By Keith Idec
Bob Arum considers Terence Crawford an eventual opponent for Manny Pacquiao either at junior welterweight or welterweight.
Based on the unbeaten lightweight champion’s success in the ring and at the gate two weeks ago, though, the Hall of Fame promoter expects Crawford’s next fight to be another 135-pound title defense in his hometown of Omaha, Neb. Arum told BoxingScene.com that Crawford could return as early as Nov. 8 in Omaha and mentioned Ray Beltran as Crawford’s most likely opponent if he remains at lightweight.
“You have to decide if he wants to fight at 135, which he will I believe, or go to 140 and 147,” Arum said. “We’ll play it by ear, but Ray Beltran is in the wings. Terence will fight him or any lightweight in the world.”
Beltran is 29-6-1 (17 KOs), but the rugged Mexican veteran is the WBO’s No. 1 lightweight contender, generally regarded as one of the top five lightweights in boxing and an opponent HBO Sports executives would accept as Crawford’s foe later this year. The 32-year-old Beltran beat Afghanistan’s Arash Usmanee (21-2-1, 10 KOs) in his last fight, a 12-rounder he won by unanimous decision April 12 on the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley undercard at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Beltran also dropped a controversial split decision to Scotland’s Ricky Burns (36-3-1, 11 KOs) on Sept. 7 in Glasgow. Crawford out-boxed Burns in Burns’ next fight, also in Glasgow, to win a unanimous decision and take the WBO lightweight championship from him.
The 26-year-old Crawford (24-0, 17 KOs) is coming off the biggest win of his six-year pro career, a ninth-round knockout of previously unbeaten Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa (23-1, 16 KOs). The Crawford-Gamboa bout, broadcast by HBO, was the primary reason a crowd of nearly 11,000 assembled June 28 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, which hadn’t hosted a world championship fight in more than 42 years.
Arum attributed that gate success to keeping ticket prices reasonable ($100, $50 and $25) in an untapped Midwestern market clearly eager to embrace a hometown hero and HBO’s bright lights. Top Rank’s founder hopes to continue building Crawford as an attraction in Omaha and thinks the versatile, 5-foot-8 fighter could oppose Pacquiao sometime before the 35-year-old Pacquiao’s promotional deal with Top Rank expires at the end of 2016.
“We have 2½ years to get that done,” Arum said. “Within 2½ years, Terence Crawford can be someone on the American stage that can enhance a Pacquiao fight.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.