Terence Crawford won't be fighting either Errol Spence Jr. or Manny Pacquiao next as the pair are set to fight each other on August 21 in Las Vegas, Nevada for the IBF and WBC welterweight titles.
Crawford has once again found himself as the man in the shadows, still seeking a big named opponent even though he's revered by many as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers on the planet. He's 37-0 with 28 of his victories coming by way of knockout and a three-division world champion, yet his career continues to be held down by an anchor in the form of 89-year old Top Rank CEO Bob Arum.
Arum who is Crawford's promoted told The Athletic's Lance Pugmire back in November 2020 he wasn't going to "go in my pockets anymore for Terence Crawford" in terms of promoting the current WBO welterweight champion. He then doubled down on those statements recently, again telling Pugmire the following about his feelings on Crawford's pay-per-view drawing power and why a potential Crawford vs. Shawn Porter fight wouldn't sell.
"We could make a big fight for Crawford against Shawn Porter, but who's going to pay for it?" said Arum. "There's a limit to what I can get out of ESPN, and on pay-per-view, I have no confidence that it's going to do a big number. Crawford's never done anything on pay-per-view. Nothing against him. It is what it is."
The argument that the 33-year old Omaha, Nebraska native doesn't have enough star power to bring in numbers worthy of a big fight, seems to be a recurrent, redundant, and convenient excuse for Arum and many others to make on why he should continue to be denied of that opportunity. While it's fair to criticize Crawford's self-promotional abilities, he's made it very clear interviews aren't his favorite thing to do, it's still ultimately on the promoter to ya know promote their fighters.
Also, Crawford has drawn in respectable audiences to the point that the narrative he can't sell, just seems more about the people promoting him than it does about Crawford's actual drawing power. His last fight against Kell Brook in November 2020 averaged 1.75 million viewers on ESPN and his last PPV appearance against Amir Khan in April 2019 did around 200,000 buys according to The Athletic's Mike Coppinger. That's not far off Spence Jr.'s last two PPV showcases, his fight with Danny Garcia in December 2020 did a reported 250,000 buys, and his matchup with Shawn Porter in September 2019 did around 300,000 buys respectively.
So with Pacquaio vs. Spence Jr. being announced, Crawford's options for what could next seem handcuffed to a promoter who continues to try to paint him out as not being a big enough of a star or self-promoter to draw a marquee opponent and has a limited roster of big named welterweights for him to even choose from to compete against. That ultimately begs the question, what's next for Terence Crawford then?
Option #1: Wait Out The Rest Of The Top Rank Contract
I think Crawford easily could just wait out the remaining five months on his deal with Top Rank that reportedly expires in October. He would be rid of the toxicity Arum has created and also potentially get to go work with Premier Boxing Champions, now getting access to the plethora of big-name welterweights they have currently under their banner. Fights with Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Yordenis Ugas, Pacquiao, and Spence Jr. all would be much more easily attainable if Crawford joined Al Haymon's stable of fighters. Being patient and sitting out till the fall might be agonizing for Crawford in the immediate future, but it could be crucial for his long-term legacy to get the big fights he so desperately deserves and searches for.
Option #2: Fight Vergil Ortiz Jr. Or Jaron Ennis
Given Arum's lack of enthusiasm for the Shawn Porter fight's potential financial upside and even Porter's own reluctance to now take the fight, Crawford might be best suited to shift his attention towards two rising young stars. Vergil Ortiz Jr. defeated Maurice Hooker via a seventh-round TKO back on March 20 to become the WBO international welterweight champion and stated his interest in a fight with Crawford after the victory.
"I would love that opportunity," he humbly said. "Crawford is possibly the number one pound-for-pound boxer in the world, definitely top two. If you wanna make this fight happen, I'm more than willing to do it. I don't care if I'm ready or not, I want that fight."
Ortiz Jr. would provide Crawford with a respectable name and challenge if he really wants to get one more fight in before his Top Rank deal expires. Arum even said back in January that he had preliminary talks with Ortiz Jr.'s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, about the possibility of a fight with Crawford. However, Crawford himself seemed uninterested in the matchup with Ortiz Jr. telling The Ring's Ryan O'Hara "He really don't want to fight me."
That leads to my idea of the fight with Jaron "Boots" Ennis, an undefeated rising welterweight prospect sporting a 27-0-1 professional record with 25 of those wins coming via knockout. Ennis last defeated former IBF light-welterweight champion Sergey Lipinets via a sixth-round knockout on April 10. He's promoted by Showtime which could make the negotiation process for a bout with Crawford potentially tricky, seeing as Arum has trashed the network in the past. However, the Philadelphia product's combination of fight IQ, craftsmanship, and punching power could be the most compelling challenge to Crawford's current throne.
ICYMI: Welterweight contender @JaronEnnis improved to 27-0 (25 KOs) after powering his way to a sixth-round KO victory over rugged Sergey Lipinets last night on @ShowtimeBoxing.— Premier Boxing Champions (@premierboxing) April 11, 2021
For a full fight night recap & to watch more highlights -- https://t.co/Yu5DYqtk9U#EnnisLipinets pic.twitter.com/Ugj9wamCjI
I think the biggest appeal for Crawford fighting either Ortiz Jr. or Ennis is both unlike Porter, could create enough of a draw for Arum to be enticed to actually work to make the fight for him. The reason for this is I think Arum could see how Crawford vs. Ortiz Jr. or Crawford vs. Ennis could create a similar dynamic to what we saw with Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez's lightweight title unification matchup in October 2020. The fight drew a massive 2.9 million viewers on ESPN according to Nielsen, making it the most-watched boxing event on American television since July 2017. I'm guessing Arum's intrigue could be based on projections from that Lomachenko-Lopez fight, making either Ortiz Jr. or Ennis a possible interesting next opponent for Crawford in his eyes.
Option #3: Stay With Top Rank And Fight Josh Taylor
The best option I see on the table for Crawford might end up being the most likely one that happens next, and might be the most interesting to him given the current situation with Pacquiao and Spence Jr. Newly crowned undisputed junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor spoke with the media after his unanimous decision victory over Jose Ramirez on Saturday night and spoke about his hopes for moving up to 147 pounds to chase a big fight.
"I'd like to go up to 147 and chase a real, real big fight like Terence Crawford," the Scotsman said. "I just think two undisputed champions going at it at 147 would be awesome."
Taylor has a mandatory title defense next against undefeated British challenger Jack Catterall on August 21 in his home country of Scotland. If all goes as planned and Taylor were to defeat Catterall, the fight with Crawford could provide him and Arum with something unique. He's an undefeated, undisputed champion and also is under the Top Rank banner making negotiations hopefully a breeze for the fight. Taylor gives Crawford a big enough name to draw numbers financially, while also avoiding the hurdles of having to go to another promoter to make the fight happen. He checks too many of the boxes for a fight with Crawford to not make sense for everyone involved.
Option #4: Stay With Top Rank And Move Up In Weight
The last option for Crawford could be the one he ends up going to if he feels all roads to a big opportunity at 147 pounds have been exhausted or nullified. He could attempt to become a four-division world champion and move up to junior middleweight at 154 pounds, going after the winner of the upcoming title unification fight between Jermell Charlo and Brian Castano on July 17. Again one would have to think that would be a matchup that fulfills all of Arum's requirements for Crawford's next fight, but both fighters being with PBC and Showtime would be a hurdle to overcome. Comments Arum made on the TBVPodcast back in April 2020 about the possibility of a Crawford-Charlo event give the idea a bit of hope too. Add in the fact that the Charlo brothers are good friends with Spence Jr. and have shared words with Crawford on social media in the past and the fight kind of sells itself doesn't it?
"A Charlo fight with Bud would be a much more attractive event," he said. "As a promoter, I look first whether the fight would appeal to people, and there ya know it's clear, what's not to appeal? Charlo's a terrific fighter has had a lot of exposure. A lot of people would be interested in that fight. I haven't talked to Bud about it, but if that's what Bud wants to do then I'm in favor of it."