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Crawford, Khan keen on challenge of squaring off

Welterweight world titlist Terence Crawford and Amir Khan both were offered lucrative fights to face opponents that surely would pose less risk than they face by fighting each other, but both wanted the challenge.

And so they met on Wednesday at the final prefight news conference at Madison Square Garden in New York to size each other up and explain their reasons for wanting to fight the other guy ahead of their main event on the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN pay-per-view card on Saturday (9 p.m. ET).

Three-division titleholder Crawford, who ranks No. 1 or No. 2 on virtually every pound-for-pound list, would have loved to fight one of the other world titleholders in the 147-pound division, especially Errol Spence Jr., but those fights were not available to him.

But when Top Rank offered him a fight with former titlist Luis Collazo -- who had lost to Khan -- Crawford, 32, of Omaha, Nebraska, was not too interested. He wanted somebody with a bigger profile.

Khan (33-4, 20 KOs) fit the bill, was available and was very interested in fighting Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs).

"I don't believe no fight that I fight is just another fight for me. I believe that all fights that I fight from here on out are for my legacy. That's why I want the biggest fights out there. Amir Khan's name came up because he was the next best [available] welterweight in the division," said Crawford, who will be making his second title defense. "I could've easily took Collazo. I could've took Collazo, but that wasn't the job that I really wanted to take.

"Amir Khan is a great fighter. I can't take nothing away from him. He's done a lot in the sport of boxing. He has a big name. He's undefeated at the welterweight division. So, why not take another step up?"

Indeed, although Khan's chin issues are well documented -- he has been brutally knocked out in three of his four defeats -- he has never lost as a welterweight, notching notable wins over Collazo, former two-division titlist Devon Alexander and former junior welterweight titlist Chris Algieri.

England's Khan, 32, a former unified junior welterweight world titlist, will make $5 million to fight Crawford. But Khan was offered millions more to fight countryman and longtime rival and former welterweight titlist Kell Brook. The fight, one the British public has demanded for years, was nearly finalized, but then Khan decided he preferred a more meaningful fight with Crawford.

"This ranks probably at the top for me, fighting a world champion, and Terence is very high in the pound-for-pound rankings, maybe No. 1 or No. 2," Khan said. "So, it's amazing for me to be in this position once again. That is a great motivation for me to know I am fighting the best out there, once again, and it makes me train harder and work harder.

"I am focused for this fight, and I know that I can't make any mistakes in this fight because I could be in trouble."

Khan, who is 6-3 in world title fights, has won his past two bouts in a row against lesser opponents Samuel Vargas and Phil Lo Greco in his return from a two-year layoff following a violent sixth-round knockout loss challenging Canelo Alvarez for his middleweight title in 2016.

Khan promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, who also promotes Brook, wanted Khan to fight Brook instead of Crawford. But Hearn could not convince Khan to take the offer. Khan was stuck on fighting an elite pound-for-pound opponent for a world title in a division where he is comfortable at the weight.

"Amir had other opportunities, most notably the Kell Brook fight, but this is the fight that Amir wanted; and you have to respect that, and you have to respect a man who has done what he has done in the sport," said Frank Smith, the CEO of Matchroom Boxing. "I believe on Saturday he's going to go in there, do a job and become a world champion once again."

That is exactly what Khan wants.

"This is a dream come true, and hopefully on Saturday, a dream will come true, where I get my opportunity to fight for another world title and be one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world," Khan said. "This just drives me, makes me work harder, train harder, stay focused. I know I have someone in front of me who is up there as No. 1. You can't deny that.

"He's a good fighter. I know he's training hard because he doesn't want to lose that unbeaten record, and I don't want to lose this fight because I want to achieve everything I want in the sport of boxing."