By Keith Idec
Let’s preface this by understanding that the welterweight title fight we all want later this year, Terence Crawford versus Errol Spence Jr., won’t happen next if the heavily favored Crawford wins against Amir Khan on April 20.
Ideally, that’s the fascinating fight we’d get. But with boxing being boxing, we’ll be forced instead to watch Crawford and Spence face other opponents incapable of beating either one of them.
When Crawford and Spence win those fights, we’ll be right where we are now toward the end of 2019 – rightfully pessimistic regarding the likelihood of boxing’s best welterweights settling this in the ring once and for all.
The feeling among most boxing fans is that Spence has more options for his next fight than Crawford. Theoretically, that’s true because four other boxers who either hold or once owned welterweight titles are represented by the same man, Al Haymon, as Spence and fight for Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions organization.
Conversely, Crawford’s promoter, Bob Arum, doesn’t handle another welterweight as accomplished as Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman or Manny Pacquiao. Only two of those potential Spence opponents – Garcia and Porter – actually are realistic options for the IBF welterweight champion’s next fight, though.
One of them – Garcia – already has turned down a $4 million guarantee to challenge Crawford for his WBO welterweight title. Arum figures to make another more costly run at Garcia if the former WBC welterweight champion defeats Adrian Granados the same night Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) and Khan (33-4, 20 KOs) are scheduled to box at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Haymon clearly could at least match Arum’s increased offer for Garcia, which could leave Crawford to defend his 147-pound championship against Egidjius Kavaliauskas sometime this summer in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Lithuania’s Kavaliauskas (21-0, 17 KOs) must defeat Philadelphia’s Ray Robinson (24-3, 12 KOs) on Saturday night at 2300 Arena in Philadelphia (ESPN; 10 p.m. ET/7p.m. PT) to remain in contention to challenge Crawford.
Assuming Crawford and Kavaliauskas win their upcoming fights, below is the order in which Spence’s potential opponents should realistically be viewed.
The Akron, Ohio native is more appealing than Garcia because Porter beat Garcia by unanimous decision September 8 to win the WBC welterweight title Thurman was forced to give up nearly a year ago due to inactivity caused by elbow and hand injuries.
Spence specifically questioned Porter’s willingness to fight him both before and after he dominated Mikey Garcia on March 16 because Spence realizes Porter is both available and valuable. Most important, Porter would afford Spence the chance to add another welterweight title to his collection, one more than Crawford owns.
The challenge for Haymon will be to meet Porter’s sizeable financial request for this 147-pound championship unification fight. If Haymon is willing to accommodate Porter’s understandable monetary demands, we’re most likely to see Spence-Porter next.
Problem is, Spence and Porter will want pay-per-view money for a fight that isn’t as intriguing as Spence-Garcia, which was commercially successfully because it produced more than 300,000 buys in the first such event for Spence and Garcia. The 29-year-old Spence would be heavily favored to topple Porter, too, but the then-unbeaten Garcia (39-1, 30 KOs) at least convinced a certain faction of fans that their purchase was worthwhile because he was capable of pulling off an upset.
The same might not be thought of Porter, particularly in the alarming aftermath of a mandatory title defense against Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas. Porter entered their 12-round title match March 9 as a 4-1 favorite, but plenty of fans and media came away from their FOX main event convinced that the unheralded Ugas (23-4, 11 KOs) did enough to upset Porter (30-2-1, 17 KOs).
Porter edged Danny Garcia six months ago, but Danny Garcia’s power probably could make him a more threatening foe for Spence than Porter. Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia (34-2, 20 KOs) also would be a big underdog versus the DeSoto, Texas, native, yet he would occupy an enviable position if he wins against Granados (20-6-2, 14 KOs, 1 NC) in another fight FOX will air next month from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
Arum obviously is interested in matching Danny Garcia against Crawford, which could cause a bidding battle between Arum and Haymon to get Garcia to fight Crawford or Spence, respectively. This scenario could unfold if Porter hesitates again to face Spence, but it also would require Arum to put back-to-back Crawford fights on pay-per-view.
That’d be a tough sell if Crawford-Khan doesn’t do well on that pricey platform, as many within the boxing industry anticipate.
Talk about an ominous omission.
Pacquiao polled his Twitter followers and others over the weekend to find out exactly who they want him to fight next. Spence wasn’t even on the list, despite that Pacquiao pretended to be interested in opposing the bigger, stronger, younger champion in the immediate aftermath of his one-sided victory over Mikey Garcia nearly two weeks ago at AT&T Stadium.
The 40-year-old Pacquiao actually had hoped Mikey Garcia would’ve been at least more competitive against Spence (25-0, 21 KOs). That way, Pacquiao could’ve gauged interest in a fight against another small welterweight who helped Spence attract an impressive crowd of 47,525 to the sprawling home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Haymon couldn’t pitch Pacquiao-Mikey Garcia next now that Spence has beaten the four-division champion so handily.
That likely will leave Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs), who holds a version of the WBA’s welterweight championship, to battle Thurman sometime in July. Pacquiao will be available at that time because the Senate will be out of session in the Philippines.
The 30-year-old Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs, 1 NC), the true WBA welterweight champion, wants to fight Pacquiao next.
The Clearwater, Florida, native obviously does not feel the same way about Spence. Josesito Lopez hurt Thurman in the seventh round of their fight January 26 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which marked Thurman’s return from a 22-month layoff.
Though Thurman fended off Lopez, his 12-round, majority-decision defeat of a huge underdog created more questions than it answered as to whether the Thurman that defeated Danny Garcia by split decision two years ago still exists.
Thurman also realizes he can make a lot of money for boxing Pacquiao and that he’ll have a much better chance of defeating a southpaw who’s significantly smaller and older than Spence.
A Thurman-Porter rematch makes sense, too, because their first fight was so competitive and entertaining in June 2016. Porter, who won the WBC welterweight title only because Thurman relinquished it, wants a chance to avenge that 12-round, unanimous-decision defeat to Thurman.
Whether Thurman fights Pacquiao or Porter, everything he has said recently regarding Spence indicates he wouldn’t seriously consider that difficult unification fight until 2020 at the earliest.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.