Terence Crawford retained his WBO welterweight title with a sixth round stoppage win over Amir Khan last night on ESPN pay-per-view. That sentence isn’t a surprise to anyone, as pretty much everyone had Crawford pegged to beat Khan, and pretty much all those people figured he’d knock him out.
The low blow discussion, the disappointment of that being the ending to a $70 pay-per-view filled with mismatches, that’s being talked about all over this site and a million others.
So let’s talk about what’s next for “Bud” Crawford (35-0, 26 KO), still undefeated, still has his belt, still one of the best in the sport pound-for-pound.
For the purposes of keeping you here for at least a bit, let’s start with the best, most optimistic, most hopeful options, and work our way from there toward, you know, reality.
Errol Spence Jr
Alright, the big one. Undefeated IBF titleholder Errol Spence Jr (25-0, 21 KO) is the fight everyone wants for Terence Crawford, and Crawford is the fight everyone wants for Spence.
When I say “everyone” I mean the boxing fans who keep paying their money and spending their time supporting this sport. I definitely do not mean the people who might could actually put it together.
Look, we’ve been here before. Top Rank and Golden Boy famously had their “Cold War.” It eventually ended. Then Al Haymon took all his fighters, most of whom were “with” Golden Boy but not “with” Golden Boy, which was news to nobody except Oscar De La Hoya, and formed Premier Boxing Champions.
PBC now has TV deals with Showtime and FOX. Top Rank is exclusive to ESPN.
God, I know we’ve been over this, but again, not everyone who reads these things is plugged in. They don’t get it. They wonder why this fight can’t just be made, since it’s what everyone wants to see.
So let’s put it simple and plain and stop going on about TV deals and the difficulty of this or that or trying to break it down a million different ways: Bob Arum of Top Rank and Al Haymon of PBC don’t like each other at all and they don’t do business with one another.
OK, now that we got the very simple part out of the way, let’s expand.
They have done business before, yes. Mayweather-Pacquiao in 2015, notably. Biggest pay-per-view of all-time. Everyone made a bundle of money. HBO and Showtime co-produced a pay-per-view for just the second time ever.
Arum has stated repeatedly in recent weeks, and particularly in the lead-up to Crawford-Khan, that he would make the fight, but Haymon won’t do it. While the fans at Madison Square Garden rained down a barrage of boos during the Crawford-Khan fallout last night, Arum got on the mic to address the situation.
“We want to fight Errol Spence, Terence wants it, I think Errol wants the fight,” Arum said. “There’s one guy stopping it, and that’s Al Haymon.”
He continued, “He refuses to allow any of his fighters to get beat by a Top Rank fighter! And if Terence fights Errol Spence, there’s one winner, and that’s Terence Crawford, and Al Haymon refuses to allow it.”
Leonard Ellerbe, who has worked closely with Haymon over the years, spoke earlier in the week about the situation.
“We all know what the problem — I ain’t gonna call it a problem because it’s not a problem that I have, it’s not a problem that Al has. That’s their problem,” Ellerbe said of Arum. “They cannot deliver a big fight for Terence Crawford or Lomachenko. That’s what it is! Period and point blank.
“So all this masquerading around, talkin’ about ‘I’m gonna do this,’ that’s just Bob just doing Bob, and it’s OK. He’s a great promoter and he’s made a great living and built a great company by doing those type of things. But that shit is old. That’s prehistoric stuff. The yelling, screaming, ranting, raving, that shit don’t mean nothing in 2019. Nobody’s even listening other than the 10 or 12 people that’s right there in front of him.”
A lot of folks seem to believe they have to take a side here. Well, stop it. You don’t owe any of these promoters or managers or advisers anything. They’re not paying you, you’re paying them.
Every boxing promoter/manager/whatever lies, all the time, about everything, in order to make whatever they can or cannot deliver look as good as possible from their side. I mean, come on, Arum promised a “welterweight classic” in Crawford-Khan. He compared it goddamn Leonard-Duran and Leonard-Hearns. He called Amir Khan “one of the best fighters that I’ve ever seen” and said “he boxes to perfection.” This was a fight where Crawford was at the very closest about a 10-to-1 favorite. This was never seen as competitive on paper.
And I’m not picking on Arum! Ellerbe, for instance, since we just mentioned him, exaggerates and blows hot air, too. Haymon would, I’m sure, if he ever spoke in public.
We’re almost certainly — like 99.99% — not getting Crawford-Spence next. The working rumor is for Spence to face WBC titleholder Shawn Porter next in a unification fight. So when Spence tweets this out:
Don’t assume he’s saying he’s going to fight Crawford. There are other belts for unifications, including two of them in the PBC stable between Porter and WBA titleholder Keith Thurman (and WBA secondary titleholder Manny Pacquiao, for that matter).
Could Spence-Crawford happen next? Sure. And you could win the lottery.
And setting aside all the other promoter issues, look, let’s be honest. We all want to see Crawford-Spence, right? But this isn’t Mayweather-Pacquiao, either. That was a guaranteed financial bonanza for everyone involved.
Spence debuted on pay-per-view in March, beating Mikey Garcia. It did OK numbers, a reported 360K buys. Crawford had a PPV a couple years ago that was forced there by HBO budget issues and did terribly (55K against Viktor Postol), but that shouldn’t really count. The Crawford-Khan PPV was Crawford’s true PPV debut. Expectations weren’t high for sales here. If it does 300K, I think there will be a parade held in the show’s honor outside the Top Rank offices. And it would be a good number, all things considered.
Mayweather and Pacquiao sold tons of pay-per-views. These guys don’t. Put them together right now, and they might do, what, 500K on pay-per-view? Good pay-per-view! Good numbers. Money to be made. But not “breaking-down-walls-of-absolute-fucking-contempt” money, either. Mayweather-Pacquiao did 4.6 million, completely obliterating every record known to combat sports.
I’m not defending this fight not being made by saying this, mind you. It all comes back to the rich guys who hate each other, and the only thing that’s going to make them work together is money. Lots and lots and lots of it. I don’t think there’s enough here to make them do it.
For what it’s worth, I’d much rather have typed all this up and be horribly, completely wrong, meaning we get Spence-Crawford, than be right and not get Spence-Crawford.
Hey, another PBC fighter! But this might potentially be a different scenario. Juuuuust maybe.
Back in November, when it looked like Crawford was going to fight Luis Collazo in March at MSG — news that went over like the rancidest fart in the world’s most uptight church — Mike Coppinger reported that Top Rank had made an offer to Danny Garcia to fight Crawford. Carl Moretti of Top Rank said he called Danny’s father Angel and offered $3 million guaranteed plus revenue from the pay-per-view.
Moretti called it “a totally professional discussion,” and though he didn’t hear back from the Garcia team, said, “I think that door is always open. Absolutely.”
Earlier this week, before Garcia flew under the radar knocking out Adrian Granados on Saturday night, Danny spoke about the possibility of fighting Crawford.
“If the money’s right, I’ll fight anybody,” he said, before getting into the obvious issues: “But that’s on the other side, that’s Top Rank. That’d be an issue. Are we gonna fight on FOX, are we gonna fight on ESPN? The fight could happen. That’s what Al Haymon and Bob Arum gotta get together and get the money right and make the fight happen.”
Garcia (35-2, 21 KO) is a former two-division titleholder, and won the WBC “silver” title on Saturday, meaning he’s in line for a crack at the WBC 147-pound title. But Danny’s also saying that he feels he only has a couple fights left at welterweight before he’ll have to go to 154 pounds.
There’s one problem with the PBC stockpile at welterweight, and that’s that even if you put together two really good fights at a time, there’s a fifth guy who’s going to be left out.
In this cycle of fights to open 2019, we saw Manny Pacquiao fight a listless Adrien Broner, Keith Thurman return from a long absence with a win over Josesito Lopez, Spence rout lightweight Mikey Garcia on pay-per-view, Shawn Porter barely escape with his belt against Yordenis Ugas, and Garcia beat Granados.
Not the best run there, really, no real blockbuster matchups. The perceived best guys were in against also-rans or experiments, no disrespect to Ugas in particular. So for the next cycle, it’s expected — maybe just hoped, we’ll see — that PBC make a couple of big welterweight fights.
The working ideas are the Spence-Porter unification and Pacquiao-Thurman. That would leave Garcia out. If Garcia thinks his time at 147 is truly limited, would he want to fight, I don’t know, Sergey Lipinets next? Or a well-past-prime Andre Berto?
Let’s be optimistic for a moment: with Garcia potentially left without a marquee opponent within the PBC stable, a Crawford-Garcia fight could also serve as a bit of an icebreaker between Top Rank and PBC. If Crawford-Garcia went well, maybe that plants the seed for Spence and Crawford down the line.
Probably not, realistically. Garcia might be totally fine with fighting a Lipinets or Berto, sitting on that waiting WBC title shot, and facing the Spence-Porter winner in early 2020. But if Top Rank can make a substantial money offer, who knows?
And now let’s get into the guys Top Rank actually has available in their stable.
Collazo (39-7, 20 KO) is a good veteran fighter. He’s a former titleholder, though we’re talking way former here — he won a WBA title in 2005, and lost it in his next fight to Ricky Hatton in 2006. That’s a long time ago.
Collazo turns 38 on Monday. He’s with Top Rank now, and was floated as Crawford’s first opponent or 2019 already. As mentioned before, it wasn’t met with great response from boxing fans.
At the moment, Collazo has won three straight, beating Sammy Vasquez, Bryan Perrella, and Samuel Vargas. We’re not talking world class opponents here, and he won the latter two by majority and split decision.
The most recent fight, against Vargas on St. Patrick’s Day, put Collazo on schedule to face Crawford if necessary. It was a solidly entertaining fight, and Collazo is an easy guy to root for, so I’m not trying to dump on him with this.
But it’s just a bad fight. The last time Collazo faced a top opponent, Keith Thurman beat him in seven in 2015. Before that, Amir Khan absolutely routed him in 2014. Before that, Berto beat him in a dramatic war in 2009, back when Berto was undefeated. Before that, Shane Mosley won a wide decision over him in 2007. Before that, Hatton.
So, yeah. It’s not great. Collazo’s upside is that he’s from New York and is known there. You might be able to sell some tickets for it. It’s not a competitive fight on paper, and boxing fans will absolutely destroy the matchup if it’s made.
Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KO) was looking like Top Rank’s best in-house option. Back when he knocked out Roberto Arriaza in November, they were sort of marketing him as a future Crawford opponent. The same stuff was said ahead of his March 30 meeting with also-ran Ray Robinson in Philadelphia.
“We’ll see if Kavaliasukas measures up as a Crawford opponent,” people employed by ESPN or Top Rank said. He doesn’t, really. But he’s generally an entertaining fighter, and he had the unblemished record, at least.
But then Robinson led him through 10 rounds of stinking out the joint live on ESPN, the two went to a draw, and the balloon popped.
I suppose you can lead a campaign that Kavaliauskas deserved the win against Robinson and he still doesn’t have any losses, but on-paper, he’s no more likely to compete with Crawford than Collazo is, or another Top Rank-promoted vet, Chris van Heerden, or another Top Rank prospect-type, Kudratillo Abdukakhorov.
Kell Brook is a Matchroom Boxing fighter. His promoter, Eddie Hearn, is wrapped up with DAZN. But Hearn has shown a willingness to work with Top Rank, and on their terms. Khan’s fight with Crawford last night was the last on Amir’s deal with Matchroom. Just the weekend before, Matchroom’s Anthony Crolla came to Los Angeles to get shredded by Vasiliy Lomachenko.
So how about Kell Brook (38-2, 26 KO)?
Brook was in attendance last night at Madison Square Garden, and said after the fight that Khan quit, and that any chance of a long-awaited fight between himself and Amir was “dead.”
Brook is tentatively slated to fight on the June 1 Matchroom card at Madison Square Garden, headlined by Anthony Joshua against someone who might be able to pass a VADA test. That’s not official — Brook has no opponent or anything — but it’s at least on the table.
The 32-year-old Brook might be the best stopgap option that Top Rank is going to find. Look, their in-house options are wretched. They won’t say that publicly, because it just makes those fighters they still promote look worse than they are. It’s not that they suck, they’re just not good opponents for Terence Crawford.
Brook isn’t either, really, at this stage of his career, but he’s got a bit more going for him than Collazo or Kavaliauskas or van Heerden. He’s a former welterweight titleholder, and from this decade, at that. He won the IBF belt from Shawn Porter back in 2014, made a series of terrible defenses against Jo Jo Dan, Frankie Gavin, and Kevin Bizier, and then fired himself up for an incredibly ill-conceived move to middleweight to face Gennady Golovkin in 2016.
Golovkin broke Brook’s eye socket before his corner threw the towel in in the fifth round to stop the much bigger GGG from continuing to pummel their guy. When Brook came back in May 2017 for a move back to 147 and a defense against Errol Spence Jr at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, England, he wasn’t the same fighter. Dropping back down two weight classes within one fight like that is a huge risk, plus the GGG fight was a punishing affair.
Despite a good effort from the titleholder, Spence broke Brook’s other eye socket and knocked him out in the 11th round. Brook didn’t return for 10 months, moving up to 154 for a win over Siarhei Rabchenko in March 2018. Michael Zerafa followed, with Brook getting himself down to 150 for that fight; not quite 147, but not 154.
Brook wasn’t great against Zerafa, but boxing moves fast, and most people have basically forgotten Brook-Zerafa at this point.
If Kell Brook wants to fight at welterweight again, the biggest fight relatively easily available to him would seem to be Terence Crawford. This isn’t a match made in heaven — Brook is past his best days and Crawford would be expected to chew him up, quite frankly — but it’s better than Collazo or Kavaliauskas. Eddie Hearn may not be wild about his camp of veterans serving as a feeder system for Bob Arum’s pound-for-pound elites, but there may be no stopping it.