By: Kirk Jackson
In the past, questions regarding the Nebraska-bred, three-division world champion, posed on many occasion, years ago and since went unanswered.
These very same questions, remain ever-present now, as the fighter affectionately known as “Bud” prepares for his first pay-per-view event of this year as he faces Amir Khan at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
These lingering, unrequited questions – where is the promotion and where is the love for Terence “Bud” Crawford?
The reigning pound-for-pound No.1 fighter continues to fight without the proper fanfare, promotion and appreciation an athlete recognized by many spectators and experts as the one of the best fighters this generation should not accustomed to.
Crawford (34-0, 25 KO’s), so far amassing six world titles across three weight divisions (135, 140, 147), while becoming the eighth fighter to become undisputed champion in his/her weight class, unifying all four of the titles at junior welterweight, stakes claim as the best fighter in the sport.
“I am the best boxer in the world – hands down. I can box at range or fight close up, whatever’s needed. I can box equally as well on the back foot or the front foot and I have very good sideways movement. I’m a southpaw who is just as comfortable when switching to orthodox,” Crawford told Daily Mail.
“I have hand speed as well as punching power and I am excellent defensively I’m an intelligent fighter who adapts to any opponent. I believe I am the complete boxer so, yes, I think I’m the No 1 pound-for-pound.”
While Crawford solidified himself as one of the greats of this current era, as a top dog amongst his contemporaries, the wealth of acknowledgement and adoration amongst the casual observer escapes him.
Crawford headlines a pay-per-view for the second time in his professional career and for the first time across ESPN pay-per-view.
Crawford is promoted by Top Rank Boxing. This promotional company is headed by lawyer/boxing promoter Bob Arum and this promotional company behind Crawford, has a multi-media deal with ESPN.
On August 26, 2017, ESPN officially announced a four-year arrangement to become the exclusive broadcaster of Top Rank bouts in the United States and Canada.
The fights are to be circulated through ESPN’s television and digital platforms (including Spanish-language ESPN Deportes), the ESPN+ subscription streaming service, and pay-per-view. ESPN broadcast 18 cards in the first year of the deal. Most recently as of August of last year, ESPN announced an extension of the agreement through 2025 – same year Crawford’s contract with Top Rank ends.
The question begs, is Top Rank and ESPN properly promoting the fight? Aside from a brief feature on ESPN’s First Take, the network hardly mentions the fight.
This past Monday, Top Rank finally released the countdown video and this past Thursday ESPN+ released a subscriber friendly breakdown show titled Ring Science, featuring ESPN analyst Andre Ward.
— Andre S.O.G. Ward (@andreward) April 18, 2019
On the opposite of the spectrum as an example, WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KO’s) made an appearance during this year’s NCAA Final Four across a featured segment, generating roughly 13.77 million viewers. Wilder of course is advised and promoted through different representation.
ESPN and its network affiliates has a deal with the National Basketball Association, broadcasting NBA games through the regular season and throughout the playoffs. The NBA playoffs are in full swing, why isn’t Crawford featured and exposed more towards the ESPN audiences?
Another example to analyze is while fighting under the Top Rank banner, Manny Pacquiao was promoted extensively by Arum. Albeit his name was conveniently attached to the biggest pay-per-view attraction in sport (Floyd Mayweather) and subsequently other pay-per-view attractions such as Miguel Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya and even preceding those names, guys such as Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez and Marco Antonio Barrera.
The fact remains, Pacquiao was heavily promoted, celebrated and relished the benefits of his professional success and collective promotional efforts from Arum and others.
Crawford has yet to hit that mark, nor receive similar support. All is not lost however. The shining light, is the chance Crawford links up with a up-and-coming super-star at some point in the near future.
Coincidently, Crawford has a dancing partner, who happens to be another top welterweight and pound-for-pound contemporary. That fighter is IBF champion, Errol “The Truth” Spence (25-0, 19 KO’s).
“I want the fight. Let me just say that right now,” Crawford told TMZ Sports in reference to facing Spence. “Just to show the world I’m the best welterweight in the division.”
Crawford realizes a match against Spence will be considered his legacy fight.
“The Truth” is his Marvelous Marvin Hagler, his Sugar Ray Leonard, his Tommy Hearns. Ostensibly, Arum agrees and views Spence as the main opponent for Crawford’s legacy at the weight.
“They have one fighter, Errol Spence,” Arum said to The Los Angeles Times.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Errol Spence wants the fight as much as Crawford wants it. So if Terence wins, I’ll call Al Haymon and work to sit down and make the fight. It’s not rocket science that this has to happen. We can sit down and make the fight in one day just like we did for Mayweather-Pacquiao. If a promoter blocks that fight, he ought to be ashamed.”
The legendary promoter echoed sentiments of the fighters, trainers, fans, anyone encompassed in the world of boxing and familiar with Spence and Crawford.
Crawford vs. Spence is the fight to make, but Khan should not be disrespected as an afterthought.
The old adage is true, fights are not won on paper and Khan is a former world champion. And if Crawford is to get past Khan, it’s not a guarantee Crawford vs. Spence happens.
It can be argued Arum kept the Mayweather-Pacquiao from occurring sooner, at its height (as far as physical primes for each respective fighter goes).
Heck, what kept the fight between Crawford and Pacquiao from happening? Crawford mentioned many times over the years his desire to fight Pacquiao – much to Freddie Roach’s chagrin.
For whichever reason, in spite of sharing the same promotional company for many years, the fight between Crawford and Pacquiao never materialized. Crawford was never presented his opportunity to attempt seizing the torch from one of boxing’s icons.
Due to the Nebraskan’s contract with Top Rank, he may never encounter an opportunity to take center stage.
This is not to suggest Crawford is not happy with his current deal and overall set-up with Top Rank. Upon resigning with Top Rank in collaboration with ESPN, Crawford voiced his pleasure with the deal.
“I am the best fighter in the world, hands down. ESPN is the biggest brand in sports, and Top Rank is the biggest promotional company in boxing,” Crawford said. “This was a no-brainer for me and my team. All of the super fights that the world wants to see will happen. Mark my words. Like I’ve said before, I want all of the champions in the welterweight division.”
The issue is the difficulty of fan-friendly fights, particularly in the welterweight division featuring Crawford and the elite fights of that class.
Nearly all of the other welterweight champions belong to manager Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions stable. The PBC recently entered a long-term deal to televise its fights on Showtime and Fox. Top Rank is with ESPN and typically fighters compete exclusively on their respective networks. Which means slim chances of securing Danny Garcia, Mikey Garcia, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Errol Spence, Adrien Broner, Manny Pacquiao (again), etc.
The concern also revolves around the promotional aspect regarding the game’s top talent.
“Bud” is an affectionate term used to address Crawford. It’s been the case since his youth. But the term bud also holds significance to Crawford’s situation.
The definition of a bud, is a small swelling that is underdeveloped or not yet fully developed. Bud can also come in the form of plantation for example; a bud can refer to a tiny flower, not yet opened or reached maturity.
From an in-ring performance standpoint, “Bud” is at the pinnacle of his prowess. Regarding earning potential and recognition from an overall tycoon standpoint, former Top Rank fighters such as Oscar De La Hoya, Mayweather, Cotto and Pacquiao serve as examples impersonation.
But every situation varies for each fighter. Time will indicate how “Bud” blossums.