Terence Crawford’s Stepping Stone Pay-Per-View?
By: Brandon Bernica
Whenever I watch Terence Crawford step through the ropes, I get this feeling. It’s a sensation that resides in the pit of my stomach telling me I’m about to witness an extraordinary talent at work. His slick counterpunching and punctual knockouts affirm that belief – Terence Crawford’s ceiling truly knows no bounds.
Of course, the equation in boxing that encompasses the journey from prospect to star features many variables. Not only is talent essential but personality, promotional backing, activity in the ring, and luck all play roles in defining the faces of the sport. Most fighters maintain little control over these factors, paving a challenging road to bright lights and notoriety.
Terence Crawford is unquestionably gifted. He headlines his first PPV Saturday night against fellow belt holder Viktor Postol. The thing is, sales for the fight are projected to be low. While much of the blame for that prediction can be attributed to a weak undercard, it does point to Crawford’s stardom being far from a finished product.
Crawford suffers from boxing’s long-term struggle to cultivate stars out of potential. Very few fighters actually rise to “household name” status. Bob Arum – Crawford’s promoter – has said the desert is bleached with the bones of failed promoters; in the same way, many fighters’ careers flounder in obscurity due to failed promise. What makes matters worse is that the system often rewards fighters who are less-skilled but come from backgrounds or have stories that are more marketable.
Arum’s biggest challenge is to usher Crawford in as Top Rank’s new centerpiece. Since Manny Pacquiao’s retirement, a massive void remains as to which fighter will now carry the banner for the company. Crawford is the logical choice for this role, but is Saturday really the first step in that direction for his career?
Crawford holds a large following from his town of Omaha, Nebraska. Fight after fight, he’s sold very well in that city, galvanizing the hometown faithful with spectacular performances. The challenge with Crawford is to build his brand outside of that region. He doesn’t demean his opponents enough to market him as a heel. Still, he portrays the hard-working, underdog nature of the Midwest, which could hit a demographic that has historically supported boxing for years.
Crawford’s style backfires on himself, as well. You could categorize him as a counterpuncher with excellent power and timing. Usually, he knocks his opponents out with accurate blows, but there are times where the build up to those KO’s is slow and measured. If he desires the spotlight, he will need to consistently finish his fights in style. While it may seem unfair to hold him to such a high standard, it’s unfortunately the game boxing has devolved into, prioritizing style over substance.
If there is anything to expedite Crawford’s rise, it’s a good foil. Postol will undoubtedly test Crawford Saturday night, but Crawford’s true ascent will require a Goliath. Perhaps Manny Pacquiao comes out of retirement to fight him or Timothy Bradley finally agrees to a match with his close friend Crawford. These established fighters hold the esteem that Crawford wants. Which adds to why the PPV might flop: stars are not conceived from the ashes but enthroned by victory. Crawford just hasn’t had that opportunity yet, and it isn’t his fault. While Saturday might not be his coming-out party, it will serve as one last filter until we (hopefully) see him match up with the adversary he needs. For the sake of this talent, let’s hope someone steps up to the plate.