Crawford, Diaz set the stage for their junior welterweight title fight

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NEW YORK — Junior welterweight world titleholder Terence Crawford and Felix Diaz will fight at Madison Square Garden on May 20. But their news conference at MSG on Tuesday to officially announce the bout featured a verbal exchange between Crawford and Diaz’s promoter Lou DiBella instead.

“Lou DiBella, I’m not running, boy, not running,” Crawford said, shaking his head and chuckling while turning from the microphone and speaking directly to DiBella.

“Never said you were,” DiBella said.

That was as intense as things got Tuesday, but Crawford and his camp clearly have taken issue with how things were handled in the lead-up to the fight being arranged.

For months, Diaz (19-1, 9 KOs), a gold medalist at the 2008 Olympics for the Dominican Republic, has publicly called for a fight against Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs), who is ranked sixth on ESPN’s list of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world and will be making his fifth title defense.

Crawford took Diaz’s words as an affront.

“I’ve been reading all the blogs people have been sending me for the last couple of days, telling me that this guy said I’m scared of him and I’ve been ducking him,” Crawford said. “And everybody knows Terence Crawford ducks no one.”

Crawford’s manager, Brian McIntyre, said to Diaz: “I respect you 100 percent. You got a good team around you. We do got a lot of work cut out for us. But I will say this — they’ve been asking for this fight and asking for this fight, lying, doing this, saying this, saying that. Y’all finally gonna get what y’all looking for.”

Though Diaz has been calling for the fight, he didn’t say anything incendiary at Tuesday’s news conference.

“When I was arguing with my managers about fighting the biggest fights out there, Crawford was No. 1, since he’s the best out there,” Diaz said through a translator. “And it’s such an amazing opportunity to finally get that fight with him.”

DiBella spoke glowingly of Crawford, too.

“We were chasing around [Terence] Crawford for a long time, because he’ll fight anybody, because he’s the best, because he’s never run away from a challenge,” DiBella said. “There was no disrespect in us chasing him for that long period of time — it’s because Felix Diaz knew that to assert his own abilities and to prove who he is as a fighter, he needed to get into a ring with someone who had already been given the opportunity to do that.”

So the stage is set — and what a stage it is, the main arena at Madison Square Garden. The fight will air on HBO, and tickets go on sale Wednesday.

“We’re here now, and that’s all I got to say,” Crawford said, after DiBella interjected. “May 20th, may the better man win.”

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