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Terence Crawford-Errol Spence Ordeal Has Been a Joke and Boxing Fans Deserve Better

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured Columnist IIIDecember 11, 2022

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 14:  Terence Crawford poses with the belt after his tko9 win against Egidijus Kavaliauskas during their bout for Crawford's WBO welterweight title at Madison Square Garden on December 14, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The world's best welterweight—and one of its top pound-for-pounders—fought on Saturday.

It was another pay-per-view in another sold-out venue against another highly ranked foe, this time one who'd KO'd six straight across 20 rounds since last losing in 2018.

Normally, that'd be worthy of top B/R story placement or, if nothing else, at least a slideshow pondering options for the next appearance. But in this case, almost no one seemed to care.

Because as nice as it was to see a craftsman of Terence Crawford's skill using his sublime tools in a ring for the first time in 13 months, this finished product was doomed to a bargain bin.

Naturally, the thousands of fans at Omaha's CHI Health Center seemed quite content with their native Nebraskan hero's performance in a KO of the WBO's No. 6 contender David Avanesyan.

And whoever parted with $39.99 to see the six-rounder in real time on upstart PPV provider BLK Prime was probably a card-carrying member of the Crawford fan club, too.

So, him fighting a comprehensively overmatched guy whose biggest win had come against a long-past-vintage Shane Mosley six years ago probably wasn't a deal breaker to them.

David Avanesyan, right, throws a right at Shane Mosley during the third round of a boxing bout for the WBA interim welterweight title, Saturday, May 28, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. Avanesyan defeated Mosley by unanimous decision. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

But to the rest of the boxing-literate world, it was all that and something else:

A joke.

The thrice-beaten Avanesyan was unworthy of a shot ahead of the ambitious likes of Vergil Ortiz Jr. and Jaron Ennis—a combined 48-0-1 with 46 KOs—in the WBO's first and second challenger slots.

It was also an affront to gloved logic that anything beyond a supposedly signed and sealed unification showdown with IBF/WBA/WBC claimant Errol Spence Jr. was being foisted upon the paying public.

You remember that one, right?

It was just 86 days ago (though it might as well have been 8,600) that ESPN's Mike Coppinger went public with the multiple-sourced story that the 147-pound rivals had "agreed to all material terms" on a bout pegged for mid-November in Las Vegas.

Only "legal language" remained in the way of the deal, Coppinger wrote, adding that Crawford had taken the promotional high road by accepting all terms demanded by Spence adviser Al Haymon, including the short end of a revenue split.

Both of the would-be combatants said all the right things about enabling the fight, particularly a legacy-cognizant Crawford, now 35, who suggested Spence's call-out and his own split with Top Rank removed all obstacles to the latest in a string of generational fights at 147.

LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 16: Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns fights for the WBA and WBC welterweight unification title fight on September 16, 1981 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sugar Ray Leonard won the fight with a technical Knockout in the 14th round. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The damn-the-promoters tradition at welterweight dates back to 1981 when Ray Leonard met then defeated Thomas Hearns at Caesars Palace. It happened again in 1999 when Felix Trinidad met and—at least according to judges Jerry Roth and Bob Logist—defeated Oscar De La Hoya just 10 minutes down the road at Mandalay Bay.

The Leonard-Hearns summit was promoted by Main Events, though both fighters had worked with other operations, while the De La Hoya-Trinidad was also a melding of combatants typically associated with Bob Arum's Top Rank (De La Hoya) and Don King Productions (Trinidad).

Arum was also responsible for putting together another noteworthy welterweight showdown—the first meeting of Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito—in 2008.

And it was a Top Rank truce with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and his promotional apparatus that finally enabled Money's long-awaited blockbuster with Manny Pacquiao in 2015.

"I'm free to do whatever I want," Crawford told Coppinger. "There's nothing standing in the way from us fighting. There's no promotion company that's blocking it, there's no wrong side of the street, there's no nothing. Let's see who the best welterweight in the world is."

Seems pretty ridiculous now, no?

Turns out, instead of putting pen to paper and commencing training for a pre-Thanksgiving scrap, Bud went full-on bean counter within two weeks. According to an ESPN follow-up piece on September 30, he demanded full fiscal transparency and the ability to approve event-related expenses because the Spence deal contained no guaranteed purse.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 11: Terence Crawford attends fight night between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Richard Commey for the WBO intercontinental lightweight championship at Madison Square Garden on December 11, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)
Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

A financial stance recommended by four out of five accountants?

Perhaps.

But it's not the sort of thing you can envision having kept Sugar Ray from the Hitman or the Golden Boy from Tito, particularly given Crawford's already-achieved status as a multi-millionaire, right?

Nevertheless, here we stand. Somehow.

With Crawford beating an irrelevant opponent and Spence set to defend against a chronically inactive Keith Thurman, the biggest pop of the weekend came from the sudden specter of Pacquiao, now 43 and without a win since 2019, returning to the ring after a stalled run for president of the Philippines.

"Of course, I can fight ... Terence Crawford or Spence," he told FightHype on Friday (5:43 mark).

"I'm eager to fight with them to test them if they're really a champion. Because I've been fighting with a lot of boxers at 147, 140, 135. I've been fighting with one of the greatest boxers in the world.

"So, I want to test them."

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 21:  Yordenis Ugas (L) punches Manny Pacquiao during their WBA welterweight title fight at T-Mobile Arena on August 21, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ugas retained his title by unanimous decision.   (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)
Steve Marcus/Getty Images

The mere suggestion that a guy whipped by Yordenis Ugas in his last fight could still test anyone is a reach of Hall of Fame proportions. But it's indicative of boxing's perpetually nonsensical state that a Canastota-bound retiree born during the Carter Administration seems more willing to get things done.

"Plenty of blame to go around," ex-HBO blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley told Bleacher Report. "Crawford has a congenital chip on his shoulder. Spence is comfortable giving authority to his reps. Haymon is the most risk-averse talent manager in the sport.

"And with Top Rank unable to direct TC toward their overall view, we have a stalemate. An old story about the self-destructive nature of the sport. The best-laid plans."

And before too long, according to former chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission Randy Gordon, it simply won't matter anymore.

"I think we can point fingers at all three," he told Bleacher Report. "If both fighters wanted this fight, they could have made it clear for Haymon to make this fight.

"We'll have plenty of great fights in 2023. Who needs Crawford-Spence?"