Ranking the 5 Best Fights for Terence Crawford After Win vs. Shawn Porter

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistNovember 21, 2021

Ranking the 5 Best Fights for Terence Crawford After Win vs. Shawn Porter

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    Chase Stevens/Associated Press

    It's good to be Terence Crawford. 

    Sort of.

    Make no mistake, the multifaceted Nebraskan has precious few peers in the ring, having won titles in three weight classes while running his record to 38-0—including Saturday night's 10th-round TKO over challenger Shawn Porter in defense of a WBO championship belt at 147 pounds.

    But being as good as Crawford is brings with it a downside, too.

    If they can avoid him, prospective opponents (more specifically, the promoters steering those prospective opponents) tend to seek other (read: easier) paydays.

    That reality has frequently left Crawford with lower-profile foes and less opportunity to cross over into mainstream sports consciousness. But the win over Porter, himself a former two-time champion, could signal an opening for "Bud" to finally make that move as he settles in to his mid-30s.

    Top Rank, which promotes Crawford, has occasionally joined forces with Premier Boxing Champions, the management apparatus with which Porter is affiliated, to stage significant fights. The match with Porter was evidence of thatas was the third bout between heavyweights Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder in October and, going back a bit, the 2015 showdown between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.

    So, presuming the groups can make nice again in the future, Saturday's victory ought to provide Crawford with significant options, because several attractive rivals are also affiliated with the PBC brand.

    Or, given that the Porter fight was the last on Crawford's existing contract with Top Rank, he could make it academic by aligning with PBC or acting as a promotional free agent and working with all comers.

    With fingers crossed, the B/R combat sports team took in the action from Las Vegas and compiled a list of the best opponents Crawford could encounter when he next steps into the ring.

    Read on to see what we came up with, and feel free to drop a view of your own in the comments.

5. Keith Thurman

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    OK, we'll concede.

    This one is getting dangerously close to its sell-by date.

    Lest anyone forget, Florida-based slugger Keith Thurman was once among the hottest properties at welterweight, having dispensed with 28 straight opponents (including Porter in 2016) and earning a pair of title belts through the spring of 2017.

    But a prolonged layoff due to injury stalled his momentum and he's fought just twice since, impressing few while defeating middling contender Josesito Lopez by decision in January 2019 before getting dropped and beaten on the scorecards by a 40-year-old Manny Pacquiao six months later.

    He'll be 33 on Tuesday and without a top-shelf win (SD 12 Danny Garcia) in four-and-a-half years.

    Still, when queried about future conquests during the pre-Porter fight week, Crawford made a point to mention Thurman's name.

    "I believe Keith Thurman is a bigger fight [than Porter], in my eyes, but Keith Thurman's doing whatever he's doing," Crawford told reporters. "I feel like Keith Thurman, he was considered the No. 1 fighter in the division. Whether anybody likes it or not, Keith Thurman was the No. 1 guy in the division. Pacquiao beat him. Nobody else beat him."

    Thurman, like Porter, is affiliated with Premier Boxing Champions, so the ease with which the fight gets made will depend on what promotional road Crawford takes. But the ex-champ's inactivity has limited his worthwhile options elsewhere, which means Crawford's call-out alone could be enough to broker a deal.

4. Yordenis Ugas

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Crawford would probably rather not fight Yordenis Ugas.

    But not because he fears the skilled Cuban, a former Olympian turned professional world champion.

    Rather, it's because Ugas spoiled what could have been an even bigger event.

    The lanky 35-year-old was the B-side for an August showdown with Manny Pacquiao that was perceived as a chance for the Filipino legend to return to the ring after an extended layoff, renew his claim to be among the world's best welterweights and stoke the fires for a down-the-line fight with Crawford.

    Instead, Ugas beat Pacquiao by a clear unanimous decision and drove him into retirement while simultaneously taking firm hold of the WBA's championship at 147 pounds and putting himself on Crawford's competitive radar, if not his business radar.

    At 5'9" with a 69-inch reach, Ugas became a stylistic nightmare for a smaller Pacquiao by controlling range. He wouldn't have those size advantages against Crawford, but the all-around package that bedeviled the seven-division champ and frustrated Porter—to whom Ugas lost a debated split decision in 2019—does create an interesting matchup on paper should the WBO champ decide to pursue other belts.

    Adding spice to the mix, too, is the fact that Ugas beat a teenage Crawford as an amateur in 2007.

    "I think I can win that fight," Ugas said on Instagram Live (h/t boxing247.com). "We already fought in the amateurs, and I won 26-10. I think he's a great fighter, and one of the best in the division. But so am I, and it would be a great fight together."

3. Josh Taylor

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    And now, we enter the "daring to be great" portion of the program.

    Scottish hero Josh Taylor has definitively proven his top-shelf status among the 140-pounders, unifying the division's four most significant title belts across three fights from 2019 to 2021.

    He became the second fighter to accomplish the task in the junior welterweight/super lightweight ranks, following the path Crawford himself had laid down with belt-seizing wins in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

    So it makes logical sense then that Taylor, who goes by a fan-friendly "Tartan Tornado" nickname, would want to pursue his fellow elite into the 147-pound ranks for a mettle-measuring contest.

    "I'm not going to call him out and stuff," he said after beating Jose Ramirez in May. "I think he's a great fighter, but I just think two undisputed champions going at it at 147 would be awesome, would be amazing."

    The two fighters share promotional teammate status at Top Rank at least for the time being, and promoter Bob Arum has already discussed the possibility of Crawford crossing the Atlantic for a showdown in 2022.

    "We hope, early next year we will be able to do a fight that will blow the lid off of everything in the UK," Arum told Sky Sports. "That would be Taylor challenging Crawford for the welterweight title. It would be primetime in the UK. We'd love to do it there in the spring with 60,000 people in Scotland."

2. Jermell Charlo

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Here, it's "daring to be great," Crawford edition.

    Considering he's won 16 title fights across three weight classes and the six belts that have come with them, it's no stretch to suggest the 34-year-old already deserves G-word status.

    But he's both competitive and ambitious, too. Not to mention a little feisty at times.

    All were in play in July, when he took to social media to taunt three-belt 154-pound champion Jermell Charlo following a far-tougher-than-expected 12-rounder with Brian Castano that ended in a draw.

    More than a few people, in fact, thought Charlo lost.

    It was all the opening Crawford needed to take to social media the next day, tweeting to his rival that "last night is the reason you not on the p4p list sir. Gotta do better."

    The jabs were in response to prior suggestions by Charlo that Crawford was rated too highly on media pound-for-pound lists. The Ring, for example, has Crawford fourth, while Charlo is unranked.

    Charlo is yet another PBC client, so the probability of the fight being made rests largely on Crawford's next promotional maneuver and the options it presents. But in terms of a challenge, it's hard to think of a realistic one that'd be any more daunting than the 5'11" Houston native with a 73-inch reach and KOs in five of his last six victories at 154 pounds.

    Gentlemen, start your trolling.

1. Errol Spence Jr.

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    Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

    Call it Mayweather-Pacquiao for a new generation.

    As mentioned earlier, those two since-retired superstars got together for a welterweight summit in 2015—the most-purchased pay-per-view fight in history, by the waybut only after years of back-and-forth posturing between the fighters, their promoters and anyone else with skin in the game.

    Spence and Crawford have been doing precisely the same thing, on a slightly lesser plane.

    The two have shared championship space at 147 pounds for each and every one of the 1,261 days since Crawford took Jeff Horn's WBO belt in 2018, and they've been consistently asked about a possible showdown.

    But for one reason or another, similar to Mayweather-Pacquiao for so long, it's never seemed imminent.

    Money and Pac-Man were simultaneous titleholders at welterweight from 2011 until they finally fought, and, like their situation, promotional dividing lines haven't helped this time thanks to Spence's deal with PBC. Eventually, though, greedier heads prevailed in 2015 and realized that the rising financial tide created by Mayweather-Pacquiao would lift everyone's luxury yacht.

    Whether Crawford's future promotional plans will make it more likely remains to be seen.

    But whether they do or not, it's difficult to argue that it's the best fight available to either man in terms of name recognition, competitive challenge, public demand and legacy enhancement.

    Spence is unbeaten in 27 fights, has 21 knockouts and has beaten six current or former champions in his last last eight outings. He dropped Porter in a give-and-take battle in 2019, then returned from injuries suffered in a car crash to beat Danny Garcia last December. And he was preparing to fight Pacquiao in August before a retinal tear lifted Ugas to the marquee and provided his upset chance.

    Bottom line, he's the best welterweight not named Terence Crawford, is ranked two spots below him on The Ring's pound-for-pound list and has made it clear he plans to return as soon as he's medically cleared.

    Given all that, not to mention the long history of welterweight fights between pound-for-pound superstars—Leonard-Hearns, De La Hoya-Trinidad, Chavez-Whitaker, Duran-Leonard, etc.—it's must-see pay-per-view TV.