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Top Rank to have 2 PPV shows on ESPN in 2018

Image: Top Rank to have 2 PPV shows on ESPN in 2018

By Chris Williams: Top Rank will be putting on 2 pay-per-view shows on ESPN for 2018, according to latest news. There’s no word yet which fighters will be involved in the 2 PPV telecasts, but it’s highly likely that the PPV fights will involve former light welterweight champion Terence Crawford facing either Jeff Horn or Manny Pacquiao.

Super featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko will possibly wind up on one of the PPV dates if Top Rank promoter Bob Arum is able to set him up with a fight against WBC lightweight champion Mikey Garcia. If Arum can make that fight, it’s almost a given that the match will be televised on ESPN PPV.
Pacquiao vs. Crawford seems like a bad idea.

It’s too late in the game for Top Rank to make a fight like that a PPV match. If this was still 2015, then it would be possible if Floyd Mayweather Jr. was scheduled to be the next guy Pacquiao fought. Crawford is not well known with the casual fans in boxing. He’s known by the hardcore fans, and mostly by his fans in Nebraska. This isn’t one of those ‘if we build it, they will come’ type situations in terms of Top Rank scheduling Pacquiao-Crawford on ESPN PPV. Top Rank can certainly have ESPN televise a Pacquiao vs. Crawford fight, but I don’t see it bringing in a lot of buys.

The timing is all wrong for that fight. Pacquiao was just whipped by Jeff Horn last July, and he’s not fought since then. If Crawford was well-known and if Pacquiao has beaten someone good that the boxing public cares about, then a fight between them could do well on ESPN PPV. Pacquiao is supposed to be taking a tune-up fight in early 2018, possibly on the undercard of the Crawford vs. Jeff Horn fight.

Pacquiao won’t be matched against anyone good. It’s likely going to be one of Arum’s Top Rank stable fighters like Konstantin Ponomarev. I wouldn’t be surprised if Arum is able to talk Tim Bradley in coming out of retirement to fight Pacquiao a fourth time for a nice stale retread fight. What a terrible joke that would be.

Whoever Pacquiao fights in early 2018, it’s not going to be anyone popular enough to make get the boxing fans excited about him once again. Pacquiao needs the fans to see him beat someone that is considered a good fighter like Errol Spence Jr., Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia or Keith Thurman. Since Arum is unlikely going to match Pacquiao against any of those non-Top Rank fighters, we’re probably looking at him facing Ponomarev or someone else in Arum’s stable.

Lomachenko is going to be a hard sell no matter who Arum matches him up against. The fans don’t mind watching Lomachenko fight on FREE television on ESPN, but it’s highly unlikely that those same fans are going to be chomping at the bit to pay to see him fight. Even a fight between Lomachenko and Mikey Garcia is a tough sell on PPV. Lomachenko isn’t a good talker, and Mikey isn’t much better. To be a PPV star, you got to be able to talk unless you have a large built in fan base like Saul Canelo Alvarez. Mikey and Lomachenko aren’t going to be able to sell a fight against each other if the two of them can’t verbally joust.

Pacquiao hasn’t said whether he’ll agree to a fight against Crawford in 2018. Arum obviously wants that fight to happen, because it’s easiest match for him to make due to him promoting both Pacquiao and Crawford. Arum would have only his hands on the controls of the Pacquiao-Crawford promotion, and he wouldn’t have to work with another promoter outside of his Top Rank stable. The problem is, Crawford isn’t a PPV fighter, and Pacquiao is seen as an over-the-hill guy, who no longer brings in PPV buys like he did in the past.

Part of the problem for Pacquiao is Top Rank stopped matching him against relevant guys that the boxing public were interested in seeing him fight since his loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015. In his 3 fights since the Mayweather fight, Pacquiao has been stuck fighting Tim Bradley, Jessie Vargas and Jeff Horn. Those were fights that were never going to sell. Pacquiao and Bradley in a lot of PPV buys in their fights in 2012 and 2014, but the boxing public had no interest in Arum putting them in against each other a third time in 2016. That was a mistake on Arum’s part to make Pacquiao-Crawford 3, as it looked like a money grab. Pacquiao vs. Jessie Vargas and Jeff Horn wouldn’t have done good business even during the Filipino fighter’s best years.

It’s going to be hard for Top Rank to turn Crawford and Lomachenko into stars. Look at middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. He’s still not a PPV attraction for ESPN, and he’s well-liked and viewed as one of the most exciting fighters in boxing. Crawford doesn’t have Golovkin’s exciting style of fighting, and he’s clearly not in the same boat as him in terms of his fan base outside of Nebraska. Crawford doesn’t have the kind of charisma as Golovkin in my view. In terms of Crawford’s fighting style, he’s a counter puncher, who spends a lot of time running around the ring.

Crawford is the opposite of Golovkin as far entertainment value. Lomachenko isn’t much better than Crawford. Lomachenko uses an interpreter much of the time when speaking with the boxing media, unlike Golovkin, and he throws weak punches and moves a lot in his fights. Lomachenko’s whole game nowadays is to showboat and taunt his opponents into quitting. It’s boring to watch much of the time because Lomachenko isn’t sitting down on his punches, and he’s not stating in the pocket. Lomachenko fought 3 times in 2018. 2 of those fights came against smaller fighters in super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux and featherweight Miguel Marriaga moving up to super featherweight to fight Lomachenko. The other fight came against former WBA super featherweight champion Jason Sosa. That was a boring fight to watch. Lomachenko is not a PPV fighter, period. Lomachenko doesn’t fight in the manner that you would like to see from a PPV guy, and he doesn’t challenge himself to fight the right opponents that would increase his popularity.

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