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Kellerman tears into Pacquiao for fighting Vargas


By Chris Williams: Max Kellerman in his ESPN role as a commentator tore into Manny Pacquiao today for his decision to fight for a world title against WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas on November 5 instead of choosing to move down in weight to fight WBC/WBO 140lb champion Terence Crawford.

Kellerman believes that Pacquiao chose the Vargas fight because it was the easier fight for him than the Crawford match-up, which Kellerman sees as a potential 50-50 affair. Kellerman says that Pacquiao vs. Vargas fight is a “money grab” on Pacquiao’s part or at least it looks like money grab.

What Kellerman fails to see is that there’s no real reason to fight Crawford, because he’s A. not a pay-per-view attraction B. There’s no upside in fighting him because he’s not well known C. Pacquiao won’t get credit from the casual boxing fans for beating Crawford D. Pacquiao would be risking a much, much bigger money fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. by taking the small money fight against Crawford.

“Terence Crawford is one of the best fighters in boxing, and is sitting right there waiting for a fight against Pacquiao,” said Kellerman to ESPN’s First Take. “He’s a very dangerous fight. This is a 50-50 type of fight. I think a lot of boxing insiders would favor Terence Crawford. It’s a bigger money fight than against Jessie Vargas. Vargas is a harder sell than Crawford. So if you’re coming back, and you’d rather fight the guy that’s harder to sell for the money for a pay-per-view fight than a guy that is easier to fight, what does that mean? It means you’re just doing it for money, and you’re avoiding the biggest risk at this point. Vargas is a good solid fighter. He’s not bad, and not a big puncher, and the kind of guy where if he beats Pacquiao, that means Pacquiao is washed up as a top level fighter. So the fact that Pacquiao chose to fight Vargas instead of Crawford, it can only say one thing at this point, which is he’s just fighting for the money. He’s fighting kind of a money grab while avoiding the bigger money for the more dangerous opponent. It doesn’t say great things about where he is at the moment. Terence Crawford is not only a superior boxer but he can also bang if you come right at him,” said Kellerman.

As most boxing fans already know, Kellerman also works for HBO Boxing as a commentator on their network. Both Pacquiao and Crawford fight on HBO. With Pacquiao’s career about to be over, Crawford will still be there long after he’s gone. It would obviously be better for HBO and Kellerman if Crawford became a star because that would give the network a guy to step in and replace Manny as one of the more popular fighters on HBO.

With Crawford not getting the fight against Pacquiao, he doesn’t have a star-making fighter that can turn him into a big name. Without Pacquiao, Crawford is kind of up a dead end street. His promoter Bob Arum can’t keep matching him against guys like Hank Lundy, Viktor Postol and Dierry Jean, because he’ll never turn into a star fighting them. Crawford needs Pacquiao’s scalp to become a star, and that’s not going to happen.

You can’t blame Pacquiao at all whatsoever for him not to want to be the star-maker for Crawford. If Arum wants to turn Crawford into a star, then he’s probably going to need to work with some other promoters and see if he can setup some good fights for him. Keeping him fighting only his Top Rank fighters for in house fights isn’t going to do the job if Arum can’t get Pacquiao to fight him.

Kellerman talks as if there’s a ton more loot for Pacquiao to make fighting Crawford than there is Vargas. I don’t agree with that. There might be a little bit more, but not a lot. When I ask my friends if they’ve heard of Crawford, they, “Who’s Crawford. I never heard of that guy.” Like a lot of fans, my friends are casual boxing fans, who mainly know who the really popular fighters are like Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Pacquiao. They haven’t heard of Crawford. If they haven’t heard of Crawford, then I’m willing to bet that most other casual boxing fans haven’t heard of him either.

Kellerman is a hardcore fan of the sport, so he naturally would like to see Pacquiao fight Crawford. Kellerman is gung-ho for that fight because he follows the sport closely and knows a lot about guys like Crawford and Vargas. But it’s not like that with the casual fans in the U.S. Believe me, they don’t know the difference between Crawford and Vargas, and they’re not going to be inclined to pay to see Pacquiao fight Crawford than they would Vargas. You’ll get more hardcore boxing fans that would want to see a Pacquiao-Crawford fight than a Pacquiao-Vargas fight, but the success or failure of a pay-per-view event isn’t determined by the hardcore boxing fans. It’s the casual ones that make a fight a success or not, and if they don’t know who Crawford is, then Pacquiao doesn’t come out ahead by fighting him.

Pacquiao is better off fighting Vargas on November 5 on HBO PPV, and then looking to get a match-up against Mayweather next May. If Pacquiao were to take a fight against Crawford, and make whatever money is to get from fighting the little known Omaha, Nebraska fighter, he would be risking the much bigger payday against Mayweather for what could wind up being chump change in a fight against Crawford. I’m really surprised at how Kellerman can’t see the big picture. It’s scary actually how narrow his vision is. It would be a dumb move on Pacquiao’s part if he were to blindly follow Kellerman’s advice and fight Crawford, because he would risk the bigger money fight against Mayweather. A loss to Crawford destroys any hope of Pacquiao getting a second fight against Mayweather. If Pacquiao beats Crawford, then it doesn’t make the Mayweather fight more likely.

If there wasn’t a chance for a big money fight against Mayweather in 2017 for Pacquiao, then I think a fight between him and Crawford would be a decent fight. I still think Pacquiao would be better fighting someone else like Danny Garcia, Adrien Broner or Keith Thurman. But if all his promoter Arum were offering him was Crawford, then he would be a decent fight if there were no other options. But for Pacquiao just to fight Crawford in the role of being a stepping stone for him, it’s clearly not worth it for Pacquiao.

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