After a loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2015 in boxing’s biggest-ever money bout, Manny Pacquiao got back on the horse and defeated Timothy Bradley and Jessie Vargas, winning the WBO welterweight title in the latter fight at the end of 2016.
Terence Crawford at that time was cleaning up at 140 pounds and making a name for himself on HBO airwaves. In the summer of 2017, Crawford would fully unify the 140-pound division with a third round knockout of Julius Indongo, while Pacquiao traveled to Australia and suffered a shocking upset loss to Jeff Horn, which came with plenty of controversy.
The loss to Horn was Pacquiao’s last fight on a Top Rank-promoted card. It had been figured by many that there was an obvious path to a potential Pacquiao-Crawford fight. If Pacquiao had beaten Horn as was anticipated, Pacquiao against the undisputed junior welterweight champ moving up to 147 would’ve made all the sense in the world, at least in theory.
It could have been a torch-passing from Pacquiao to Crawford, at least as far as fighters under the Top Rank banner at that time went. Pacquiao wasn’t getting any younger and Bob Arum’s promotional firm needed a new marquee star sooner than later. Arum also, frankly, didn’t have much of anyone else for either of them to fight.
But Arum didn’t seem eager to do the fight. He’s said many times over the years now that he didn’t like the idea, and has even said Pacquiao and his team weren’t looking to do it, either.
Pacquiao, Arum said, was simply too old to be fighting Terence Crawford anymore. On the one hand, this makes Terence Crawford sound like a bad SOB — which Terence Crawford is. On the other hand, it’s not as if Arum is unfamiliar with the practice of sacrificing an aging star to make a younger one a bigger name. It’s a brutal bit of business in the boxing world, but also really common.
Arum would say that his remaining affection for Pacquiao — even after Manny eventually went to Premier Boxing Champions — made him disinterested in the fight.
But last year, it was clear how bare the cupboard for Crawford, now the WBO welterweight titleholder, had become. Terence Crawford (36-0, 27 KO) is 32 years old, he’ll turn 33 in September. In 2019, his two fights came against Amir Khan — which was a debacle in every sense, from its miserable PPV performance to its weak ending to Khan’s comical post-fight denial of reality — and Egidijus Kavaliauskas, a tough mandatory challenger who gave his all but really was outclassed overall, in a fight that didn’t move the needle.
Crawford not only didn’t get a torch-passing from Pacquiao, but his welterweight run has been a series of second-tier events in one of the sport’s biggest and most glamorous divisions.
The problem, as we’ve gone over about 45,000 times in the last year or so, is that Terence Crawford fights for Top Rank, and the division’s other attractions — Errol Spence, Manny Pacquiao, Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman, and Shawn Porter — are PBC guys.
But while 2020 has 99% sucked right down to the core in every manner, there has been a bit of a thawing in relations between PBC and Top Rank. The two companies — as well as their TV partners FOX and ESPN — worked together nicely on a successful co-promotion in February, the Wilder-Fury rematch. The fight did well on pay-per-view and was a real marquee event, showing everyone involved that when the fight is right, the work should be done.
Crawford and Spence were felt to be one of the “right fights,” at least until Errol Spence nearly ended his life and career in a one-car accident last autumn. It’s really something of a mystery what sort of fighter Spence (26-0, 21 KO) will be upon his return, which looks like it will come this fall against Danny Garcia.
That means no Crawford-Spence right now. And it might mean, instead, Pacquiao-Crawford.
Pacquiao once again revitalized his career in 2019, easily defeating Adrien Broner in January and then taking the WBA title from Keith Thurman in July. He hasn’t fought since, and the Filipino Senator turned 41 in December. The number of fights he has left are limited, but he wants them to be big.
He’s beaten Thurman. Porter would be interesting, sure, but not huge, and Spence and Danny Garcia appear busy with one another.
That leaves Mikey Garcia, who may be tough to sell as competitive after that egg he laid against Spence last year, and ... Crawford.
And Bob Arum’s had a recent change of heart. He’s said Pacquiao wants the fight, and that he was interested. He now says there are serious negotiations.
Now, I like Bob Arum as far as him being an interesting interview and all that, and time and age seem to have mellowed him a bit in various ways. But promoters say “serious” a lot when things may or may not really be that serious. And the idea discussed is for the fight to happen in Bahrain; not impossible, but Arum is also well-known in recent years for his big talk of making loads of money in places like Dubai, China, and India, and while he had a bit of success in China, it was a passing fascination that petered out pretty quickly when it turned out Zou Shiming had turned pro a bit too late.
So it’s not like we’ve never heard this sort of thing before. And you’d probably be wise to take it all with a grain of salt.
But let’s say Pacquiao-Crawford actually happens this year.
Is Terence Crawford the guy to finally retire the iconic, legendary Manny Pacquiao?
The two were opponents in our fan-voted March Mania tournament a couple of months ago, and Crawford dominated the vote. It’s not so much that nobody sees Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KO) as a legitimate top welterweight anymore, I think most people do. In fact, I suspect most people believe Pacquiao would be, to whatever degree, competitive against Crawford.
But could he actually beat him anymore?
It’s not like Pacquiao dominated Thurman last year, though that seems to be the memory some people have. And for whatever it’s worth, Crawford might not do a fight without VADA testing, as Thurman agreed to do, which was a story that boxing fans and media broke out their shame fingers for at first before seemingly forgetting it as soon as the first bell rang.
The vast majority of our readers and clickers picked “Bud” over Manny a couple of months ago. But I do imagine there would be some nostalgic leaning toward Pacquiao if the fight actually gets signed, and more people might predict yet another unbelievable night from the superstar, once again defying time and logic.
And who knows? He might actually be able to do it. He’s Manny Pacquiao, not some average or even above average 41-year-old fighter.
But if I had to put money down, I’m going with Crawford. Pacquiao’s a great old fighter. Crawford’s a great fighter in his prime. More or less, I think Arum was right before: Pacquiao isn’t too old to fight, but he’s too old to beat Crawford.