THE CRAWFORD CONUNDRUM

Last night we saw yet another fantastic performance from the current WBO, WBC and Ring Magazine light welterweight champion Terence Crawford. In the 10th round shortly before his opponent Felix Diaz was forced to quit on his stall, Crawford was finding things so easy in the ring at Madison Square Garden he resorted to playfully tapping Diaz on the top of his head. Along with fighting the whole 10 rounds in a southpaw stance, it was a typically easy nights work for the two-weight world champion.

So why is one of the top pound-for-pound fighters struggling to find that one opponent that will make not just boxing fans, but all sports fans stand up and admire the quality and skills of Crawford. Sadly for Crawford, he isn’t quite getting the exposure and praise he truly deserves. Which is baffling. A two-weight world champion, who’s unified the light welterweight division and is a very exciting fighter to watch. His record is made up of 31 wins and 22 KO’s, however the record is slightly patchy despite being a two-weight world champion.

Since coming to British shores to defeat Ricky Burns for the WBO lightweight title in 2014, life as a champion brought good fights with reasonably well known names. Yuriorkis Gamboa followed after winning the title against Burns in his native Nebraska, then Ray Beltran. After these impressive performances against high level opposition as champion, Crawford moved up to light welterweight to face Thomas Dulorme for the vacant WBO title. Another blistering performance saw Crawford crowned a world champion once again.

The next two opponents would be well below the standard of Crawford in the shape of Dierry Jean and Hank Lundy. Then Crawford had a fight to get his teeth into with WBC champion Victor Postol. Winning comfortably by decision it started to look as though the two-weight world champion would finally get the Super fights his ability demanded. Sadly what’s followed is another two opponents (John Molina Jr and Felix Diaz) that fall well short of giving Crawford any real test.

So, who does Crawford have to fight to finally get him to promised land? When asked by HBO’s Max Kellerman “who would you like to fight next?” Crawford responded “Manny Pacquiao, Keith Thurman. Anybody”. Both names mentioned are a weight above Crawford currently, but it doesn’t look to be an issue for Crawford to move to 147 pounds. Crawford was probably around 155 pounds in the ring against Diaz last night and with options having dried up at 140 pounds, moving to up to the money division at welterweight seems the most logical move.

Will the same problems occur if he moves to the welterweight division though? It’s certainly not going to happen immediately. WBO champion Manny Pacquiao fights Jeff Horn this summer in Australia and looks to be playing the old “Risk v Reward” game before he calls an end to an illustrious career. WBA and WBC champion Keith Thurman is out until the end of the year with an elbow injury and it would be poor business by adviser Al Haymon to chuck Thurman into a fight with one of the world’s best fighters without the financial rewards to justify such a risk.

That leaves the winner of IBF champion Kell Brook and Errol Spence Jr, who fight this Saturday at Bramall Lane. If Brook can overcome Spence, this seems to be the most lucrative option for Crawford. Brook’s promoter Eddie Hearn has no alliance to a specific US TV broadcaster and Kell Brook, you would assume, would jump at the chance to share the ring with a fighter as highly thought of as Crawford. With UK boxing going from strength to strength, Crawford would make a career high payday in the process, along with holding a legitimate title at 147 pounds. If Brook does beat the highly-rated Spence it would generate more interest from the US market towards Brook, in turn making Brook v Crawford a mouth watering contest.

The only other option for for Crawford would be to unify more belts at 140 pounds with Julius Indongo. But it’s not really a legacy building fight against the little known Indongo. Now you see… Crawford’s conundrum.

By Adam Noble-Forcey