There’s a twice-a-year ritual in boxing, right around the time Terence Crawford, a legitimate top two or three pound-for-pound-level fighter and undefeated welterweight world champ, is set to face another opponent nobody really wants to see him fight.
To explain why he can’t fight any of the other best welterweights in the world, media and fans roll out the excuse wagon about insurmountable business obstacles and the “other guys” who won’t let Crawford fight the very best in the division.
Then come the words from the Omaha, Nebraska native and reigning WBO welterweight champ, himself, as he gripes about why he can’t get the big fights. His promoter Bob Arum then chimes in about how he’s ready to line his guy up against anyone in the world right here and now—if only the “other guys” would man up.
This is an ongoing thing and it won’t stop until the public no longer cares about who Crawford’s not fighting or until he actually gets the fights he’s currently not getting.
In short, this is all about Crawford being signed with Arum’s Top Rank Promotions and broadcaster ESPN, something which created a major obstacle to facing fighters such as Errol Spence, Manny Pacquiao, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, and Danny Garcia, who work under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner and fight exclusively on Fox and/or Showtime.
This time around, as Crawford prepares to meet Lithuanian contender Egidijus Kavaliauskas on Dec. 14 at Madison Square Garden, the old laments have been brought back into the light.
“It’s frustrating but I look at it as a business move by them not to fight me,” Crawford told the Los Angeles Times when asked about why fights with Spence, Pacquiao, Thurman, etc. have yet to materialize. “I’m not going to knock them or be a hater, but I know where I stand and I know the game they’re playing and there’s nothing I can do about it. I just have to focus on what I can do and keep making a living and keeping my name up there as the best pound-for-pound fighter.”
The three-division world champ could’ve ended the cycle of denied access, but opted to re-sign with Arum and Top Rank late in 2018 when his original contract ran out. The multi-year contract offered to him, backed by the mighty bucks of ESPN, was reportedly quite lucrative—at least lucrative enough to have him sign back up and push the pursuit of welterweight legacy fights to the back burner.
Still, one has to wonder whether Crawford, if he had remained a promotional free agent, could’ve made even more money nudging himself over to where he could make those PBC fights.
Surely, the thought has crossed his mind and it’s never a pleasant moment when someone actually reminds him of how he’s missing out.
“Listen, listen, listen, you’re asking me about all these names and I’m going to keep telling you the same answer,” Crawford told the Times. “I’m willing to fight all those guys, but it’s not up to me to decide if I’m going to fight them or if I’m not going to fight them. I’m open to fighting all those guys. I’ve been saying that from Day 1. Nothing has changed. I’m the best fighter in the division and I’m always willing to prove it.”
But rather than fighting the best, he’s merely fighting the best AVAILABLE now. There’s a big distinction.
Crawford’s opponent on December 14, Kavaliauskas, is not a BAD fighter. He’s alright. Solid. A top 20-level opponent. He’s just not someone who’s going to do a damn thing in terms of establishing Crawford’s legacy and helping him become the kind of star his skills suggest he can become.
Nobody’s blaming Crawford for grabbing at that Top Rank/ESPN money, but it has to be acknowledged that the money did come with a substantial downside. That downside may be the reality that he’s never going to get true legacy-defining welterweight fights while still in his prime.
“I just want to leave a mark on the sport of boxing so people talk about me like they talk about the other great champions before me,” Crawford lamented. “That’s my goal before I retire.”
At 32 years of age, Crawford’s prime years are now, but the clock is ticking fast.
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