By Andreas Hale
Terence Crawford cemented himself as one of the top three pound for pound fighters in the world with another strong year that saw him dominate both Felix Diaz and Julius Indongo before announcing his leap to the stacked 147 pound division in 2018.
The welterweight division is certainly the place where Crawford can prove his pound for pound status. With names ranging from Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia to Errol Spence Jr. and Shawn Porter, a successful run by Crawford over the next couple of years would undoubtedly plant him in the #1 spot.
The only problem is that he’s probably not going to fight any of those names that were mentioned.
As a matter of fact, boxing politics could hurt Crawford in the long run. Across the pound for pound rankings we see a number of quality opponents lined up. Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez will almost certainly meet again before the end of the year. Vasyl Lomachenko has a number of intriguing options. Mikey Garcia may end up fighting Jorge Linares. And the list goes on.
As for Crawford, all signs point toward a ho-hum fight against Jeff Horn in April. It’s a fight that nobody particularly cares about, yet is only happening because Horn took a surprise decision against Manny Pacquiao last year.
Also, not a single person sees this as a competitive showdown that could help bolster Bud’s mainstream appeal. Horn may be aggressive, but he’s relatively slow and will be figured out rather quickly by Crawford. Nevertheless, this is about all Bob Arum has for Crawford at the moment.
And that’s where the problems lie.
With Showtime/PBC holding the rights to the vast majority of the welterweight division, it leaves Crawford out in the cold. That’s certainly the worst place to be when you consider how talented the 147 pound division is. Thurman, Spence, Porter, Garcia, Lamont Peterson and Jessie Vargas are all fighting under the same promotional umbrella. Don’t expect Al Haymon to be in a hurry to match any of these fighters with Crawford. As good as the Nebraskan is, he’s not a huge draw and there is no reason why Haymon should try to work with Arum to make a fight against Crawford when he could have his own fighters face each other and keep 100% of the proceeds. It says a lot when you don’t expect to see Keith Thurman and Errol Spence square off until 2019. If PBC is willing to wait another year to put that fight together, imagine how long it will be before Crawford is considered.
The worst part about this is that Crawford should be a star. However, he simply hasn’t been able to crack through the glass ceiling. If he would have fought Manny Pacquiao a year ago, it certainly would have helped bolster his portfolio. But beating a Manny Pacquiao that is a shell of his former self and coming off of a loss to Jeff Horn where he didn’t look particularly good does nothing for Crawford. And, to be clear, unless Pacquiao can dedicate himself 100% to a fight with Crawford (which he can’t) the fight won’t happen. Pacquiao is better suited touring the globe as an attraction and beat up on people in other countries than putting his career at risk against Crawford. It’s just not worth it at this stage in his career.
As for Top Rank, who are they going to trot out for Crawford to beat up? Mike Alvarado? The list is embarrassingly short of quality opponents that anyone will care about. More importantly, nobody, outside of Pacquiao, has the ability to draw.
So what do you do?
That’s a question that doesn’t have a clear answer. 2018 is shaping up to be a year where we could get some very good fights. Unfortunately, Terence Crawford will be in 0% of those fights. Meanwhile, the pound for pound rankings could see some movement as everyone else jockeys for position with meaningful opponents.
It’s definitely not Terence Crawford’s fault. He’s done what he’s supposed to do between the ropes to solidify himself as one of the best boxers in the world. But what’s a great boxer without an opponent? No matter what, as long as Crawford keeps winning he will still be recognized as one of the top pound for pound fighters. However, it’ll be interesting to see how creative Bob Arum can be with matchmaking. It’s an uphill battle and a conundrum with no answers.