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Before Terence “Bud” Crawford became the world’s undisputed welterweight boxing champion, he was a boy in North Omaha, hungry for some food from Grandma’s house.
Allen Willis said he watched Crawford grow up, and remembered playing cards with Crawford’s grandmother on her front porch.
“Crawford comes in through the front door and starts walking toward the kitchen,” Willis said. “She says ,‘Go home and get yourself something to eat, I ain’t got nothing back here for you.’”
On Saturday, Willis was one of the thousands who packed Omaha’s streets to celebrate Crawford after his win over Errol Spence, Jr. The latest triumph made Crawford the first male boxer to hold all four major titles in two different weight classes.
The victory parade featured drum lines, cars with bright colors and gold rims, dancers and the champion himself.
To Crawford, it meant a lot to see his community celebrate his hard work and achievements — especially after some people doubted the ability of North Omaha to produce a world-class boxer.
“A lot of people said I had to move out of town to become champion,” he said. “So, for me to stay in my city and stay with the team that got me here is wonderful, because I don't look at it like I won. I feel like we won.”
Several rankings consider Crawford the world’s best active boxer in any weight class. Lucille Thompson, a parade attendee, said his skills are obvious in the ring.
“He knocks them out every time,” she said. “I ain’t gonna get in the ring with him, I'll tell you that much.”
Many at the parade had been celebrating Crawford since his win in late July. Talisa Murphy, who sat with a group wearing matching home-made shirts printed with Crawford’s picture, said his fight against Spence Jr. brought her family and community together.
“We all sat around the TV and cheered him on, and we had the spaghetti and the fish. Everything that’s cultural for us, we bring it together for Crawford,” she said. “I actually cried when he won. It was a beautiful thing to see from Omaha, Nebraska.”
Crawford may be Omaha’s champion, but Gjornae Wells said he’s also her neighbor.
“He's humble. You can see him at the local park, the grocery store and he’s going to stop and speak,” Wells said. “He’ll give you a hug, talk to you.”
Even as he’s risen through the boxing ranks, Crawford still lives in Omaha and gives back to his community through B&B Sports Academy, the boxing gym he co-founded to mentor kids like himself.
Those kids see how Crawford’s work pays off with unprecedented championships. When he returned to Omaha a few days after his historic win, Crawford said everyone at the gym was working hard as usual, and he took his place training right next to the kids.
“They see me working hard every day as well as in the big moments,” he said. “So, this is not new to them, because they believed in me, just like I believed in myself.”
That belief is contagious beyond just boxing, said gym owner and boxer Treven “Top Flight” Coleman, as he took a break from walking in the parade.
“What we’re hoping to do is to get the community out here to understand that we’re here to fix the dynamics of health in our community,” Coleman said. “We just want to restructure the lifestyle we live around here.”
Juanita Johnson, an Omaha city councilwoman who represents parts of North Omaha, said Crawford’s example is a starting point for others to give back to their community.
“Bud did the heavy lifting for us, so we have a call to action today because we don’t want this momentum to die,” she said. “We need to support local talent and education for our children, advocate for change and dream big.”
Crawford’s own platform for helping others is about to grow.
Right now, there’s a waitlist of kids wanting to train at his boxing gym. The program has run out of space, but Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert surprised Crawford with a solution to that problem.
The city owns the land north of the academy, and Stothert announced at the celebration following the parade they would sell that land to Crawford for a small price.
“So, with City Council approval, and I think we’ll get that, we’re going to offer to sell you this land for the bargain price of $1,” the mayor said.
Crawford said it’s another example of his close relationship with his hometown.
“My city has always been backing me since day one,” he said. “And every time I step foot in the ring I support and rep[resent] my city, because I know my city is going to show out and support me, just like I support them.”