankings.

Sure, he hasn’t crossed over to the other side of the street before now, and it’s not always been about who he has beaten but how he has taken their scalps. But make no mistake “Bud” is special.

He has debilitating power, moves from southpaw to orthodox with a rare fluidity and grace and has the mentality that elite fighters have. Yes, he can be surly and short in interviews but he speaks poetically in the ring, working move upon move ahead of his opponent.

He’s 37-0 (28) and he’s lost only a handful of rounds out of the 115 or so he’s boxed since he won his first world title, in Scotland, against Ricky Burns back in 2014.

Sure, fighters like Amir Khan and the aforementioned Brook might have been at the tail-end of their careers when Crawford fought them but neither were in the fight against the excellent Nebraskan.   

And this is why we want to see Porter against Crawford. We want to see Crawford crash-tested. We want to see what happens in a fight when things don’t go his way, whether he has the imponderables at his disposal when the going gets really tough, because Porter makes it hard. Brook only beat Shawn on a messy majority, Keith Thurman beat him across the board by just two points and Errol Spence won a split decision. Then, consider the scalps Porter’s taken, like beating Adrien Broner, Danny Garcia, Yordenis Ugas and Andre Berto. 

It’s hard not to sing loudly in appreciation of Porter but he’s a rare breed and deserves the accolades. So, too, does Crawford, but he needs to add more Porters to his resume if HE wants to be remembered as Porter does, alongside the likes of Leonard and Hagler.