The ballyhooed Errol Spence Jr.-Terence Crawford welterweight matchup may never branch out from the realm of fan fiction so long as purse expectations remain unreasonably sky high, according to one partisan observer.
In an interview on the PBC podcast published Jan. 5, Tim Smith, Vice President of Communications of Premier Boxing Champions, was asked why the much discussed fight still has not happened. Smith pointed to the fact that there was not enough money in the so-called pot to satisfy the high purses of both participants.
However, Smith, whose company has handled the Desoto, Texas-based Spence, the current WBC/IBF 147-pound titleholder, since he came out of the 2012 Olympics, made it clear that he believes the bulk of the problem lies squarely on the shoulders of Crawford, whose financial demands, he says, are simply not in line with his actual value.
“Economics [is why the fight has not happened thus far],” Smith reasoned. “And you don’t really want to insult a guy like Terence Crawford – who’s a tremendous talent, I’m not taking away anything from his talent – But he hasn’t been built into a pay-per-view star, and I’m not saying that to throw shade at the guy, but you gotta go on his track record, you gotta go and look at what he’s done in the pay-per-view fights that he’s been involved in.”
Networks, as a general rule, do not release official pay-per-view numbers. But even going by various industry reports, it is abundantly clear that Crawford has lagged behind Spence in this department by a good country mile. Spence, in three pay-per-view fights – against Shawn Porter, Mikey Garcia, and Danny Garcia – has generated roughly in the neighborhood of 900,000 buys altogether, while Crawford’s three career pay-per-view appearances have been largely dismal. His pay-per-view debut against Viktor Postol, in 2016, reportedly generated 50,000 buys; in 2019, his bout with Amir Khan netted a reported 125,000 buys; and most recently, last year, the fight with Porter, arguably Crawford’s most high profile matchup to date, reportedly did a disappointing 135,000 buys.
The Nebraska-born Crawford, who holds the WBO version of the welterweight crown, has publicly maintained that he would not countenance a 60/40 split in favor of Spence, who, in turn, has argued for that ratio because he is “the bigger draw.”
“If it ain’t 60/40 in my favor then that fight is not going to happen. Period.” Crawford told FightHype.com in 2020.
“It’s not my job to tell anybody how to make him a pay-per-view star,” Smith continued. “We have enough work on our hands dealing with, trying to make our own guys into pay-per-view stars, but [Crawford] just hasn’t been built.”
In addition to Spence (27-0, 21 KOs), PBC has launched fighters like Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman, Gervonta Davis, and Deontay Wilder on the pay-per-view platform in the past several years.
“Trust me. If there is money in him fighting Errol Spence, where he could get what he wants and Errol could get what he wants that fight would get made. But you don’t want to insult the guy. Nobody wants to insult this guy and make him an offer that’s insulting. Nobody wants to do that. Like I said he’s a proud champion. You don’t want to do that. You don’t want to do that to him.”
Crawford (38-0, 29 KOs), interestingly enough, may be in agreement with Smith about his stature as a bankable name, albeit with his own twist.
On Wednesday, news broke that Crawford had filed a withering lawsuit against his former promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, alleging that the longtime boxing doyen is racist and that he failed to fulfill the terms of their contract. Crawford had been promoted by the Hall of Fame Arum for nearly a decade, but the two parties parted ways after Crawford’s last fight in November against Porter. In the lawsuit, Crawford alleged that Arum’s “racist attitudes” damaged his career, thus sabotaging his ability to become a pay-per-view level star – precisely the aspect, according to Smith, that is preventing the biggest fight in the welterweight division from materializing.
Smith, in any case, is not too optimistic Spence-Crawford happens anytime soon, not only because of the outsized purse demands from Crawford but also because of the pirating habits of the sport’s hardcore fan base, the same base, Smith says, that has been making the most clamor about that fight.
“From a business standpoint, it’s a fight that might excite the fans and all these people that are out there yelling about pay-per-view – they’re not buying it anyway,” Smith said. “They’re not plopping down any money to make it successful. They’re going to steal the fight. They’re not gonna support it on pay-per-view. The numbers are not going to be enough to give…what [Crawford] wants. I don’t know what that number is. But I would think that that number would be very high. I’m not involved in those talks, but that’s just looking at the sport historically, and I don’t think he should be insulted.”