By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Keith Thurman respects everything Terence Crawford has accomplished within the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions.
To fight him, however, the unbeaten WBA/WBC welterweight champion claims Crawford must first become “relevant” within the 147-pound division. Crawford, the undisputed 140-pound champion, could move up to welterweight and perhaps secure a shot at WBO 147-pound champion Jeff Horn.
When asked about potentially facing Crawford (32-0, 23 KOs), Thurman said he won’t consider it until Crawford accomplishes something as a welterweight.
“He’s got a lot of respect for the way he’s dominated 140 and the things that he’s done with his fights,” Thurman said during a press conference Saturday at Barclays Center. “To me, what really put him on the scene was [Yuriorkis] Gamboa, who really was a smaller guy. And Gamboa really has a little bit of issues, you know, I’m just gonna say hands down. [Spence] likes to say, ‘Man down.’ But Gamboa has an issue – it’s called hands down. And Crawford dominated the fight. It was slightly competitive, and then he really just started to take over. And he whacked up a lot of other people. But he didn’t whack up a welterweight yet.”
That, according to Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs, 1 NC), is what separates him and IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. (22-0, 19 KOs) from Crawford. The Omaha, Nebraska, native’s handlers and others would argue that cleaning out an entire division makes Crawford relevant, but Thurman seemingly disagrees.
“You wanna talk about making him relevant,” Thurman said. “He does need to make himself relevant in this division. He’s a 140 undisputed champion. He can come up to this weight and fight pretty much anybody in the top 10. He deserves that for the most part, and I understand that. But we are so flooded with talent, he is gonna have to make himself relevant at 147 before he gets his hands on us, for the most part. He’s not simply just gonna be able to say some names to get the fights that he wants. He’s gonna have to walk into the division, put a hurtin’ on some dudes and make himself relevant. That’s how I truly feel.
“And when he is a relevant 147-pounder, if he is a champion, then we can really look at him and negotiate. Because, you know, I know he’s high-ranked in the pound-for-pound lists and things of that nature, so people think he’s the best fighter in the world. You know, like I said, a lot of people think they know who the real dog is at 147. But we don’t know. We don’t know. There’s work to be done in this division. And it’s a beautiful thing that you guys will get to watch it.”
Lou DiBella, who has promoted several of Thurman’s fights, also warned that making meaningful fights for Crawford within the welterweight division could become difficult if Premier Boxing Champions fighters – most notably Thurman and Spence – are asked to sign with Crawford’s promoter, Top Rank Inc., to be able to fight him. Neither Thurman nor Spence has an exclusive contract with a promoter.
“Let’s also see if when offers start getting thrown around,” DiBella said, “if they ever get thrown around … let’s see [the situation with] Terence Crawford is, ‘Let’s fight Terence Crawford,’ or let’s see if it’s, ‘Come and sign with Bob Arum if you wanna get a chance to fight Terence Crawford.’ Because those are two very different things.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.