By Jake Donovan
Top Rank and ESPN have officially entered the Pay-Per-View market, running with its star welterweight to help launch the platform.
A long-speculated showdown between unbeaten welterweight titlist Terence Crawford and England’s Amir Khan is officially set for April 20, topping an ESPN PPV event at a location to be determined.
The bout itself was revealed during a press conference held Tuesday in London.
“The Crawford-Khan showdown is a very interesting matchup of two elite fighters,” Bob Arum, founder and chairman of Top Rank said of the forthcoming matchup. “Khan, when fighting at welterweight, is as good as there is, but he is fighting the division’s best fighter and a pound-for-pound great.
“It will be an entertaining and competitive fight. We are also excited to join forces with ESPN on our first pay-per-view venture under the Top Rank on ESPN agreement.”
Additional details surrounding the event—including location and price points both for tickets and the PPV purchase itself—were not yet made public. There is heavy speculation that the fight will land at Madison Square Garden in New York City, with Las Vegas also remaining a secondary yet viable option.
Regardless, the fight itself is in line with what Crawford (34-0, 25KOs) had in mind when recommitting to the Top Rank family through a long-term deal reached last fall. The demand from the three-division champ and pound-for-pound entrant was big fights from here on out.
The welterweight division is rich with talent, but with most of his best options—including fellow unbeaten titlists Keith Thurman and Errol Spence, Jr.—fighting under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) umbrella and already with scheduled fights of their own.
That led to the Top Rank brass reaching out to Khan, who ultimately accepted.
“It’s always been my goal to fight the best fighters out there, and I look at Amir Khan as one of the top fighters in my division,” said Crawford, who will make the second defense of the welterweight title he claimed in a 9th round stoppage of Jeff Horn last June. “I know some people are writing him off, but I am by no means overlooking him.
“He’s a former unified world champion, and come April 20, I’ll be looking to go out there to seek and destroy. I’m excited about this fight because I believe it can push my career to another level.”
For months, Khan (33-4, 20 KOs) appeared to be on a collision course with longtime domestic rival Kell Brook, although the two spent more time bickering through the media than in coming to terms for a long-awaited all-UK showdown.
Such a fight even was a major factor in the 2008 Olympic Silver medalist signing a promotional pact with Matchroom Boxing earlier this year. He has fought twice under Matchroom’s banner, scoring wins over Phil Lo Greco and Samuel Vargas after having spent nearly two years sitting on a May ’16 knockout loss to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in Las Vegas.
However, Khan torched such plans just days before Brook’s hometown showcase win over Michael Zerefa last December—which happened to fall on Khan’s birthday—when going public with an offer made by Top Rank to instead face Crawford.
All parties involved acknowledged that a domestic dustup with Brook would be far more lucrative for Khan. However, the 32-year old Brit liked the idea of challenging whom he believes to be the very best boxer in the world.
“I’m delighted to announce a much-anticipated world title fight with Terence Crawford, the current WBO welterweight world champion,” Khan said. “The decision as to fighting Kell Brook or Crawford has been one of the most difficult decisions of my career to date. Clearly, the UK fans want to see Khan vs. Brook, but I could not turn down the opportunity to fight for the WBO title.”
His thinking was the public appeal for a Brook fight will always be there, as such a showdown will carry a theme of unfinished business more than any surrounding relevance.
“That is not to say that the Brook fight won't happen, as I want that fight to happen as soon as possible,” Khan insists. “Fighting a world champion won't be easy, but this is exactly the challenge I need at this stage of my career. I am fully motivated and ready for the best training camp of my life. Crawford is beatable, and I want that WBO title. It's going to be one hell of a fight.”
If nothing else, it ends months of back-and-forth between the longtime domestic rivals, which is relief to the one person caught directly in the middle.
"There has been a lot of speculation regarding Amir's next fight, but the lure to trying to win another world title was too much to turn down, and now he faces arguably the number one welterweight in the world in Terence Crawford,” said Eddie Hearn, Khan’s UK promoter. “It's a fight he believes he can win, and on his night, Amir has all the speed and skills to beat the very best. I believe it will be a fascinating and dramatic matchup."
It’s been more than six years since Khan has held a title around his waist, as he has lost his last three title fights. A Dec. ’11 controversial split decision loss to Lamont Peterson resulted in Khan losing one of the two 140-pound titles he had in possession, with the other being conceded in a 4th round knockout loss to Danny Garcia in their July ’12 unification bout.
His lone other title fight since then came in an ill-fated move up the scales, where he was flattened in six rounds by Saul Alvarez in their May 2016 PPV headliner. The bout was officially for the middleweight title, although taking place at a catch weight of 155 pounds.
That said, Khan boasts a perfect record in the welterweight division. He is 5-0 in bouts at or near the 147-pound limit, including having beaten three former titlists—Luis Collazo, Devon Alexander and Chris Algieri—all in succession in the span of just over 12 month’s time.
The lopsided win over Collazo in May 2014 went a long way in justifying this particular matchup.
Collazo—a 37-year Nuyorican southpaw and former welterweight titlist—was once the frontrunner to land a title fight with Crawford, having agreed to terms for a March 23 clash at Madison Square Garden.
Crawford, on the other hand, never signed the bout agreement, instead reminding the Top Rank family of his desire for big fights moving forward. There’s no question a showdown with Khan carries the bigger event feel.
The proposed clash will mark the second welterweight title defense for Crawford (34-0, 25KOs), who is coming off of a 12th round stoppage of previously unbeaten Jose Benavidez last October. The ESPN-televised clash served as the most watched boxing event of 2018, drawing well north of 2 million viewers.
As for the in-ring result itself, the feat marked Crawford’s 5th straight stoppage victory, also running his record to 12-0 (9KOs) in title fights spanning three weight divisions.