Alex Horse resigned himself to maybe, just maybe, catching a glimpse of junior welterweight champ Terence "Bud" Crawford.
“I’m not going to go watch the fight, so I might as well go downtown the day of the fight and hope to see (Crawford), you know?” Horse said.
As a regular at Lincoln's Southside Boxing Gym, the 15-year old Horse is well aware of the Omaha native's rise to stardom in the boxing world, and to catch even a glimpse of Crawford would be worth the shot.
You see, money was tight at home and Horse, who attends Lincoln Northeast High School, didn't think he would get a chance to see Saturday's junior welterweight title fight between Crawford and Julius Indongo at Pinnacle Bank Arena in person.
Then he went to train at the gym just like any normal day.
After Horse and a couple of the other boxers there that day checked in, Southside coach John Kuebler told everyone to clear out of his office.
“How’d you like to go on me?” Kuebler asked.
“I was like, 'Are you serious?'” Horse recalled earlier this week.
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Southside Boxing Gym, tucked into the back of an old auto body shop on O Street, looks, feels and sounds like a boxing gym.
Old fluorescent bulbs from on high don't provide much light; the majority comes from a door propped open in the back, letting in the fading evening sunlight.
That dank, chill feel you get when you walk into an old locker room with years and years of sweat poured into the floor, walls and canvas permeates.
The staccato of sparring sessions, the pounding of boxers working the heavy bags, the click-click-click-click-click of jump ropes catching the concrete through whirling revolutions. Lively Spanish music pipes through the speakers.
Traffic has actually been a little slow this week, Kuebler said. School started Monday and the gym also lost a few regulars with the start of high school football practice earlier this month. But the chatter about Saturday's fight, which will unify four belts for the only the fourth time in the four-belt era?
“Everyone’s talking about it," said Kuebler.
For a close-knit, and small, Lincoln boxing community, the Crawford fight is a big deal.
“Everyone always overlooks Nebraska as, like, just a flyover state," said Lincoln native Brad Tran, 23, who was working out at SouthSide earlier this week as well. "We’re going to be basically, this Saturday, the center of the boxing world.”
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Crawford (31-0, 22 knockouts), the WBO and WBC champion, will fight IBF and WBA champion Indongo (22-0, 12 KOs) in a unification title bout.
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It will be Crawford's fifth title fight in Nebraska. Todd duBoef, president of Top Rank, considers Crawford a "Nebraska boy," and Crawford, who is from Omaha, has not been shy about his support for the Huskers and has embraced his role as a native son and boxing emissary of the state.
“We think if we can create our big event that we do in Omaha that people in Lincoln haven’t been able experience and get exposed to, we’re going to broaden his fan base," duBoef said.
Part of that, duBoef said, is understanding the market. Lincoln, and Omaha, are not Las Vegas, New York or Los Angeles, where you can charge $300 for a general admission ticket.
Kuebler is taking Horse and his grandson, and knows a lot of his boxers would love to go, but he could only get so many tickets. Ticket prices for Crawford's four fights at CenturyLink ran $27, $52, $77 and $127. Saturday's ticket prices of $28, $53, $78, $128 are right in line with those fights.
“I just look at it like this: Everybody’s not rich, everybody don’t have the money to buy a $500 ticket or a $200 general admission ticket," Crawford said Thursday at the pre-fight news conference in Omaha. "So coming from where I came from, I want everybody to be able to make it to see a legitimate world title fight."
Therein lies Crawford's appeal. The fight is right here at PBA, tickets are largely affordable, and the fight will be widely available with ESPN broadcasting the fight live. So no pay-per-view for young, aspiring or interested boxers who want to see Crawford first-hand.
"You’ll see him at the Husker games, he supports everything about Nebraska," Tran said. "On HBO, he’s donning all Nebraska gear. He’s very proud of where he’s come from.”
Amateur boxing in Lincoln isn't easy to maintain. Doug Emery started refereeing boxing in 1978, refereed internationally in 1990 and now works as a trainer evaluator with the International Amateur Boxing Association, traveling to help train and evaluate officials.
"Let's be honest, amateur boxing in Lincoln, it's a struggle," said Emery, who is also a former city councilman. "But for some really, really dedicated coaches, who spend a lot of their own money to transport kids there, to pay for their yearly fees and those kinds of things, we wouldn't have boxing here locally."
Emery would know. Most, if not all, of the Lincoln boxing community can be traced back to his father, Larry, and his boxing club from the 1970s. Kuebler boxed for Larry Emery, who was also best friends with Kuebler's father.
But boxing circles run close, even from Lincoln to Omaha. Kuebler knows the Crawford camp well. Emery first refereed Crawford when the latter was 8 or 9 years old. Tran, who grew up in Lincoln, went to Crawford’s gym when he was attending Nebraska-Omaha, got a chance to meet the champ and was struck by Crawford's humility.
“The opportunities to see it happen to somebody that you can relate to, means that it becomes much more real to you,” Emery said.
Tran saw Crawford beat Cuban fighter Yuriorkis Gamboa in 2014 at CenturyLink Center Omaha. He's not going to the fight Saturday, but he'll watch and thinks Crawford will dominate. Horse had similar thoughts.
“I think Crawford’s going to beat (Indongo)," Horse said. "I think he’s going to figure him out and do his thing.”
Horse has fought 60 to 70 fights, and Kuebler said a future goal is the Olympic trials. So does Horse want to one day be the next Crawford?
“I wouldn’t say, 'Be the next Terence Crawford,'” Horse said. “I want to be the first Alex Horse. (Crawford’s) doing big things for Nebraska. I hope to see a lot more little kids shoot for something like that, shoot for something big."
But Horse does know one thing going into Saturday.
“It’s gonna be a show," he said. "It’s Crawford.”