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What’s next for Terence Crawford? PBC welterweights have to be

The clock is beginning to tick, and Terence Crawford needs and deserves the big fights at 147.

Terence Crawford v Egidijus Kavaliauskas Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Terence Crawford can’t have another year in 2020 like he had in 2019.

Crawford, now 36-0 (27 KO), fought Amir Khan in April, winning a sixth round TKO in a farcical fight that lived down to the worst expectations among fans, and even worse was brazenly sold on pay-per-view by Top Rank and ESPN. Not many people actually bought the thing, but plenty saw it live, and it wasn’t pretty.

In September, Crawford turned 32. Lacking options again, Top Rank sent him out against Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas, a solid but unspectacular welterweight, a fringe top 10 sort of guy if you’re not a sanctioning body or his promoter.

Kavaliauskas did a little better than expected, which is to say he won two rounds early in the fight before Crawford took over and stopped him in nine. Kavaliauskas was game, yes, and came to fight, but in the end the result was about as expected. Crawford was the clearly better fighter, and did the job once again.

We’re talking about a three-division titleholder getting toward the end of what should be his peak years. A washed Amir Khan and a largely unheralded Egidijus Kavaliauskas isn’t what anyone should want for the Omaha native. But it’s what we got.

And unless something changes, this sort of thing is what Crawford’s immediate future looks like.

After the fights were over last night, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum started to put the sell on just a bit on for a fight between Crawford and Shawn Porter, an ex-titlist and Premier Boxing Champions star, who is coming off of a valiant loss to Errol Spence Jr in September. ESPN analyst Timothy Bradley did his best Teddy Atlas cosplay, ranting and raving in melodramatic fashion about how the PBC cowards simply must face Crawford.

But let’s be fully honest here: outside of Danny Garcia, who was odd man out, the “Big Five” PBC welterweights fought each other in 2019. Spence beat Shawn Porter in a fantastic fight that actually left PPV buyers satisfied, and the same goes for Manny Pacquiao beating Keith Thurman in July. Garcia, meanwhile, was set to step up and face Spence in Jan. 2020, before Spence had an automobile accident in October.

With Spence on the shelf, the deck at PBC gets reshuffled.

It looks like Garcia will face Ivan Redkach on Jan. 25, a stay-busy while he waits for Errol to get healthy, most likely. Thurman will want some sort of bounce-back fight, more likely than not, while Pacquiao ... well, who knows? Manny’s turning 41 on Tuesday and has a political career outside of boxing. He could choose to hang up the gloves for good any time, and he could also be waiting to see what, exactly, Floyd Mayweather is planning to do for a supposed 2020 “return.”

Arum has said repeatedly he has no interest in matching Crawford with an “old” Pacquiao, anyhow; he didn’t do it when he had them both under the Top Rank umbrella, and he doesn’t want to do it now. He seems to legitimately believe it’s a bad fight for Pacquiao, and while the two no longer work together, they did for a long time, and there is undoubtedly some affection remaining in Arum for the man who once carried his promotional company.

Shawn Porter believes his style will be bad news for Terence Crawford Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

That leaves Shawn Porter seemingly open, and Top Rank has cast their gaze upon the Ohioan as a Crawford target. It’s a good fight; hell, it’s a fantastic fight, even with Porter coming off of a loss. If Egidijus Kavaliauskas can cause Crawford a little discomfort early with determination, the notoriously rugged Porter could certainly be expected to give it a serious shot.

But will Crawford-Porter actually happen, or is it just a lot of talk meant to take the heat off of Arum and Top Rank, and put it on Porter and Al Haymon? If it doesn’t happen, the Top Rank side can just say Porter turned it down, Porter didn’t want it, Porter ran from Crawford.

That sort of healthy skepticism has to be part of almost any boxing discussion, but I personally don’t doubt that Arum is sincere that he’d like to do the fight. I think Top Rank truly believe Crawford can beat anyone on the “other side of the street,” and they’d take the shot with their guy if the money’s right.

The good news is there may be at least a slight thawing of the ice between Arum and Haymon. The sides are planning, by all accounts, to work together for a Feb. 22 pay-per-view rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, which will see the FOX and ESPN teams also work together on production.

Crawford-Porter probably would have to be a pay-per-view to get the deal done, so maybe the networks can influence that one, too. It’s not Wilder-Fury 2, but it’s a fight that should make money if it can be made.

Here’s hoping. Terence Crawford deserves it, or a fight like it against one of the PBC names. The sport and its fans deserve it. And, to be entirely fair, the PBC boys deserve their chance — if they want it — at ending the Crawford conversation.

If not, Terence Crawford is staring at a 2020 where the absolute ceiling is maybe a fight with one of the current top junior welterweights, Jose Ramirez or Josh Taylor or Regis Prograis, coming up in weight. Those aren’t bad ideas, really, but people want to see Crawford against one of the PBC guys. The want to see one of the PBC guys against Crawford. Let’s see it.

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