With the news that Terence Crawford’s pay-per-view bout with Shawn Porter only generated in the neighborhood of 135,000 buys, there comes a sober realization. Either boxing fandom is not entirely on the up and up with what they really want as consumers or, possibly, they may not even know what they want.
Three-division world champion and current WBO welterweight titlist certainly ticks off all the boxes when it comes to what the fans claim to want in a boxing superstar. He’s highly skilled. He’s aggressive and has a finely tuned killer instinct in the ring. He’s not a loudmouth, a braggart, or a show-off. He’s always looking for the biggest and best fights, even though business conflicts have hindered his ability to get those fights. By all accounts, Crawford should be a boxing superstar.
Yet, he’s not.
Last Saturday’s bout with two-time world champ Shawn Porter was supposed to be a breakthrough of sorts. It was his first shot at one of the top dogs in the welterweight division, a fighter who had shared the ring with many of the very best 147-pounders of the last decade or so– Errol Spence, Yordenis Ugas, Danny Garcia, Andre Berto, Keith Thurman, Adrien Broner, Paulie Malignaggi, Devon Alexander– and whose name value is as high as anyone’s.
Crawford sure put forth the effort to make this showcase matchup a breakthrough to next-level stardom, putting Porter away in the tenth round after being in control for much of the time before that.
However, as things would turn out, only a small number of die-hards were interested enough to even bother watching. So, again, that leads one to believe that what a guy like Crawford delivers is not really what the fans want, although most will swear up and down that they do want everything Crawford exudes, in both style and mindset.
Promoter Bob Arum, who may or may not be his ‘ex’ promoter soon [Crawford’s contract is up and the fighter has said that he’s likely to move on to promotional free agency], flat-out declared Crawford a money-drain and a hard-to-promote entity.
In an interview with The Athletic, conducted late last year, the aged promoter had this to say about his fighter:
“He’s [Crawford] got to promote like [Teofimo] Lopez does. He’s got to promote like Shakur [Stevenson] does. Like [Floyd] Mayweather did. Like [Manny] Pacquiao did. If he doesn’t, then who the fuck needs him? He may be the greatest fighter in the world, but, hey, I ain’t going bankrupt promoting him.”
When asked if he can keep Crawford from bolting to the welterweight-rich Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) when his contract was up the following year , Arum got especially frank.
“That’s not the right question…The question is, ‘Do we want to keep him?’ I could build a house in Beverly Hills on the money I’ve lost on him in the last three fights. A beautiful home… The question is, ‘Does it [Crawford’s work] pay the bills?’ Look, you can have the greatest opera singer in the world. If the fans don’t support it, you’re out of business.”
Some– including Crawford– might rightfully point out that a promoter’s job is to create market value and drawing power for his fighter. They might also point out that Arum has not done a very good job of getting Crawford’s name out there to the public, sticking the mega-talented fighter behind streaming paywalls and on pay-per-view without ever doing much to expose the general to public to his fan-friendly assets.
But who knows now? The Porter clash was a big fight against a big name that guaranteed excitement. It should’ve generated bigger sales numbers. The fact that it didn’t says more about the state of the boxing business and the sport’s fandom than it says about Crawford.