By Keith Idec
If heavily favored Terence Crawford gets past John Molina Jr. on Saturday night, the undefeated 140-pound champion will find himself in a similar situation to the one he occupied at the same time last year.
He’ll have to wait to find out if Manny Pacquiao will fight him.
Pacquiao picked Timothy Bradley, Crawford’s friend, over Crawford at the end of 2015 for an unnecessary April 9 welterweight title fight that drew intense criticism because Pacquiao had, for all intents and purposes, proven his superiority over Bradley in their first two 12-round bouts.
The undefeated Crawford instead proceeded to stop Philadelphia’s Hank Lundy (26-6-1, 13 KOs) in the fifth round of a February 27 fight in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Then Crawford masterfully out-boxed previously unbeaten Ukrainian Viktor Postol (28-1, 12 KOs) in a super lightweight title unification fight July 23 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
As well as Crawford performed in the ring against Postol, the pay-per-view numbers Crawford and Postol produced weren’t impressive. Bob Arum – whose company, Top Rank Inc., promotes Crawford – told espn.com that the Crawford-Postol show drew between 50,000 and 60,000 buys.
A Pacquiao-Crawford fight would do much better business than that. Thus far, however, Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs) and his trainer, Freddie Roach, have considered Crawford (29-0, 20 KOs) too risky of an opponent.
“We really thought we were gonna get that Manny Pacquiao fight,” Brian McIntyre, Crawford’s trainer, told BoxingScene.com. “When it didn’t go through, I was like, ‘Wow!’ As soon as Terence beat Postol, the first thing that came out their mouth was, ‘We’re not fighting him.’ So it’s been kind of frustrating a little bit because we need Manny Pacquiao’s name, we need Floyd Mayweather’s name, we need those names to pass that torch off, so that we can continue to climb and elevate his career.”
Pacquiao picked former WBO world welterweight champ Jessie Vargas (27-2, 10 KOs) for his most recent fight, a relatively easy, 12-round unanimous decision win for the Filipino superstar on November 5 at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. That left Crawford, the WBC and WBO 140-pound champion, to meet Molina (29-6, 23 KOs), of Covina, California, in an HBO “World Championship Boxing” main event Saturday night at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska, Crawford’s hometown.
The 37-year-old Pacquiao is expected to pick his next opponent for a spring pay-per-view main event sometime early in 2017. He hopes Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs) comes out of retirement for a rematch.
Pacquiao’s preferred opponent if the 39-year-old Mayweather remains retired is anyone’s guess.
“I don’t know,” McIntyre said regarding a potential Pacquiao-Crawford fight in 2017. “You never know what those guys are thinking over there. If it’s up to Freddie Roach, it’ll be a no. But you never know what Manny’s thinking. You never know what’s going on over there.
“What we do is we just stay in the gym, and we just keep ourselves prepared and just take one fight at a time, and just concentrate on the fighter that’s in front of us. And then we’ll worry about that later. We get that Manny Pacquiao fight, and we come out with that win, hey, we’re the next pay-per-view star.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.